Vocabulary size and reading comprehension in elementary level Emirati learners of English
X162 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
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AbstractThe overall aim of this mixed methods study based on a sequential explanatory design was to provide new knowledge and understanding regarding vocabulary learning and reading comprehension among elementary level Emirati learners of English. The low vocabulary sizes and poor reading performances of these learners are well documented (Davidson, Atkinson & Spring, 2011; O’Sullivan, 2009). It is also widely accepted that students with low vocabulary size are will not read efficiently (Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010; Nation, 2006; Schmitt, Jiang & Grabe, 2011). However, there is still considerable debate on how best low level students might quickly develop their vocabulary and how any increase in vocabulary size impacts on reading comprehension skills (Schmitt, 2010b). Further, much of the research carried out in this area has been in the context of cross sectional studies in experimental conditions rather than in classrooms (Nation & Webb, 2011). The present study aimed to address these gaps through a longitudinal classroom based study on the effect of word cards on receptive vocabulary size development. The quantitative experimental element of the design included an intervention using word cards with the experimental groups. The control groups followed the institutions prescribed vocabulary course which did not include the use of word cards. Additionally, this researcher found no studies seeking the views of Arab learners on the usefulness of word cards. This gap in the literature was addressed through soliciting the students’ perceptions during focus group interviews and a survey questionnaire. The three specific objectives were to:(1) Investigate how decontextualised vocabulary study, using word cards and translation, contributed to a gain in receptive vocabulary for elementary iv level Emirati learners of English; (2) Investigate how vocabulary size is correlated with reading comprehension scores among elementary level Emirati learners of English, and (3): Explore the perceptions of elementary level Emirati learners of English regarding the teaching and learning of vocabulary and its relationship to reading comprehension. The philosophical stance of the researcher was vindicated, because the mixed methods research design, underpinned by constructive realism or pragmatism, provided quantitative data that was enriched and corroborated by qualitative data. Despite its limitations, the main conclusions were that (a) decontextualised vocabulary study, using word cards and translation, contributed a more rapid gain in receptive vocabulary for elementary level Emirati learners of English than a similar teaching programme lacking this element; (b) the size of the receptive vocabulary appeared to correlate with reading comprehension scores. This correlation was especially strong in the case of the Preliminary English Test (PET); and (c) the participants in the experimental group perceived that word cards and translation was a very effective approach to learning vocabulary. The practical implications were that decontextualised vocabulary study, using word cards and translation, could potentially be introduced into curriculum, in order to contribute to a gain in receptive vocabulary for elementary level Emirati learners of English. The findings of this study underline the importance of improving vocabulary size in the case of elementary learners and that the learners are likely to engage better with strategies they believe in.
CitationKinsella, L. (2018) `Vocabulary size and reading comprehension in elementary level Emirati learners of English`. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of doctor of Philosophy.
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