Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, Vol 36, No 2 (2013)

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FOCUS ON THE FORMS: FORM RECOGNITION PRACTICE IN CHINESE VOCABULARY LEARNING

Michael Harrington, Wenying Jiang

Abstract


This study examines the effect of recognition-based retrieval practice on vocabulary learning in a university Chinese class. Students (N=26) were given practice retrieving new vocabulary (single or two-character words) in a series of simple form recognition tests administered over four weeks. The test sets consisted of target vocabulary that appeared in the previous week’s lesson and distracter items drawn from upcoming vocabulary. Tests were group-administered via PowerPoint and students used a checklist response to indicate whether a given item had appeared in the previous week’s material. Responses relied on episodic knowledge of previous exposure and required no processing of semantic information. Students were able to reliably identify the target items in the retrieval task with performance on these items being found superior to that for supplementary list control words on midterm and final vocabulary tests. The findings indicate that a focus on word forms can have a measurable effect on vocabulary learning in the classroom and underscores the efficacy of retrieval-based testing (the testing effect, Barcroft, 2007; Roediger & Karpicke, 2006) in facilitating vocabulary learning. The implications for recognition-based retrieval practice in vocabulary instruction in the Chinese classroom are discussed.

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