Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Investigating the Effects of Learning Tasks on Vocabulary Knowledge

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posted on 2021-11-08, 01:23 authored by Webb, Stuart Alexander

This thesis looks at whether different kinds of vocabulary learning tasks result in different types of word knowledge. In almost every study that has investigated the effects of tasks on vocabulary learning; the only aspect of word knowledge that was tested was meaning and form. Since researchers agree that knowing a word involves much more than knowing its meaning and form, prior research may have measured partial knowledge of only one of several aspects of knowledge. In order to determine the effects of vocabulary learning tasks, several aspects of knowledge should be tested. The experiments in this thesis investigated how vocabulary learning tasks affect both receptive and productive knowledge of five aspects of word knowledge: orthography, association, syntax, meaning and form, and grammatical functions. In the first of six experiments, the effects of incidental learning from reading and explicit learning from word pairs on word knowledge were compared. The results indicated that gains in knowledge tend to increase as the number of repetitions increases; however, partial gains from an informative context may be reduced or eliminated if followed by a less informative context. The results also showed that learning from word pairs contributed to surprisingly greater gains in all of the aspects. In the second experiment, two tasks (learning from glossed sentences, and learning from word pairs) were compared to determine the effects of context and synonymy on vocabulary knowledge. It was found that the subjects gained greater knowledge of unknown words that had high frequency synonyms than for those with less frequent synonyms. The results also indicated that a single context may have little effect on acquisition. In the third, fourth and fifth experiments, the effects of receptive and productive learning tasks on vocabulary knowledge were examined. The results indicated that productive learning from word pairs may be more effective at developing productive knowledge while receptive learning from word pairs may be more effective at increasing receptive knowledge. The sixth experiment investigated the effects of receptive and productive learning from word pairs on communication. It was found that the receptive task may be superior in improving comprehension, and the productive task may be better suited to facilitating writing. Taken as a whole, this thesis indicates that measuring multiple aspects of vocabulary knowledge both receptively and productively may provide a much more accurate assessment of the relative efficacy of vocabulary learning tasks. Moreover, it suggests that different tasks may have a different effect on vocabulary knowledge.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Nation, Paul