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Title page – – – – – – i
Approval page – – – – – – ii
Declaration – – – – – – – ii
Dedication – – – – – – – iv
Acknowledgements – – – – – – v
Table of Contents – – – – – – – vi-vii
Abstract – – – – – – viii

1.1 Background of the Study – – – – – 1-2
1.2 Statement of the Problem – – – – – 2-4
1.3 Purpose of the Study – – – – 4
1.4 Research Questions – – – – 4-5
1.5 Research Hypothesis – – – – – 5
1.6 Significance of the Study – – – – – 5-7
1.7 Scope and Delimitation – – – – 7


3.0 Introduction – – – – 40
3.1 Research Design – – – – 40
3.2 Population and Sample – – – – 41
3.2.1 Population – – – – 41-42
3.2.2 Sample – – – – 42-43
3.3 Sampling Techniques – – – – 43-44
3.4 Materials/Instruments for Data Collection – – 44-46
3.5 Validation of the Instrument – – – 46
3.6 Procedure for Data Collection – – – 46-47
3.7 Administration of Instruments – – – – 47
3.8 Method of Data Analysis – – – – – 47-49

4.1 Data Presentation and Analysis – – – – 49-56
4.2 Observation Checklist – – – – – 56-58
4.3 Computation of Chi-square for Hypotheses – 58-61

5.1 Summary of Findings – – – – 61-63
5.2 Discussion of Findings – – – – 64-69
5.3 Conclusion – – – – 69-70
5.4 Recommendations – – – – 70-71
5.5 Suggestions for Further Studies – – – – 72
References – – – – – – – 73-74


The research work is carried out to study the strategies used by senior secondary school students in decoding meaning and the impact it has on their comprehension levels in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State. The research is based on the fact that meaning is the focal point of every reading activity, irrespective of the purpose for which one is reading. Senior secondary school students are exposed to different reading materials which they are expected to extract meaning from thus, knowing these strategies of how to decode meaning and their use will enhance students’ interpretation of meaning and thereby promoting higher achievement as this is the door through which knowledge is acquired. The study is however, centred on written text only. Data were collected through questionnaire and observation checklists both of which were administered to students only. The researcher discovered inadequate use of vocabulary as one of the major determinants to differences in decoding meaning. The study concludes that teachers should ensure indepth study and research to ensure that these decoding strategies are taught to students effectively and usefully to improve practice and performance.

1.1. Background to the Study
Meaning is the goal of every reading activity. The purpose for which one is reading–either for pleasure, entertainment or education etc. Until meaning is attained, one cannot be said to have derived pleasure, entertained or be educated. Hence, whenever students read, the idea in mind is to picture out meaning. However, reading is one area that is particularly problematic for children within school systems. A great majority of them are failing to learn and many more are unable to read to learn. Oyetunde and Chinwe (2001), warns that “there are many children at risk and unless we come to their rescue, the age of darkness might recur”. By age of darkness recurring, it means, age where information is or will no longer be available as in older days of ignorance for lack of reading.
The understanding of different subject area and reading often forms the basis of follow-up work such as, class discussion or home work questions. Many students often with their parent’s help, waste a great deal of precious time trying to make sense of a text that is too difficult for them. It is not unusual for a student to go through a text for a couple of hours with a dictionary and still not understand it very well.
For these reasons, it is essential that students are helped as much as possible. And it is necessary for them to understand what they read. This can be done by underscoring the strategies used for decoding meaning which include: context clues, background experience, inference, structural analysis of words or sentences (word structure) and the use of dictionary. As none of these strategies is most adequate or satisfactory in isolation.
1.2. Statement of the Problem
In view of the relevance of decoding meaning to comprehension, being the medium of acquiring information, it is imperative to discuss the inappropriate ways, students decode meanings. Some of these negative ways in which students decode meanings often come n form of; general assumption that words meanings are constant, guessing and making predictions using the knowledge of synonymy and antonymy.
General assumption that word meanings are constant, students in the secondary schools often make assumptions that words have their meanings fixed. Based on this assumption, the meaning of a word they already know is what quickly comes into their minds each time they come across such words irrespective of the context. Some educational scholars observed that few students have had sufficient experience to appreciate all the connotations of a word. On the contrary, even if they do have a broader understanding of a word, they are usually content to settle for the first meaning that comes to their minds. This means that because of their perception that meaning of words are constant, the first meaning that comes to their minds or which they have known earlier on, is assumed and concluded as the only meaning to such words.
Guessing, is also an ill way students apply to decode meaning. Guessing is synonymous to assumption, but it is not based on the meaning the learner initially knows. Some learners make their guess using the context while some out of context. That is, they make guesses on air having several thoughts in mind devoid of the context the word is used. The end result is to choose any answer or interpretation their mind agrees with. They might re-read the text in order to guess the meaning of a word from its context. This does not suggest that guessing is an appropriate way to decode meaning. It may still be helpful, but inappropriate and should not be encouraged.
Prediction is one of the means in which senior secondary school students decode meaning, and it is inappropriate. This ill-way of decoding meaning is common with any student. It is a situation where students use the synonyms or antonyms of a closely related word to the unfamiliar word to predict its meaning. In a given circumstance like this, they are confident that their lines of thoughts are correct. Onkaogu and Arua (2000), stated that “Nothing that has been said, should interfere with students’ making predictions and supporting them. Students should also be made to realize that they can make wrong predictions and not be wrong. In this way, the fear of failing is removed completely.” Of course, it is not that making predictions may not sometimes be correct, but it is not reliable.
Having discussed the inappropriate ways students decode meanings. The methods which are all dangerous especially because they are not guided by any rule. It is important to give proper attention to the appropriate ways of decoding meanings. These involved the use of context clues, background experience, inference, word structure and the use of dictionary. In the light of these, it is therefore, necessary to investigate and proffer suggestions or possible solutions into how senior secondary school students decode meaning from written texts.
1.3. Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this research is to examine the ways students decode meaning. In addition, the extent to which we can appreciate that these ways of decoding meanings affect their comprehension levels.
The research will therefore, look into these ways of decoding meanings, their effective usage and resultant effects on student’s achievement or comprehension. Thus, the research will focus on the following:
i. To identify the ways in which students decode meaning.
ii. To determine these on their level of comprehension of texts.
iii. To proffer suggestions for improved meanings decoding among students.
1.4. Research Questions
Based on the problems stated earlier, and in quest to achieve the research objectives, the study attempts to provide answers to the following questions:
i. Do students decode meanings in reading comprehension through background experience?
ii. Do students decode meanings through inferences?
iii. Do students decode meanings using structural analysis of words or sentences?
iv. Do students decode meanings in comprehension through the use of dictionary?
1.5. Research Hypothesis
This study shall be guided by the following null hypothesis:
i. There is no significant difference on how students use context clues to decode meanings and their comprehension levels.
ii. The mean score of students’ comprehension levels will not differ significantly due to their use of background experience to decode meaning.
iii. The mean score of students’ comprehension levels will not differ significantly due to how they decode meaning using inferences.
iv. There is not significant difference between students’ use of structural analysis of words and sentences and their levels of comprehension.
1.6. Significance of the Study
The importance of this research cannot be overemphasized as the result of the study shall be useful to improve students’ performance in school. Hence, the research will be significant in the following ways:
Decoding meaning is key to students’ academic excellence. This study will therefore, provide them with knowledge of different ways meanings are decoded. They will also learn how to use these strategies to unlock meanings of unfamiliar words rather than relying on a single method which in most cases is the use of the dictionary. Their knowledge use of these strategies will enhance their academic achievement in school and as well to live a meaningful life in the society. Teachers have the incredible responsibility of preparing students to participate in a literate society. Since the ultimate goal of reading is the comprehension of written text, whether encountered in academic, work or life settings. Teachers the must ensure that students possess these skill and abilities that are fundamental to making meaning of written text or language.
The task of preparing students is for both the school and the home. Therefore, parents can support students’ understanding by surfacing thinking as they read to students, encouraging the inner dialogue that proficient readers engage in continually. And providing opportunity for students to express their thinking. By understanding how the students construct meaning and make sense of text, curriculum planners can change their selection of text so that learners will read whatever meaning the writers want. This should be in line with learners’ learning abilities. The curriculum should also spell out clearly these strategies of decoding meaning to be properly taught in the school for effective attainment of meaning.
The government spend huge money on education. This monies will be wasted if students cannot attain meaning effectively. Thus, government should sponsor individuals to write relevant books on these strategies of decoding meanings. They should also support schools with textbooks for students’ regular reading to get them familiar with more words which will add to their vocabulary. Thereby, enhancing their achievement.

This study is thus relevant in the sense that having identified the problems associated with the decoding of meanings, the research studies its causes and goes further to suggest ways through which these problems could be addressed.
1.7. Scope and Delimitation of the Study
This study focuses on investigating how senior secondary school students decode meanings and its effect on their comprehension level in English language in written text with particular reference to Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State, Nigeria. The research will not be concerned with decoding meanings in verbal or spoken conversations because such discussions are easily understood based on context, gestures, facial expressions, and demonstrations or sometimes explanations given by the speaker or the interlocutors to each other.
The research work is strictly carried out to study the problems resulting from comprehension of English language concepts and may not be used to analyse or evaluate the same problem in any other field apart from English language. Again, the researcher only uses two (2) secondary schools as her sample to analyse her hypothesis and thus, state that there is bound to be different data, results or outcome if the same hypothesis is tested in other schools since other schools might have unique differences in the quality of teachers handling the subject or in curriculum.


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