Language Learning Journal vol:40 issue:1 pages:47-63
This paper reports on a quasi-experimental study of the effect of different vocabulary studying materials and strategies used by upper-intermediate EFL students in higher education. Students were assigned a selection of 163 words from the Academic Word List (Coxhead, 1998), were given different types of studying materials, and were informed that they would be tested five weeks later. The vocabulary assignment was embedded in the coursework, and the tests – translation of passages of academic writing into L2 – were similar to the end of year tests for this course. Students kept logbooks detailing their studying efforts (type of activity, duration and timing) and were post-tested twice. Post tests show better results for two types of materials – thematically organized lists with L1 glosses, and similar lists with example sentences instead of glosses – but the differences were significant only on the immediate post test. Time spent studying did not significantly affect the results. A more fine-grained analysis of the qualitative data showed that students, given time, tailor the studying materials to fit their ingrained studying habits, and that a majority prefer shallow strategies. Overall, gains were modest at around 7 words/hour on average, which is much less than reported elsewhere - Laufer (2005, 2006), Pigada and Schmitt (2008), Milton (2009) – but this is clearly a factor of the challenging nature of the productive task in this experiment.