Summary of the dissertation
Purpose of the study
The dissertation’s primary objective was to investigate two techniques for teaching English lexis vocabulary in Japanese high schools. In their verbal communications, the participants chosen for the study had hardly learned English language vocabulary. The dissertation’s secondary objective is to work out how these two techniques related to a participant’s (a) preferred learning style, (b) working memory ability, (c) vocabulary knowledge breadth, (d) passage comprehension, and (e) proficiency in English. According to its author, to successively achieve its second objective, the dissertation “identifies the best predictors of vocabulary learning through oral output” (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009).
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The first research question in the dissertation seeks to discover how the acquisition of English language vocabulary differs in three contexts. In the first context, a learner listens when they are not familiar with the new words used in the experiment. In the second context, the learner listens, and he or she can recognize target words. In the third context, the learner listens and recognizes target words, but he or she cannot define them in the English language. The second research question in the study seeks to determine the degree to which acquisition of English language vocabulary differs concerning a participant’s learning channel preferences. Having identified six possible predictor variables, the third research question in the study seeks to determine how well each variable predicts the acquisition of English language vocabulary among our participants (or learners) from an oral output. According to the author, these six predictor variables are “working memory capacity, listening competence, grammatical competence, vocabulary size, learning styles, and passage comprehension” (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009).
Methods and instruments
One of the key instruments used in the dissertation is the reading span test (RST) (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). Alterations to the test enabled it to give an estimate of the participants’ capacity of working memory. In addition to these, the alterations ensured that the RST test was not too difficult for the participants. The alterations involved applying Tom Cobb’s Vocab profile to examine the lexical composition of the sentences constructed for the study. The modifications ensured that 99.1% of the first 2000 words of the passage to be read by the participants comprised proper nouns that most Japanese high school students are familiar with e.g., London and Europe. An exception, though, was made to the word “economics,” which means that it remained unmodified in the passage(“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). The rationale for this is that economics is an AWL word that the participants had learned, and therefore it was safe to assume that they had not forgotten it.
In the adaptive RST test designed for the study, the author of the dissertation states that “the participants listened to sets of English sentences and tried to recall the final word in each sentence and write it on the answer sheet” (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). In addition to these, the author also states that the participants were further asked to “answer a true-false comprehension question given orally at the end of each set” (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). This, according to the author, ensured that “the participants were processing the meaning of the sentences” (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). Test scores were determined using a variant of the Rasch model. The resulting scores known as Rasch logits (Bond & Fox, 2001) were considered apt estimates of an individual’s working memory ability.
The second key instrument used in the dissertation is the University Entrance Examination Center Test (UEECT). In Japan, it is a requirement that all national and public university entrants undertake the UEECT test. The test includes a grammar and a listening section. In the dissertation, the UEECT test was used to estimate the listening comprehension proficiency of participants first, and second, the grammatical knowledge of participants. The listening section of the UEECT test, which comprises four parts and 25 multiple-choice questions, was used to derive an estimate of the listening comprehension proficiency of participants (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). The results of this test for each participant were subjected to a Rasch analysis procedure. The outputs of this procedure were Rasch logits, which were considered apt estimates of a participants’ listening proficiency.
The grammar section of the UEECT test was used to derive an estimate of the participant’s grammatical knowledge (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). At this point, the participants answered 20 questions taken from past UEECT grammar tests. The results of this test for each participant were subjected to a Rasch analysis procedure. The outputs of this procedure were Rasch logits, which were considered apt estimates of a participants’ grammatical knowledge.
Another key instrument used in the study is the Vocabulary Size Test (VST). According to the author of the dissertation, this instrument tested “a participants’ breadth of vocabulary knowledge.” The test involves choosing the correct definition of a vocabulary from a list of four possible choices. The VST test for the dissertation had 40 questions, and it was designed such that it measured the “written receptive knowledge of the first 4,000 words of English” (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). The results of this test for each participant were subjected to a Rasch analysis procedure. The outputs of this procedure were Rasch logits, which were considered apt estimates of a participants’ breadth of vocabulary knowledge.
Another key instrument used in this study is the Learning Channel Preference Checklist (LCPC). The checklist, which was developed by Neff, is usable as a tool for measuring the learning preferences of students learning foreign languages (Neff 2006). Individuals who attain high visual scores are those that effectively learn foreign languages through visual information. Individuals who attain high auditory scores are those that effectively learn foreign languages through dialogues. Individuals who attain high haptic scores are those that effectively learn foreign languages through undertaking practical activities. In the dissertation, having obtained permission from Dr. Neff, the modification was made to item 35 on the checklist. The participants were then subjected to the checklist. The results from this stage enabled the participants to be categorized into the groups above, depending on where they scored the highest.
Another instrument used in the study is listening passages (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). The participants of the study read nine passages taken from the Japanese TOEFL practice book and TOEFL tests. These passages were chosen because they contained an appropriate number of vocabulary and that they became understandable when the meaning of the vocabulary was provided. The passages had similar readability statistics, and their lexical compositions analyzed using Tom Cobb’s Vocabprofile indicated that they were not too difficult. The results of this test for each participant were subjected to a Rasch analysis procedure. The outputs of this procedure were Rasch logits, which were considered apt estimates of a participants’ ability to comprehend passages.
Another instrument used in the study is the vocabulary checklist (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). In this test, participants were asked to translate 57 words taken out nine passages from the English language into the Japanese language. Finally, the other instrument used in the study is the Immediate and Delayed Recognition and Multiple-choice Posttests test. The use of this instrument was necessitated by the realization that to test vocabulary knowledge, multiple tests have to be used. A single test only measures a single aspect of knowledge (Waring and Takaki, 2003). The results of this test for each participant were subjected to a Rasch analysis procedure. The outputs of this procedure were Rasch logits, which were considered apt estimates of a participants’ ability to acquire vocabulary.
The sample used in the experiment for this dissertation had 116 participants, 63 of whom were females, and the rest (53) were males (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). The participants were second-year Japanese students of a privately owned senior high school located in western Japan. At the time of the study, these students had exhibited superior academic performance. These students studied English for 6 hours a week for four years. The study process comprised of reading, writing, and listening courses. At the time of the experiment, the reading and writing courses ran for 50 minutes a day and for 4 and 3 hours a week, respectively. The activities necessitated by this experiment were integrated into the student’s reading course (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). At the time of the study, the participants of the experiment processed good listening skills compared with other Japanese high school students—the average score for these participants in the TOEIC exam done after this study was about 450 marks.
For the first research question, the study results revealed a significant statistical difference in vocabulary acquisition in the three investigated contexts. The contexts are discussed above in the research questions section. Vocabulary acquisition was effective in the first context than in the second context (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). The third context was the least effective (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). For the second research question, the study results showed no significant difference in vocabulary acquisition between the three preferred learning channels (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). For the third research question, the results of the study showed that, of the six predictor variables passage comprehension, vocabulary size and grammatical competence were the better predictors of “Vocabulary acquisition through,” oral output (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009).
One of the main conclusions of the study is that the effective acquisition of lexical vocabulary is achievable by combining three elements. These elements as given by the author are “(a) the judicious use of the native language on the teacher’s part, (b) a reasonably good level of lexical and grammatical knowledge on the student’s part, and (c) listening passages that are pitched at a level that is comprehensible to the learners” (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). The other conclusion made in the study is that English language vocabulary in the case of the participants studied is effectively learned through adaptive aural output, which is modified such that; vocabulary is introduced in the English language and its meaning explained using the Japanese language (“Vocabulary acquisition through,” 2009). Folse (2004) also proposed this arrangement.
Sample proposed study
The combination of classroom tasks that improve English lexis acquisition: An effort to improve the English language-learning curriculum in Japanese high schools.
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Purpose of the study
Previous research has established that English lexis acquisition among the participants targeted in this study does not differ significantly between visual, auditory, and haptic learners. Knowing this, the purpose of this study is to investigate and determine the right combination of classroom tasks that optimize English lexis acquisition in (a) visual learners (b) auditory learners and (c) haptic learners. With its study focused on Japanese high-school students, the report further purposes of making recommendations on how to improve the current English teaching and learning curriculum.
Justification for the study
The curriculum proposed by this study is intended to form a basis for creating English learning classes in Japanese high schools in which learners are provided with equal opportunities for learning and acquiring English Lexis. Taking note that listening skills differ significantly among its targeted students, the study intends to achieve its purpose through designing a combination of tasks that optimize English lexis acquisition in a learner’s primary and secondary preferred learning channels. This idea is supported by Reid (1987 p. 101), who states that it is important to design flexible teaching methods that “accommodate the variations in learning styles that may exist in a classroom.” Kinsella’s (1995) adds weight to this argument by stating that “when lessons are presented visually as well as verbally, and reinforced through writing, drawing, or speaking activities, students are not only able to learn in the way best suited to their style but also to develop a full and varied repertoire of modality strengths” (p. 175). Kroon (1985) and Rochford (2003) have argued that the degree to which an individual learns, among other things, depends on the extent to which the teaching method correlates with the individual’s preferred learning style.
- Which tasks optimize English lexis acquisition among Japanese high school students who learn better from visual information (or who are visual learners)?
- Which tasks optimize English lexis acquisition among Japanese high school students who learn better from auditory information (or who are auditory learners)?
- Which tasks optimize English lexis acquisition among Japanese high school students who are haptic learners?
- What combination and configuration of these tasks ensure optimal English lexis acquisition in a Japanese high school class containing a mixture of visual, auditory, and haptic learners?
- How do you integrate the configuration and combination derived from the research question (4) above into the current Japanese high school English teaching and learning curriculum so that its quality is improved?
The rationale of the study
- The study intends to be a pioneer research effort in improving English lexis acquisition among Japanese high school students.
- Considering that good performance in English is a university requirement in Japanese national and public universities, the study also intends to build a curriculum that improves students’ performance in the subject.
- This study can also form a basis for improving foreign language lexis acquisition in contexts where English is the target language.
Methods and instruments
The study will mainly make use of quantitative data in studying its subjects. The ultimate result of using quantitative data is that it will be possible to select the best listening skills for English lexis acquisition for visual, auditory, and haptic learners. To develop effective instruction procedures for the three categories of learners, listening tasks that trigger different learning styles will be used. The effectiveness of the instruction procedures will be measured quantitatively and qualitatively. The listening tasks will be designed in a way that they tap into the different learning styles. A quantitative measure of each listening task concerning a given learning style will reveal its effectiveness and, ultimately, its quality.
One of the key instruments in this study will be Neff’s checklist. The checklist will enable the study participants to be categorized either as visual, auditory, or haptic learners (Neff 2006). The scores the participants will attain after undertaking the checklist will determine their category. A high visual score will imply that a participant is a visual learner. A high auditory score will imply that a participant is an auditory learner, and a high haptic score will imply that a participant is a haptic learner. Another key instrument in this study will be TOEFL and UEECT tests. Sets of questions will be devised from questions in previous TOEFL and UEECT tests. For each listening skill, participants will answer a particular set of questions. The average score will be taken as a fair estimate of the effectiveness of the listening task. Statistical hypothesis testing is the other key instrument in this study. The statistical hypothesis will be used to determine if there is any significant difference between the listening tasks and which tasks are better. The hypothesis will be tested at a 0.05 level of significance. After linearly combining the listening tasks, a further statistical hypothesis will reveal which combination is better.
Given that this is an addendum study, the same high school will be used. Given that one of the intentions of this study is to propose a curriculum that improves English learning in Japanese high schools, the sample chosen will contain students with different academic abilities. The study intends to retain the sample size of 116 participants with 63 females and 53 males.
Data collection and analysis procedure
The activities of this study will be integrated into the English courses of the participants. As such, the participants will not be aware that they are being studied. Data will be collected as test scores and compiled into descriptive statistics. The descriptive statistics will be used in the formulation and testing of the statistical hypothesis.
Definition of terms
According to Robinson (2001), “learning is a result of the interaction between learner characteristics and the instructional contexts in which learning takes place.”
Visual learners are individuals who get high visual scores concerning Neff’s checklist. This implies that such individuals learn English lexis better through visual information (Neff 2006).
Auditory learners are individuals who get high auditory scores concerning Neff’s checklist. This implies that such individuals learn English lexis better through verbal information (Neff 2006).
Haptic learners are individuals who get high haptic scores concerning Neff’s checklist. This implies that such individuals learn English lexis better through practical activities (Neff 2006).
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Kinsella, K. (1995). Understanding and empowering diverse learners. In J. Reid (Ed.), Learning styles in the ESL/EFL classroom (pp. 170-194). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
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