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Comparing different types of EFL vocabulary instruction for Chinese senior secondary school learners of English

Zhang, P. (2018) Comparing different types of EFL vocabulary instruction for Chinese senior secondary school learners of English. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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The primary aim of the study was to explore the teaching and learning of vocabulary through listening among 137 senior secondary school EFL learners in China. A quasiexperimental, mixed method design was adopted comparing incidental vocabulary learning through listening (Control Group) with different types of Lexical Focus-on-Form delivered to three treatment groups: post-listening vocabulary explanations in the L2; codeswitched explanations; and explanations providing additional cross-linguistic information (contrastive Focus-on-Form, CFoF). The second aim of the study was to investigate whether learners’ listening comprehension developed alongside their vocabulary. Finally, the study explored what strategies were used by learners in response to the vocabulary instruction in each of the three experimental conditions. The data collection procedure, involving a classroom intervention, lasted three months. Learners completed aural vocabulary tests at pre, post and delayed post-test and listening assessments at pre and post-test. The three treatment groups also completed an additional final vocabulary delayed post-test. Stimulated recall interviews were conducted finally with twelve learners from the three treatment groups. The findings first indicate that for short and long-term vocabulary acquisition, the three treatment groups significantly outperformed the Control group. Gains for the CFoF group were significantly greater than for the L2 and codeswitching groups. Additionally, the codeswitching group significantly outperformed the L2 group for short-term but not for long-term acquisition. Regarding whether the vocabulary learning varied according to learners’ general English language proficiency, findings reveal that compared with lower-level learners, higher-level learners benefited more from the L2-only and the CFoF vocabulary explanations for shortterm vocabulary learning. Additionally, analysing the learning by word classes and for collocations, results on the one hand indicate that collocations and nouns tended to be better acquired than verbs and adjectives, on the other hand suggest that the learning of collocations and single words by the learners who received CFoF vocabulary explanations was significantly better than those from the L2 and codeswitching group. Furthermore, regarding the impact of different repetitions on vocabulary retention, findings confirm that target lexical items receiving nine repetitions were significantly better retained than those receiving seven, five or three repetitions. Looking at the impact of vocabulary intervention on learners’ listening comprehension, findings indicate that the L2, codeswitching and Control group showed significant pre to post-test improvement in listening comprehension, with most progress for the Control group. However, the CFoF group did not make significant progress and their performance was significantly worse than the Control group’s at post-test. Finally, the qualitative analysis regarding the strategies used in response to the vocabulary instruction suggest that learners used L2 listening comprehension strategies to understand the listening input as well as employing vocabulary learning strategies to guess the meaning of the unfamiliar lexical items and to further remember these items. In addition, in general, higher proficiency level learners tended to use more different strategies than low proficiency level learners. Moreover, although certain patterns of strategy use were shared by both higher and lower proficiency level learners within each treatment condition, higher proficiency level learners tended to use these strategy patterns in a more active way, compared with lower proficiency level learners who employed the strategies in a passive manner. The thesis concludes by discussing these findings in relation to theories of vocabulary acquisition and listening comprehension, as well as their implications for pedagogy, the limitations of the study and areas for future research.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Graham, S. and Treffers-Daller, J.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education
ID Code:77933
Date on Title Page:2017


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