Meaningfulness is in the eye of the reader: eye-tracking insights of L2 learners reading e-books and their pedagogical implications

Tammy Sue Wynne Liu, Yeu Ting Liu*, Chun Yin Doris Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This study employed eye-tracking technology to probe the online reading behavior of 52 advanced L2 English learners. These participants read an e-book containing six types of multimedia supports for either vocabulary acquisition or comprehension. The six supports consisted of three micro-level supports that provided information about specific words (glosses, vocabulary focus, and footnotes), and three macro-level supports that provided global or background information (illustrations, infographics, and photos). The participants read the ebook under two presentation modes: (1) simultaneous mode: where digital input and supports were presented at the same time; and (2) sequential mode: where the digital content and supports were incrementally presented. Analyses showed that when reading for vocabulary acquisition, vocabulary focus and glosses were significantly fixated on, and when reading for comprehension, illustrations were more intensely fixated on. Additionally, when the digital content was incrementally presented, vocabulary focus received significantly higher total fixation duration. This suggests that reading under the sequential mode has the potency to guide L2 learners’ focal attention toward micro-level supports. In contrast, under the simultaneous presentation mode, L2 learners seemed to divide their focal attention among both micro-level and macro-level supports. Pedagogical implications are discussed based on the findings of this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-199
Number of pages19
JournalInteractive Learning Environments
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb 17


  • E-books
  • L2 reading
  • digital literacy
  • glosses
  • second language acquisition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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