Title: Vocabulary Learning from Reading. Examining the Interactions between Task and Learner Related Variables.
Authors: Wu, Xiaoli
Issue Date: 21-Dec-2011
Abstract: Virtually all learners and teachers are well aware that learning a second language (L2) involves the acquisition of a very large number of new words. This enormous task brings challenges and difficulties to all L2 learners. Especially for intermediate level language learners, after grasping the basic vocabulary items in an L2, they are faced with the issue of how to further expand their vocabulary. Regarding the heavy vocabulary learning load in another language, students and teachers have always been interested to know how words are best learned; researchers as well as instructional designers are thus keen to find out how to design tasks to facilitate the learning or the acquisition of such a big amount of words, and meanwhile increase learners' motivation by providing tasks and materials that learners may experience as interesting and challenging, but not overwhelming. We note with some concern that the theoretical and empirical literature focusing on information-processing (such as the cognitive complexity dimension of the task), and the literature on motivational and affective constructs from mainstream educational psychology (such as self-efficacy beliefs), have not produced substantial progress in the domain of L2 vocabulary learning. This Ph.D. project is an attempt to further our understanding of how learner related variables contribute to the context of instructional design for teaching English as a foreign language in the framework of the cognitive mediational paradigm. The aim is to examine the relationship among task complexity, self-efficacy beliefs, domain-related prior knowledge, learning strategy use and task performance as they are applied to English vocabulary learning from reading tasks. The tasks designed for the three empirical studies are based on the componential framework for L2 task design. This dissertation has been divided into five chapters, the first of which is an introduction that presents an overall picture of the study. In this first chapter, we lay out the theoretical and practical background that drives this Ph.D. study. The research paradigms and key constructs involved in the study are discussed, and the basic research model and main research questions are raised. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 present three experiments that have been carried out to address our research questions. The first study, reported in Chapter 2, aimed to better understand the interactions between task complexity and learners' self-efficacy beliefs, self-efficacy beliefs and use of learning strategies and their interacting effects on task performance. This study used a repeated measures design, with task complexity as the within-participants factor. Results indicated a significant effect of task complexity on self-efficacy beliefs and task performance, and a significant interaction effect of sequence with task complexity on learners' self-efficacy beliefs in learning. The results also revealed a strong correlation between self-efficacy and the frequency of learning strategy use on both simple and complex tasks. At both task versions, learners with higher self-efficacy beliefs had better task performance than learners with lower self-efficacy beliefs. The second study, reported in Chapter 3, examined the relationship among task complexity, self-efficacy beliefs, domain-related prior knowledge, learning strategy use, and task performance by using a two conditions (Simple/Complex) experimental design. Results showed a significant direct effect of domain-related prior knowledge on task performance. The effect of domain-related prior knowledge was also partially mediated by self-efficacy beliefs and learning strategy use. Task complexity showed no significant effect. It was also discovered that self-efficacy belief had an indirect effect on performance; its effect was mediated by learning strategy use. These results highlighted the mediating role of self-efficacy belief and learning strategy use. The third study, reported in Chapter 4, examined task complexity and sequence in relation to self-efficacy belief, learning strategy use and task performance. With tasks and task sequence counterbalanced, this study, again using the repeated measures design, revealed a significant effect of task sequence on vocabulary learning self-efficacy beliefs, learning strategy use and task performance; and a significant interaction effect of sequence with task complexity. No main effect of task complexity was found. Finally, in Chapter 5, the main research results are summarized; findings are discussed in terms of complex interactions between task and learner related variables. The conclusions, practical implications for L2 instruction as well as some questions for further research are developed in this final chapter.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Language and Education, Leuven - miscellaneous
Education and Training
Leuven Language Institute (ILT)

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