Changing Associations: The Effect of Direct Vocabulary Instruction on the Word Associations of Japanese College Students

| February 9, 2011
Title
Changing Associations: The Effect of Direct Vocabulary Instruction on the Word Associations of Japanese College Students

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Author
Christopher Patrick Wharton
Department of English
University of Birmingham

Abstract
Word association tests (WATs) are generally used in second language (L2)vocabulary acquisition research studies to investigate the connections L2 learners hold in their developing mental lexicons.

The problem with of the studies to date is that the associations produced are often extremely boring and predicable (Meara, 1983, p. 29), because learners are usually only tested once with high frequency prompt words (PWs). This study examines the evolving mental connections of twenty Japanese college students through the multiple administration of a thirty‐item WAT over a three‐month period.

Students were tested at the beginning of the term, after five weeks of direct vocabulary instruction, and then again after a five‐week period of no direct instruction, to observe the changing associations students produced to thirty low frequency
PWs taken from the Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000).

Twenty of the PWs were taught during regular class time, while ten received no attention. Half of the twenty PWs were taught using meaning‐based techniques, while the other half were taught through position‐based activities.

Results indicate that instruction increases the number of responses elicited, and the type of response corresponds with the type of instruction (i.e. meaning‐based PWs primarily elicited meaning‐based responses).

The findings support the general consensus that vocabulary acquisition is a gradual process and learners connections change due to time and instruction, as words become better known.

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Category: Thesis