This article is of value to the present research for its identification of some critical research promoting the integration of vocabulary acquisition strategies into more traditional modes of language development instruction.
Laufer, B. & Rozovski-Roitblat, B. (2011). Incidental vocabulary acquisition: The effects of task type, word occurrence and their combination. Language Teaching Research, 15(4), 391-411
This article by Laufer & Rozovski-Roitblat (2011) adds to the recurrent discussion -- often featuring contributions from Laufer -- regarding task differentiation and its impact on learning patterns among ESL students. The article here considers that a combination of learning task orientation and the degree of occurrence of a targeted term can be assessed in evaluating the effectiveness of certain teaching strategies in producing longterm retention. According to the study, in the methodology and data-gathering processes, "learners were exposed to 60 target words, 10 words in each condition during a 13-week course of study, and were subsequently tested on them by two unannounced tests: passive recall and passive recognition." (Laufer & Rozovski-Roitblat, p. 391) This approach, distinctly focused on matters of vocabulary acquisition as opposed to applied linguistic usage, would reveal a higher level of passive recall and passive recognition as word occurrence exceeded four times in the test-text. This finding suggests to the present research that distinctions between linguistic and vocabulary based instructional strategies allow for the benefit of strategies such as repetition.
Li, X. & Brand, M. (2009).. Effectiveness of Music on Vocabulary Acquisition, Language Usage, and Meaning for Mainland Chinese ESL Learners. Contributions to Music Education, 36(1), 73-84.
Among the more compelling studies referenced in our research is that by Li & Brand (2009) which suggests that the use of music may have the effect of improving both acquisition and retention of target language vocabulary. Li & Brand conduct their study using Chinese students studying English and they proceed from already established ideas about the value of music in producing positive learning outcomes. In their research, this value would prove to extend into the area of ESL vocabulary acquisition. The researchers report that "varying the degree of use of songs produced differential English language achievement. Specifically, the subjects who were exposed to the most music obtained higher achievement and attitude posttest scores immediately following treatment, as well as on the delayed post-test three weeks following treatment." (p. 73) as this concerns the broader research here, music-based instruction represents one of the more unique options in an already expansive range of instructional possibilities.
Min, H.T. (2008). EFL Vocabulary Acquisition and Retention: Reading Plus Vocabulary Enhancement Activities and Narrow Reading. Language Learning, 58(1), 73-115.
The study by Min (2008) compares two approaches to instructing in the acquisition of vocabulary in a target language. One approach uses reading activities and vocabulary enhancement activities in coordination while the other approach uses narrow and repeated reading strategies. A major distinction between this and other studies included in the present research is its focus on somewhat more advanced students. Indeed, the employment of instructional strategies based on reading activities suggests the existence of foundational linguistic capabilities in all respondents. According to the study, the reading activities and vocabulary enhancement activities in tandem produced better acquisition outcomes than did narrow themed reading activities. 3
Qian, D.D. (1996). ESL Vocabulary Acquisition: Contextualization and Decontextualization. Canadian Modern Language Review, 53(1), 120-142.
The article by Qian contributes a dissenting opinion to one of the traditionally held assumptions of language instruction. Underscoring one of the major distinctions of vocabulary instruction from traditional linguistic building approaches, Qian evaluates the necessity of context in instruction. Contrary to much existing research on the subject, Qian indicates that there may be an argument in favor of instructional strategies that do not rely on contextualization. This may be consistent with research suggesting the use of repetition and task involvement, mentioned in other sources included here, as means to achieving long-term retention of newly acquired English terms.
Pelletreau, T.R. (2006). Computer-Assisted Vocabulary Acquisition in the ESL Classroom. University of Pittsburgh.
Alongside the growing acceptance of vocabulary acquisition as a strategy for learning the English language in a formal setting has been a growing interest in mediating this learning strategy effectively. The article by Pelletreau (2006), like the article noted in the Aykin text, considers the virtues of vocabulary acquisition as a computer-mediated experience. Accordingly, Pelletreau reports that "traditionally, research on explicit and incidental vocabulary has been conducted without computer technology, at least for studies involving English. This thesis examines the opportunities that intermediate ESL learners had to acquire vocabulary while reading pre-selected texts every week using a computer program known as REAP as part of their coursework in the English Language Institute." (p. 1) the 'explicit' and 'incidental' terms noted above are, respectively, those which are identified as targeted vocabulary terms and those which appear in the reading and provoke definitional inquiry. As the methodology delineated above indicates, in addition to the use of computer-mediated instruction, the strategy here also employs contextualized reading, which aligns with the endorsement of other resources consulted in this review.
Synthesis and Critical Appraisal:
Reflecting on the literature review constructed here above, there is clear value in the fact that so much speculation, scrutiny and difference of opinion have colored the discussion. This variation is evidence alone that there is must interest in moving forward the pedagogical integration of vocabulary acquisition strategies with traditional generative linguistic studies. The sheer level of interest denoted there within is also an indication that vocabulary acquisition as a strategy has gained mainstream acceptance. However, it is difficult if not impossible to depart from the literature review above with any certainty about how best to employ a strategy of instruction in one's own classroom. This is because there is no sense that scholars examining this area of instruction have reached a consensus at this juncture. In fact, we find that there are myriad points of divergence represented here above. For instance, Qian endorses decontextualization of vocabulary words whereas Min indicates that the use of reading tasks is like to have a beneficial impact. These conclusions seem in some ways to be in direct contradiction of one another. Likewise, we find that repetition of word occurrence in reading material, according to Laufer & Rozovski-Roitblat, will likely lead to longterm retention and we find that, according to Kim, task involvement is the most valuable way to produce longterm retention. These findings, while not in contradiction to one another, make it particularly challenging for an instructor to select a pedagogical platform. This shortcoming in the literature review is a reiteration of the initial research problem and provides a rational segue into the proposed methodology hereafter.
The literature review provided here above offers a preliminary basis for a proposed methodology calling for a more expansive and simultaneously more focused research process. Because the literature review here produces something of an inconclusive set of findings, it is necessary to construct a research process in which literature is gathered, reviewed and indexed in order to achieve some degree of consensus on a number of the issues discussed here above. Most importantly, a wide array of pedagogical strategies are considered in the literature review here, and typically in comparison to one another. It is here proposed that an index and scoring system be designed as a way of quantifying the number of dissenting and advocating positions in available research for a wide host of pedagogical strategies. The deliverables in such a research endeavor would be a thick verbal synethesis of qualitative findings in a broad sampling of research -- the sample size of which is yet to be determined -- and a quantified index of the consensus or lack of consensus on different vocabulary acquisition strategies. It is hoped that the results of such research would provide a more direct and accessible reference to ESL educators attempting to design or refine instructional strategies.
Suggestions for Future Research:
Future research on this subject should generally revolve on demonstrating consensus within the field on certain vocabulary acquisition approaches. It appears that as these approaches gain greater ground with the educational community, standardization has become imperative. Moreover, a number of items in our research, particularly those by Pelletreau (2006) and Aykin (2009), explore the evolving relevance of computer-mediation in the area of vocabulary acquisition. This is of particular interest where future research is concerned, primarily because computer-mediated instruction though increasingly common is yet in need of a great deal more empirical evaluation. And perhaps even more importantly, this is an aspect of instruction that will continue to evolve as our technological capabilities expand and as intuitive ways of using this technology multiply. While the research proposed here focuses on producing some empirical evaluation of a wide array of instructional strategies, there may also be value in subsequently connecting these findings to a more focused study of the wide variance of computer-mediated learning strategies that are or are becoming available to ESL…