BAAL Annual Conference location:Edinburgh, UK date:5-7 September 2013
This paper reports on an investigation into the effectiveness of the strategies employed by advanced students of English to study a vocabulary of 163 word families from the Academic Word List autonomously, in preparation of a test.
The study investigated intentional learning embedded in the students’ coursework. It follows on from a previous study into the effectiveness of different types of study materials, which had demonstrated limited effects of the materials and demonstrated students’ preference for translation lists. The need for (further) investigations into what students actually do with the materials they are given has been pointed out by Schmitt (2008:338) and Nation and Webb (2011:43).
The study used a pretest/posttest design and charted the studying efforts of different predefined subgroups of students, using study logs. Groups were differentiated along two parameters, viz. overall approach to the task, and length of the study period. The pretest consisted of a self-assessment (receptive) and a translation of two paragraphs containing a sample of the vocabulary (productive); the posttest consisted of the same translation assignment with an additional paragraph. Pretest and posttest provided quantitative information about the students’ knowledge of the vocabulary as a whole and about their knowledge of individual items. The study logs provided quantitative information on time spent, and qualitative information on timing, overall approach, and use made of different materials.
Gains in this experiment confirmed those attested in the previous study and in related research. ANOVA tests showed no significant effects for overall approach or study period. Qualitative data yielded distinct profiles for effective and ineffective students.
Nation, I.S.P. and Stuart Webb (2011). Researching and Analyzing Vocabulary. Boston: Heinle, Cencage Learning.
Schmitt, Norbert. (2008). Review article. Instructed second language vocabulary learning. Language Teaching Research 12,3: 329-363.