The Role of Visualization in EFL Learners’ Reading Comprehension and Recall of Short Stories

Document Type: Research Paper


Sabzevar University of Teacher Education


Generally speaking, lexical items that enter our minds through reading a text commonly leave us with pictures, sounds, echoes, and feelings in the mind. While the ability to produce images in the mind in the process of reading appears to be vital for greater comprehension and recall of texts, research has indicated that many poor readers seemingly do not visualize as they read. On the contrary, those readers who do typically visualize achieve greater comprehension and recall (see Tomlinson, 1997). In this study, in line with Wittrock’s ‘generative learning theory’ (e.g., 1992), two fairly homogeneous groups of EFL undergraduates (N=50), after taking a reading comprehension test to ensure that their reading comprehension differences are not significant, were randomly assigned to attend a short-story course in two different sections—one serving as the experimental and the other as the control group, both studying the same short stories, and both being taught by the researcher as their instructor of the course. The experimental group was instructed how to form pictures in the mind—i.e., how to visualize—before reading, while reading, and after reading a short story, for example, by being requested to draw pictures of the characters, scenes, or settings in the story as they perceived them. The control group, however, did not receive any training with respect to imagery production and was not told to practice visualization before, while, or after reading the same texts as the experimental group did. The results of a reading comprehension test on the short stories that had been discussed in both classes, and also a recall test, administered two weeks later, indicated that the “visualizers” significantly outperformed the “non-visualizers”, i.e., the control group, on both tests.


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