Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Using Mixed-Modality Learning Strategies Via E-Learning for Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Using Mixed-Modality Learning Strategies Via E-Learning for Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition

Article excerpt

Research background

For students who study English as a second language (L2), vocabulary learning is always a primary concern and plays a key role. Schmitt (2000) claimed that L2 students require 2,000 words to maintain conversations. College students need to know at least 4,000 words to understand English textbooks (Hu & Nation, 2000). However, many college students in Taiwan know fewer than 2,000 words, and therefore, have impediments to comprehending English textbooks (Huang, 2004). Vocabulary knowledge and size influence capability in all four of the language skills, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Thus, how to develop good learning strategies, methods, and tools is an important issue (Liu et al., 2010; Lopez, 2010).

A vocabulary learning strategy (VLS) should be part of an overall instructional design assisting learners to discover meaning as well as memorize and internalize vocabulary (Nation, 2001). Abundant research shows that a constructivist instructional design emphasizing student-centered active learning is superior to older lecture/memorization models (Brandon & All, 2010; Bruning, Schraw, & Ronning, 1999).

Rubin (1981) said that use of VLSs can help L2 learners memorize and comprehend words. Oxford (1990) concluded that a strong VLS can help learners recall words more effectively. Learners, therefore, should use adaptive learning strategies (Oxford & Crookall, 1990). Many studies have examined how VLSs assist learning and how to select the best VLS for learners of different ages and genders (Fan, 2003; Gu & Johnson, 1996; Kojic-Sabo & Lightbown, 1999; Schmitt, 1997).

In previous research, however, no VLS has been preferred consistently by learners, and individuals have selected different VLSs based on their learning preferences and feelings about effectiveness (Chacon-Beltran, Abello-Contesse, & del Mar Torreblanca-Lopez, 2010; Hacquebord & Stellingwerf, 2007; Levine & Reves, 1998; Nation, 2001, 2004; Schmitt, 1997, 2000). Skehan (1991) claimed that learner styles and strategies may be the mediators between learner characteristics and learning outcomes. Tight (2010) examined three conditions (style matching, style mismatching, and mixed modality) to explore inferences about styles and strategies for second-language acquisition. Tight indicated that mixed-modality instruction stimulated the greatest learning and the best retention, which echoed Chun and Plass (1996a, 1996b), who found that words or phrases are remembered better when presented with multiple media.

The authors of the current study believe that Tight's findings provided insights for development of a VLS and that the effectiveness of mixed-modality vocabulary learning should be further explored. However, there is little academic literature about e-learning vocabulary acquisition strategies. In particular, investigation into mixedmodality EFL vocabulary e-learning is noticeably lacking. This study addressed this gap by exploring the effectiveness of a mixed-modality vocabulary-learning strategy via e-learning for L2 English undergraduates in Taiwan. The significance of this paper is not simply in examination of mixed-modality learning, but more importantly is in the development of affordances of technology that can be used to design specific instructional technology that address specific educational outcome goals.

The researchers developed an integrated vocabulary-learning system named My English Vocabulary Assistant (MyEVA) based on mixed-modality vocabulary strategies. The MyEVA e-learning system was implemented using the Rich Internet Application capability of Adobe AIR (2008) and made available to L2 undergraduates from the Chien Hsin University of Science and Technology in Taiwan. MyEVA included eight VLSs initially based on a strategy classification by Schmitt (1997), adjusted to be suitable for undergraduates in Taiwan. In addition, the authors intended to observe further whether different navigational pathways employed in mixed-modality vocabulary learning would impact the usage preference and learning outcomes. …

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