Aurora Tsai

PhD Candidate in Second Language Aquisition (Anticipated Graduation: May 2018)
Graduate Student Instructor
Carnegie Mellon University

MA in Second Language Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2013
BA in Biology, Boston University, 2005

Baker Hall 160
5000 Forbes Avenue
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
E-mail: aurorat is the ID, at andrew.cmu-dot-edu


Second language (L2) literacy skills are often a gatekeeper to higher education and better job opportunities. They also provide a portal to unlimited information and exposure to other cultures. However, L2 teachers often lack the time, resources, or training to help students improve these skills. At the same time, L2 learners often feel the path to L2 literacy is too time-consuming, difficult, and lacking of purpose.

For this reason, my primary research interests revolve around ways we can simultaneously support and assess L2 learning-to-read and reading-to-learn skills. Learning-to-read refers to basic reading skills (e.g., letter-sound mapping, word recognition, syntactic parsing, local inferencing skills, gist detection), whereas reading-to-learn entails learning new material through critically engaging with text content, for example, by evaluating, classifying, and comparing information from the text with what they already know, and applying what they learn to new situations (Chall, 1983). In particular, I am interested in the role of prior knowledge in supporting higher order reading-to-learn skills, and ways we can take advantage of technology to develop useful, literacy activities and assessments that cater to students from diverse backgrounds.

To inform L2 literacy practice and the field's understanding of learning-to-read and reading-to-learn skills, my past research focused on two well-established contributors to L2 reading: vocabulary knowledge and prior knowledge (Tsai, 2017). My current research explores the potential of prior knowledge scaffolding to support L2 learners' reading-to-learn skills using computer-mediated literacy assessments that provide technology-enhanced supports for helping L2 learners compare their prior cultural knowledge with ideas expressed by authors from the target L2 culture.


Chall, J. (1983). Stages of Reading Development. Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

Tsai, A. (2017). Conceptualizations of Vocabulary Knowledge in Second Language Reading. The Reading Matrix. 17(2).

Courses Taught

Carnegie Mellon University

Department of English
ENG 76-100 Academic Reading and Writing

Modern Languages Department
JPN 82-171 Elementary Japanese 2
JPN 82-172 Elementary Japanese 1

Summer College Preview Program (Qatar Campus)
Academic English

Penn State University

Department of Applied Linguistics
ENG 100 ESL Composition for American Academic Communication II

University of Hawaii at Manoa

English Language Institute
ELI 82 Academic Reading
ELI 83 Academic Writing for Graduate Students
ELI 73 Academic Writing

Hawaii English Language Program
Academic Listening
Academic Writing

Technology Enhanced Learning Tools

Japanese Vocabulary Size Test Handout (Access from CMU's OLI website)
Computer Assisted Scoring of Intercultural Competence (Interactive)

Online Tutorials and Presentations

TidyR package Tutorial for R (with example problems for Linguistics data)
Data Visualization with GGplot2 Tutorial
Multiple Imputation Analysis for Missing Data Sets in R
Reading Strategies Workshop for undergraduates


CMU Modern Language Department faculty page