Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Retention and Retrieval of Unidirectional, Paired-Associate Verbal Input

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Retention and Retrieval of Unidirectional, Paired-Associate Verbal Input

Article excerpt


This study is designed to investigate whether the sequence of input is influential in the recollection of the retained information. Eighty first year students, 40 girls and 40 boys, studying in ELT department participated in the study. Three tasks were administered to the participants. In the first test three different lists of words and their counterparts are given. The participants were asked to learn the words in a column and their counterparts in the next one. They were informed that they were going to be given a test two days later. In the second test, administered two days later following the first one, they were given the lists as the sequence of the words was reversed. In the third test, the participants were given the words tea, window, spill and break as a free association test. While the failure in the recollection of paired-associate words in Forward Recall tests was low, it was significantly high in Backward Recollection tests. The findings show that the sequence of the input at the time of retention is crucial in the recollection of the information stored in memory.

Keywords: retention, recollection, unidirectional input, forward recollection, backward recollection, vocabulary teaching

1. Introduction

Factors affecting the retention of verbal input vary depending on the learner (Busato, Prins, Elshout and Hamaker (1999); Gagnon, Bedard and Turcotte, 2005; Matthews, 2009: 400; Phillips, 1988; Postma, Jager, Kessels, Koppeschaar and van Honk, 2004), context (Byers, 1967; Prince, 1996; Tessmer and Richey, 1997), method (Mc Donald, 1964) and nature of input (Kerzel, 2003) along with other minor ones. The retention of input and the factors related to learner, context, method and nature of the input are in interplay to the extent all of the factors that are present in a specific learning environment allow one factor to be predominating over the others. Thus, it is difficult to assign an absolute importance to one of them without having a certain learning environment whose features are defined clearly (see Ausubel and Fitzgerald, 1961; Craik and Tulving, 1975).

1.1 Learner vis-à-vis Verbal Input

Learner differences in the retention and retrieval of input stem mostly from aptitudinal and attitudinal factors. Aptitudinal factors can be detailed as neuroanatomic functioning of brain, cognition, learning styles, personal experiences and the organization of episodic memories in the brain and mind of a learner. Habib, McIntosh and Tulving (2000) examined individual differences in the neuroanatomical correlates of multi-trial verbal discrimination learning in 16 young healthy subjects. They identified that patterns of brain regions in which blood flow correlated with subjects' retrieval performance. They interpreted their findings stating that individual differences in memory performance are related to differences in neural activity within specific brain circuits. As Piaget demonstrated it in volumes of books, cognitive potential of a learner is crucial in the retention and retrieval of input. While perceiving and producing an instant response to the perceived item require lower order cognitive skills such as matching or recognition, conceptualization of this input requires deeper processing in mind (See Budvig, 2002: 59-60). For example children at younger age cannot conceive of Newtonian time in the way adults do. So while weeks, months and years mean something in adults' mind, most of the children younger than 5 years of age live in "today" which is the blurred extension of deictic now, which is the only real time for them. Learning styles are "characteristic cognitive, affective, and psychological behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment" (Felder and Brent, 2005). Attitudinal factors, on the other hand, are more related to environmental factors which inspire a learner how to react towards learning. …

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