Integrating Concordancing into Vocabulary
Learning for EFL Primary School Students
Hsinchu Municipal Jia Dong Primary School firstname.lastname@example.org
National Tsing Hua University email@example.com
Jason S. Chang
National Tsing Hua University firstname.lastname@example.org
National Tsing Hua University email@example.com
Previous studies have shown that web-based concordancing is advantageous for tertiary-level learners or above in improving their vocabulary knowledge and writing skills; however, its effects on primary school students are less well known as relatively little research has been conducted for this particular age group. Therefore, In the present study, a Chinese-English concordancer specifically designed for Taiwanese primary school students was developed with a corpus taken from sentences modeling their English textbooks. The research aimed to investigate the effectiveness of web-based concordancing on children’s vocabulary learning. In order to observe the development of vocabulary knowledge, one of the longitudinal designs, the time-series design (Mellow, Reeder, & Forster, 1996), was adopted for 28 weeks long. In the study, seven fifth graders in an intact class were required to provide the word meanings, usage of the target words and produce sentences with the words before, during, and after the concordancing consultation as the treatment. Measurements included vocabulary tests, a background questionnaire, and a final interview about students’ perceptions about the concordancing learning. The results displayed that the young participants significantly improved their knowledge of the target words immediately after using the concordancing, but regressed a bit at the end of the study. In addition, the students also indicated the aspects they favored as well as the troubles they encountered during the concordancing learning. Finally, pedagogical implications and suggestions for future research are also provided.
At the primary school level in the context of learning English as a foreign language (EFL) learning context, vocabulary is the foundation of English learning, as it is a building block of acquiring a new language. Thus, vocabulary instruction at this stage is of great importance. Several studies have found that, as beginning learners of English, primary school students in an EFL context would encounter certain problems when learning vocabulary, such as vocabulary knowledge application in limited contexts, short-term retention of learned vocabulary, and insufficient opportunities to rehearse vocabulary (An, 2005; Kang, 1995; Rae & Oxford, 2003). Furthermore, in 2005, the results of a nation-wide primary school students’ English proficiency assessment held by Ministry of Education in Taiwan revealed that the sixth graders had difficulties in manipulating words and phrases to produce sentences. It was also suggested that students need to cultivate the competence of using grammatical functions of words correctly in a sentence (National Academy for Educational Research Preparatory Office, n.d.). According to Sinclair (1987), it was suggested that the grammatical construction of the sentence is greatly determined by the lexical choice. Among vocabulary and other different parts of speech, the verb in particular is critical … (as cited in Nation, 2001, p. 56).
Due to the advancement of technologies nowadays, many researchers and practitioners have recognized the effectiveness of integrating technologies in language learning and teaching (e.g., Bush, 2008; Mak & Coniam, 2008). Several research studies had found that
computer technology applications (Abraham, 2008; Zapata & Sagarra, 2007). Among a variety of technology programs, web-based concordancing has been extensively used for writing and vocabulary instruction for tertiary-level students; however, little research sheds light on applying concordancing on vocabulary learning of primary school students.
Aiming to fill the gaps by investigating the effects of the concordance-enhanced vocabulary instruction on the primary school students across time, this study thus focuses on the learners’ development of verb use knowledge through concordancing with a longitudinal research approach, a time-series design (Mellow, Reeder, & Forster, 1996). Two research questions are raised as follows:
1. To what extent did the concordance-enhanced vocabulary instruction have effects on the development of verb use for the primary school students?
2. What was the students’ feedback on the concordance-enhanced vocabulary learning?
The results of the study are expected to provide a clear picture concerning the effectiveness of concordancing in primary school vocabulary learning so that language instructors could make the best use of concordancing to enhance vocabulary instruction at the EFL primary school level.
Concordance-Based Vocabulary Learning
Concordancing as a language lookup process has been popularly applied in the field of language learning and teaching (e.g., O’Sullivan, 2007; Sun, 2007). Through the use of concordancing,
learners could inductively discover the pattern and exception of language use in terms of large corpora data from authentic linguistic materials. This process is known as “data driven learning” (Chambers, 2005; Johns, 1994). The learners could take responsibility with the control of their learning pace, thus becoming autonomous and independent researchers (Bernardini, 1996). Plenty of empirical studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of using concordancing to boost learners’ vocabulary knowledge (e.g., Cobb, 1997, 1999; Chambers & O’Sullivan, 2004; Kaur & Hegelheimer, 2005; Lee & Liou, 2003; Varley, 2009; Yeh, 2003; Yoon & Hirvela, 2004).
With careful design and implementation, concordancing-oriented vocabulary learning could be feasible. Cobb (1997, 1999) designed a set of concordancing systems to help learners to learn as much vocabulary as possible in a short time period and found that learners could gain lasting and transferable word knowledge via the concordancing consultation. Horst, Cobb, and Nicolae (2005) argued that the corpus approach is beneficial for deep word processing if the approach were undertaken in a networked computer context. Lee and Liou (2003) examined the feasibility of integrating web concordancing in a required senior high English curriculum and demonstrated that all participants performed better after the concordancing intervention.
Learning vocabulary with an online concordancer could facilitate learners to successfully transfer the word knowledge in other language skills, such as writing. Yu and Yeh (2004) developed an online bilingual concordancing program to help students select proper word usage in their writing. In the same vein, Chambers and
what extent could corpus consultation help to improve learners’ writing quality, and also what particular aspects of writing skills were involved in the process. The results showed that up to 75% of the errors were successfully corrected through concordancing. Specifically, the students improved much in grammatical aspects and writing rules, such as spelling, accents, punctuation usage, and lexico-grammatical patterning. Kaur and Hegelheimer (2005) used both an online concordancer and an online dictionary to explore learners’ transfer of their academic word knowledge to completing an authentic writing task. They suggested that optimum opportunities for familiarizing oneself with the concordancer and ample time for completing the activities are important.
Besides, a number of researchers took interests in applying concordancing on collocation instruction. Chan and Liou (2005) suggested that rich input from the corpus and Chinese-English mutual translations in the parallel corpus help learners to notice, read, and assimilate the expression of collocation in the two languages. The concordancing method could effectively scaffold learners’ collocation learning and raise their awareness of collocations. Some researchers even explored the relationship between cognitive styles and the concordancing-based instruction. Yeh (2003) investigated whether the college freshmen’s learning perception and style would affect their vocabulary development through concordancing. The findings of the study showed learners could benefit from concordancing, especially for those who are visual-text oriented as well as those in favor of the inductive learning style. In Chang and Sun’s study (2009), they examined the efficacy of collocation learning with the support of concordancing searches when the tertiary-level participants received
the scaffolding prompts as the concordancing guidance. The results demonstrated that the participants reacted positively towards the concordancing learning, became more certain, and made significant improvement in identifying and correcting errors. More recently, Chen
(2011) specifically developed a web-based concordancer,
WebCollocate, for the purpose of retrieving collocations more efficiently, and explored its effectiveness from the learning and teaching perspective, respectively. Compared to the controlled group using other popular concordancing program, the experiment group found more proper collocates from the WebCollocate. Furthermore, a group of EFL prospective teachers appreciated the WebCollocate with larger corpus data and the part-of-speech search option—which are said to save time for searching commonly used collocations. One of the suggestions for the WebCollocate was to allow users to key in their first language (L1) queries in order to get what they want more quickly.
In order to promote the concordancing effectiveness for teachers and students, it is essential to increase a fuller understanding of students’ perspectives on the use of concordancing programs. Yoon and Hirvela (2004) discussed the university students’ views on corpus activities and the overall evaluation of corpus use in their academic writing instruction. In spite of feeling uneasy to the time-consuming data analysis of corpus, the students responded that corpus use was helpful for learning the usage of words and phrases, developing writing skills, and increasing confidence in writing. Another study conducted by Yoon (2008) showed that students’ experiences and learning contexts, such as their majors and the requirement of academic writing assignments, influenced the use conditions of
their writing process, learners became more sensitive to lexico-grammar aspects of language, they showed greater language awareness, and they also took more personal responsibility for their writing. Additionally, Varley (2009) found that the international participants generally gave positive feedback towards concordancing consultation and could clearly distinguish the different functions between these three sources: concordancing, dictionaries, and grammar books.
As suggested in Wang’s study (2001), concordancing programs with bilingual parallel corpora data indeed play a role in students’ data-driven learning, especially for EFL learners. Integrated with culture-based materials, the corpora data, including learners’ first language and their culture elements, successfully provide a scaffold for learners to learn words and phrases in the target language, allow students to compare and contrast between the two languages and thus enhance their awareness of both languages (Liou, Chen, Lin, Liaw, Gao, Jang, Yeh, Chuang, & You, 2006), and also in enabling the learners to gain the understanding of cultures (Liaw, 2006). Yeh, Liou, and Li (2007) incorporated the bilingual collocation concordancer into online synonym learning units and found that the participants enhanced their knowledge for synonymous usage and avoided overusing general adjectives by inducing concordancing output with equivalent translations in context.
The studies mentioned above supported the position that with careful design and implementation, corpus serves as a useful reference of language input for the students, and helps the learners solve linguistic features which were problematic to them before and improve their efficacy in writing and vocabulary learning.
Concordancing could present information about language patterns as well as structures and evidence of language usage. It is suggested that the principle of data driven learning behind the concordancing approach may be appealing to users.
Time-Series Designs: One of Longitudinal Research Approaches
As Ortega and Iberri-Shea (2005) pointed out that “time is a construct implicated in many of the problems that second language acquisition researchers investigate” (p. 26); thus, the methodology of longitudinal research plays a crucial role in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) studies. Through longitudinal study practices, many critical issues, such as the pace and pattern of development in second language (L2) and literacy, the transition points in L2 development, can gain further understanding (Ortega & Iberri-Shea, 2005).
When it comes to investigating effects of instruction longitudinally, time-series design is one of the most promising strategies (Ortega & Iberri-Shea, 2005). The underlying principles for the time-series design are elucidated by Dörnyei (2007) and Mellow et al. (1996). The design allows a small number of subjects, and makes intensive examinations on the developmental behaviors of the research cohort in the long run. The major interest of the design is to find patterns of behavior changes and to generalize the results across time periods. The design also increases the validity of a research by reducing the potential threat of Hawthrone Effect (i.e., participants’ performance is not natural when they are aware of being observed) (Dörnyei, 2007; Mellow et al., 1996). Moreover, the time-series
investigation, especially on language development (Mellow et al., 1996).
The time-series design is known for its reliable measurement instances used for each subject in a study. The repeated pretests, assessing pre-intervention behaviors, provide a baseline for…, and the behaviors are able to be compared with post-intervention behaviors. If learners’ pre-intervention behaviors are stable and consistent but their post-intervention behaviors show improvement, then the researchers are confident in the internal validity of his/her research. Several options in the time-series design are used to increase internal validity: the provision and withdrawal of the treatment, the inclusion of several subjects who receive experimental treatment as replications, and the inclusion of different non-treatment groups used to compare the effects of instruction. Furthermore, a large number of measurement instances in pre- and post-intervention sessions allow researchers to confirm construct validity. The data from the time-series design can be analyzed statistically. Parametric or non-parametric statistics on observations in pre-intervention, intervention, and post-intervention could be used to infer the reliability and consistency of changes in an individual’s behavior. Besides, the data of the time-series design can be presented graphically. From the curves in figures, developmental patterns of the subjects’ behaviors could indicate the immediate and long-term effects of ... The graphs could also be examined as to whether the subjects are ready to acquire the subsequent language items.
In line with Mellow et al.’s (1996) research methodology, Ishida (2004) investigated the effects of intensive recasting on the aspectual acquisition, -te i-(ru), in Japanese as a foreign language.
The researcher closely documented learners’ progress at a total of nine sessions of the research design and explored the relationship between recasting instruction and their development. Comparisons of the four undergraduate participants’ performance concerning the use of aspect before, during, and after the instruction were made. The results showed that the intensive recasting instruction had positive effects on the overall use of -te i-(ru). The number of recasts was positively related with the frequency in accurate use of -te i-(ru). From the results of the delayed posttest, the instructional effects were shown to last. In addition, Ishida (2004) suggested that more replications with a larger number of participants in future research are needed for generalization of the recasting effects and the prototypical aspect order.
In sum, the efficacy of concordancing-enhanced vocabulary instruction on the tertiary-level or above learners has been demonstrated. However, little research has put the emphasis on the beginning language learners, that is, primary school students. Very limited longitudinal studies exist for us to understand what would happen when EFL children learn English with limited input (partly due to limited curricular resources) across a long period of time, for instance, nine months as an academic year. Thus, in the present study, the time-series design approach was used to examine the effects of concordancing-based instruction on primary school students in Taiwan and the students’ perceptions of the instruction.
Development of an English-Chinese Concordancer for Children
For elementary school students as the beginning English learners, their vocabulary knowledge and proficiency levels for comprehending the contents of the current available on-line concordancers, such as
TOTALRecall concordancer (http://candle.fl.nthu.edu.tw/ totalrecall/totalrecall.aspx?funcID=1), are insufficient. Thus, it is essential to develop a concordancer specifically for elementary school students.
The first step was to find age-appropriate corpus for beginning learners in primary school. The corpus was modeled from sentence patterns in the nine English textbooks1
For the purpose of providing scaffolding for comprehension of the word and sentence meaning, Yahoo as well as Google dictionary were augmented and Chinese texts were integrated in the concordancing program, Concordancer for Children (http://candle.fl.nthu.edu.tw/child/, see Figure 1). With Chinese translation available, the parallel corpus allows users to compare structures in English with those in Mandarin, to understand the censored by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan. The corpus with a total of 48925 words in 10211 sentences was established. For technological specifications,
PHP was applied to the program. The concordancer was running on
an Apache HTTP server set up on Windows with a Visual Foxpro
The nine censored English textbooks are from Pearson, Kid Castle, Hess, Joy, Nan I, Melody, Rainbow, Kang Hsuan, and Kang Hsuan version B.
differences between them in a natural context of use (John, 2001; Wang, 2001), and to faster retrieve what they want with L1 queries (Yeh, Liou, & Li, 2007). A user-friendly interface in Mandarin was designed in enabling users to decide different number of concordancing sentences to be displayed (10, 20, 50, 100 sentences per search). User-friendly features also include the alignment approach to organize the highlighted keyword, and the exhibition of concordancing output in terms of its length, from the shortest sentence to the longest one, and vice versa. However, the program can not filter out same sentences; hence, identical sentences would repetitiously appear in the output.
The research project took place at a rural, public primary school in the northern part of Taiwan. Participants in this study were seven EFL fifth-graders, Chen, Chu, Lin, Michelle, Wu, Xie, and Yu (all pseudo-names for privacy reasons), from an intact class with varying proficiency levels but similar computer literacy. The participants had at least four-years of experience learning English—a school subject offered in elementary schools. They were all native speakers of Mandarin-Chinese and learners of English as a foreign language. In the beginning of the study, all participants were fully informed by one of the researchers regarding the purpose and the schedule of the study. To familiarize the participants with the concordancer functions and vocabulary activities, they received 40-minute hands-on training five times. The research took place in their extracurricular time at school.
Research Instrument and Procedure
Three kinds of research instruments were adopted in the study. A background questionnaire and an interview were used to elicit the participants’ information concerning their computer use, English learning experience, and their feedback about the concordancing activities. A self-designed vocabulary test (see an example in Table 1) was consistently adopted in the study across various time points, investigating the participants’ vocabulary knowledge concerning word senses, grammatical functions, and sentence production. The data in the study included the responses of the background questionnaire and the interview as well as the answers in the vocabulary test.
It is believed that English verbs are crucial elements for a sentence in the language. In order to measure how participants’ verb
knowledge was operationalized, the following evaluations are carried out: (1) the average score on the three pretests; (2) the average score on consulted sessions in the treatment; (3) the average score on the two posttests, and (4) the delayed posttest score. Four time points, which refer to the pretest, the treatment, the two posttests, and the delayed posttest, were set to observe the participants’ vocabulary development. A scoring method was designed by the researchers to evaluate the participants’ performance on the vocabulary tests. If the participants could provide correct individual answers to the word meaning, the word usage, and the sentence production, they received one point for each aspect; otherwise, if they answered any of them wrong, they received zero for that aspect. The performance of the participants on the vocabulary tests was at first separately evaluated by both the first researcher and a graduate student majoring in TESOL. If the scores of the three aspects given by the two raters were not uniform, the ambiguous items were marked. Final decisions were made after the two raters discussed the ambiguities and reached a 100% agreement on the scores.
Tab le 1
An Example of the Vocabulary Test
Target word: exercise
Word meaning： 運動 (to do sports) Word usage：
人 + exercise +時間 (person(s) + exercise(s) + time) Sentence production：
The research took place for 28 weeks. The participants’ knowledge of target verbs were repeatedly examined in three phases: before the concordancing activities as the pretest phase, during the activities as the treatment phase, and after the activities as the posttest phase. The procedure for data collection is shown in Table 2.
Tab le 2
The Procedure of the Data Collection
Task Time Frame
Pretest Pretest 1 Background questionnaire Pretest 2 Winter vacation Pretest 3 Week 1 ~ 4 Week 5 Week 6 ~ 9 Week 10 ~ 13 Week 14 Treatment Session 1, 2, 3 Session 4,5 Session 6 Session 7, 8, 9 Session 10, 11, 12 Week 15 Week 16 ~ 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Posttest Posttest 1 Posttest 2 Interview Delayed Posttest 3 Week 21 ~ 22 Week 22 ~ 23 Week 24 ~ 26 Week 27 ~ 28
Three pretests were given to tap the participants’ understanding of English verbs (those they had learned and some to be learned, about 60) in order to determine the participants’ knowledge baseline. Those verbs of which the participants missed all aspects of meanings,
word usage, and sentence production were recycled again in the next pretest. The pretest was given three times in a period of 14 weeks to ensure the participants did not show prior word knowledge of the given words during any of the three pretests. The findings showed each participant had 12 unknown verbs, respectively, which became their words for learning in the treatment phase; six of the verbs were common to the seven participants and became our assessment target (i.e., exercise, meet, remember, sound, surf, and taste). The background questionnaire was filled out by the participants in the fifth week of the research.
For the treatment, the concordancing activities were carried out in twelve 30-minute sessions over six weeks. In each session, students checked one of their unknown words of the day and looked it up in the concordancer. Then, they took notes about the searched word’s three aspects: meaning, usage, and the sentence concordancing output that illustrates the word. Once they understood the word of the day, they turned off the computer screen and completed one or two translation (Chinese) sentences adopted from the concordancing output. After completing the sentences, they turned on the screen again and checked the answer. If time was sufficient, they reviewed the word of the day and the previous words. Lastly, when they were ready, they turned off the screen again, and finished a vocabulary test item of the day by writing down the three aspects for the target word (meaning, word usage, and sentence production).
After the treatment, in order to observe the participants’ growth and retention of word knowledge, the participants received two posttests which contained the 12 consulted verbs plus 12 distracters
after the posttest in order to inquire the participants’ opinions on the concordancing learning. Four weeks after the second posttest, they were given a delayed posttest. The two posttests and the delayed posttest contained the same items but were in different order.
The results of the vocabulary tests at the four time points is first examined, followed by the participants’ perceptions about the concordance-enhanced vocabulary instruction.
The Participants’ Performances of the Meaning, Grammatical Function, and Sentence Production Aspects in the Different Phases
The three pretest results confirm six words which the seven participants did not correctly answer in all aspects of meaning, word usage, and sentence production: exercise, meet, remember, sound, surf, and taste. They formed the target words of a long-term assessment for concordancing effects in the study. To assess the effects after the treatment was given, the data from the average scores of the vocabulary tests on the six target words at the four time points were compared and shown concerning each aspect of the vocabulary knowledge via non-parametric repeated-measures ANOVA, the Friedman Test, due to the small sample size and lack of normal distribution with homogeneous various.
Tab le 3
Means of the Seven Participants’ Performances
In Table 3, all participants received zero in all aspects in the pretest. Immediately after using the concordancer, they learned the meaning aspect best (M = 0.95), then word usage (M = 0.79), and sentence production aspects (M = 0.74); these results are shown in individual grand means of the treatment test. In the two posttests, their scores in the meaning aspect was still the highest (M = 1), and those in the word usage
Grand mean Chu Xie Lin Chen Yu Michelle Wu
Word meaning The three pretests 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Treatment 0.95 1.0 1.0 0.83 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.83 The two posttests 1 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 Delayed posttest 0.86 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.83 0.67 0.67 0.83 Average 0.70 0.75 0.75 0.71 0.71 0.67 0.67 0.67 Word usage The three pretests 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Treatment 0.79 1.0 0.67 0.83 1.0 0.50 0.83 0.67 The two posttests 0.95 0.92 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.83 0.92 1 Delayed posttest 0.83 0.83 1.0 1.0 0.83 0.67 0.83 0.67 Average 0.64 0.69 0.67 0.71 0.71 0.5 0.65 0.59 Sentence production The three pretests 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Treatment 0.74 1.0 0.67 0.83 1 0.50 0.67 0.50 The two posttests 0.95 1.0 1.0 1 1 0.67 1 0.67 Delayed posttest 0.76 1.0 1.0 0.83 0.83 0.33 0.67 0.33 Average 0.59 0.75 0.67 0.67 0.71 0.38 0.59 0.38
and sentence production were the same (M = 0.95). After four weeks, the participants’ scores in meaning aspect were the best (M = 0.86), followed by word usage aspect (M = 0.83) and sentence production (M = 0.76).
From the results of the Friedman Test on the three aspects of the vocabulary knowledge in Table 4 and 5, it was found that there were statistical difference among the mean ranks of the tests at the four time points respectively (X2 = 17.37, 16.39, 17.86; p < .05). The Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test was used as a post-hoc analysis to further make pair comparison at the four time points. Shown in Table 6, the results of the post-hoc analysis demonstrated that the z-scores calculated for the differences between the pretest on the one hand, and the posttest and the delayed posttest on the other hand were significantly different in all aspects (p < .05). Additionally, in the word usage and sentence production aspects, the differences between the posttest and the treatment test as well as the delayed posttest were also significant as the calculated z-scores displayed. However, the rest pairs, such as the delayed test and the treatment in all aspects, the posttest test and the treatment test as well as the delayed posttest in the meaning aspect fell just short of statistical significance.
Mean Ranks of the Tests at the Four Time Points
Meaning Word usage Sentence production
Mean rank Mean rank Mean rank
pretest 1.00 1.00 1.00
treatment 3.00 2.64 2.64
posttest 3.43 3.64 3.71
Results of the Friedman Test
Meaning Word usage Sentence production
N 7.000 7.000 7.000 Chi-Square 17.370 16.390 17.860 df 3.000 3.000 3.000 Asymp. Sig. .001* .001* .000* Note. * p <.05 Table 6
Results of the Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test (Post-Hoc Analysis of the Friedman Test)
Treatment - Pretest Posttest - Pretest Delayed - Pretest Posttest - Treatment Delayed - Treatment Delayed - Posttest
Meaning Z -2.460(a) -2.646(a) -2.392(a) -1.414(a) -1.300(b) -1.857(b)
Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed) .014* .008* .017* .157 .194 .063 Word usage
Z -2.379(a) -2.414(a) -2.392(a) -2.014(a) -.707(a) -2.032(b)
Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed) .017* .016* .017* .044* 0.480 .042* Sentence production
Z -2.379(a) -2.530(a) -2.379(a) -2.041(a) -.378(a) -2.041(b)
Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed)
.017* .011* .017* .041* .705 .041*
Note. (a) Based on negative ranks. (b) Based on positive ranks. * p <.05
The results of the pretests offered a solid ground that all participants did not display any knowledge concerning all aspects of word meaning, usage, and sentence production of the six target words. They significantly improved all aspects in the concordancing treatment sessions. They kept improving the knowledge in the two
posttests. Yet, although most of the participants decreased their scores of all the aspects in the delayed posttest four weeks after the immediate posttest, the participants’ performance was still as good as that in the treatment session since there was no significant difference between their performance during the treatment and the delayed posttest (presented in Table 6).
Qualitative Analysis of the Questionnaire and Interview
Data from the background questionnaire and the interview were qualitatively analyzed to answer research question 2. According to the results of the background questionnaire, all participants were highly literate to computer operation and had a piece of computer equipment at home. Nonetheless, their allowed amount of time using computer at home as well as their English proficiency levels varied. When these participants used computers, they would do a variety of activities, such as playing games, watching videos, or processing documents. In addition, they had similar experience using computer into their learning of subject of studies at school. Moreover, they spent little time reviewing English each day. Aside from using textbooks to learn English, all had other resources to facilitate their learning, such as pocket electronic dictionaries.
The interview took place after the second posttest. None but Michelle frequently used the concordancer at home. She checked not only her target words but other words she encountered in her daily life. Rather than using the concordancer, Yu, Chen, Chu, and Xie used other resources, such as online or paper dictionaries to check the target words. It was worth noted that they spent little time learning English at home before attending the study. Surprisingly, they
initiatively acted on checking the words after the concordancing treatment. It appears that their motivation of English learning might have been raised as a result.
The pros and cons of concordancing instruction were proposed by the participants and tabulated in Table 7. In conclusion, nearly all participants considered the concordance-enhanced vocabulary instruction helpful and expressed their appreciation on the concordancing instruction even though they had minor concerns toward it, such as spending much time learning a word and the misfunctioning of the augmented online dictionaries at times. The time they were allowed to use the computer at home also influenced their willingness to use the concordancing program. The more time they had in computer use, the more willing they were to use the program. They also said that they would continue to use the concordancing program in the future.
Tab le 7
Pros and Cons of the Concordancing Instruction
Clear definition and pronunciation
Easy to use the concordancing program
Easy to compare and contrast the word meanings and sentence structures from English sentences and Chinese translations
Difficult in analyzing the concordancing sentences Time-consuming to analyze the
A limited number of the example sentences
Intermittently unstable pronunciation function of the augmented dictionaries Many unknown words in the
A close look at the participants’ conditions for use of the concordancing program indicates that each participant had diverse experience using the program. According to their responses, they realized how to make sentences and translate from English into Chinese, and vice versa. They also tried to induce grammatical functions of the target words. It must further be noted that not all participants were confident in their answers. For example, Wu, Chu, and Xie sometimes seemed to be hesitant about their analyzed results from the concordancing sentences. Hence, they needed their teacher to double check their induced results. With the concordancing approach, teachers still have a role to play even though much learning autonomy is empowered to students.
In the interview, the researcher asked each participant to retrospect how they acquired the vocabulary knowledge of the three aspects. Based on their responses, the online augmented dictionaries and Chinese translations of the example sentences were major sources for meaning. The ways they adopted to analyze the use of the target words varied—all of them would read the English sentences and then the corresponding Chinese translations; however, the number of the concordancing output they read was not identical. Once the grammatical functions of the words had been established, Yu, Chen, Wu, and Michelle started writing an illustrated sentence. On the other hand, Lin, Chu, and Xie would write a sentence first and analyzed its grammatical function. In particular, Xie thought it would be more concrete if she wrote a sentence first. It seems possible that they used either inductive or deductive way to cope with the task of figuring out the “grammatical function” of a target word.
By means of the time-series design, it was a fruitful way to observe the participants’ learning development of verb use. The trend of the participants’ performances of the three aspects in the three different phases (before, during, and after the concordancing consultation) seemed similar. Data from the pretest phase served as a baseline to be compared to those in the following phases. In the pre-intervention, although the participants showed no prior knowledge about the three aspects of the six target words through the three testing across the 14-week period, the results indicated that these participants demonstrated the knowledge after receiving the concordancing instruction in the treatment phase. The peak time of their performances happened in the two-posttest phase. As for their performances in the delayed posttest after the lapse of six weeks from the concordancing sessions, their performances dropped but still remained the same level of what they achieved in the intervention, based on the statistical analysis. This means, they performed better than that in the pretest phase. The following sections will discuss the results by addressing the two research questions.
The Effects of the Concordance-Enhanced Vocabulary Instruction on Meaning, Grammatical Function, and Sentence Production Aspects
Horst et al. (2005) suggested that it is helpful for the participants to have more opportunities to encounter words in novel contexts through the concordancing. By doing so, it could lead them into a deep learning process. During and after the concordancing
knowledge, and were able to induce the usage of the target words and use the words to make sentences, attested by the inferential statistic analysis. It appears that the young participants took great advantage of the context-rich sentences which served as a plentiful input to facilitate their vocabulary development. Hence, the results echoed with Cobb’s (1997, 1999), and Yeh’s (2003) studies: learners could gain the definitional knowledge and find the word use via concordancing. Despite the fact that the participants showed a decrease in their scores with respect to their word uses and sentence productions aspects in the delayed posttest, their performances were not significantly different with those in the treatment test. It demonstrated that the participants still retained the lexical knowledge until the delayed posttest. This is in agreement with Chan and Liou’s study (2005) in that the residual effects of concordancing sustained over a period of time.
To further analyze the effects of concordancing on the participants’ performances in the three aspects, a comparison of the performance trend between the participants who used other resources such as pocket electrical dictionaries to review the words after the treatment and those who did not use any resources was made. It seems that both groups of the participants displayed similar development trend in the four observed points. They made a drastic improvement in the treatment sessions, continued improving the performances in the first two posttests, and recessed in the delayed posttest. It may suggest that the concordancing effects on lexical acquisition be as good as the effects of other resources, such as having expert consultation or using pocket electronic dictionaries.
English-Chinese parallel concordancing, according to their interview responses. Due to this feature, the subjects found it easy to compare and contrast the usage of English sentences and Chinese translations. As a result, the parallel concordancing raised the participants’ awareness of word meanings and sentence structures in English. Moreover, the participants can examine (what?) without difficulty the instances that they searched. It seems that this concordance-enhanced approach helps the participants to foster in-depth knowledge of word knowledge (Wang, 2001; Yeh, Liou, & Li, 2007).
Participants’ Perceptions of the Concordance-Enhanced Vocabulary Instruction
As for the participants’ feedback about the
concordance-enhanced vocabulary instruction, the data from the interview showed that most of the participants held positive attitudes toward it. Several participants became motivated with English learning by the fact that they took the initiative to re-consult the target words at home after the concordancing treatment. Nearly all participants recognized that it was facilitative to their vocabulary learning by using the concordancer to look up words. Furthermore, they all favored using concordancing and would continue to use it in the future. Their positive attitudes were consistent with the findings from Yoon and Hirvela’s (2004), and Yoon’s (2008) studies in which users viewed concordancing as a meaningful reference for language input.
Another advantage of concordancing perceived by several participants is that they could advance their definitional knowledge of
with the Chinese translations in the parallel corpus. The participants’ reactions confirmed both Kaur and Hegelheimer (2005) and Varley (2009) studies that the concordancer and the online dictionary could complement each other, serving as valuable language resources for users. Furthermore, the participants also referred to some disadvantages and difficulties that they met in the concordancing use. Similar to Yoon and Hirvela’s (2004) study, a limited number of sentences in concordance output and unfamiliar vocabulary in the concordances troubled some of the participants as well. Some participants also indicated that they were unable to get correct grammatical functions. Hence, as Lee and Liou (2003) implied,
teachers’ intervention could improve the effectiveness of
concordance-enhanced language learning by giving students instruction in analyzing the concordancing.
In the present study, the four observed points of the research duration indicated that the concordancing could foster the young learners’ vocabulary knowledge. The result leads us to believe the effects of concordancing on the participants’ lexical development were positive which were similar to Chambers and O’Sullivan (2004) and Lee and Liou’s (2003) studies: users can gain vocabulary knowledge through concordancing. Although the participants were primary school students, they could understand the word senses, induce the grammatical functions, and form generalizations of word usage from a set of concordances, fostering their meta-lingusitc knowledge. This finding is in line with O’Sullivan (2007), Yoon and Hirvela (2004), and Yu and Yeh’s (2004) studies that users could develop their analytic skills with positive attitudes when engaging in corpus consultation.
The present study addresses the issues of implementing the concordance-enhanced vocabulary instruction in EFL primary school English context such as Taiwan. The concordancer suitable for EFL primary school students was designed for them to have data-driven learning, facilitating their vocabulary learning. In addition, this study has shown that, through the use of the time-series design, the consecutive observations of the participants were a productive approach to investigate instruction effects. In the 14-week pretest phase, the baseline of the participants’ vocabulary knowledge was established, showing that they did not possess any prior knowledge on the target vocabulary/test items. In the concordancing treatment, the participants consulted the program augmented with the online dictionaries—which helped them to induce their word sense, their usage of the target words, and their sentence making with the target words. Furthermore, the participants’ scores in the test were significantly increased, compared with those in the pretest. Their performances of the word usage and sentence production in the two posttest phase were even significantly better than those in the treatment phase whereas their word meaning performance in the posttest phase showed no statistical difference with that in the treatment phase. In the delayed posttest after eight weeks from the treatment, the participants still held the knowledge of word sense, word usage, and they were able to make sentences with the target words. Their performances of the three aspects at this time were far better than those in the pretest phase, and showed no statistic
displayed that the primary school students in the study benefited from the concordance-enhanced instruction in gaining vocabulary knowledge and retaining it for two months-long after consulting the program. Confirmed with the previous studies (Cobb, 1997, 1999; Chan, 2011; Chan & Liou, 2005; Lee & Liou, 2003; Yeh, 2003), the present study reflected that it may be advisable to integrate concordancing-based vocabulary learning in primary school education; such learning process may empower primary schoolers to explore, discover, and induce vocabulary knowledge.
As for their feedback about the concordancing-enhanced vocabulary learning, the participants expressed that they favored this type of vocabulary learning and would continue to use the concordancing. These participants’ responses were in line with earlier studies in which the participants had positive reactions to the concordancing-based learning (Chang & Sun, 2009; Yoon & Hirvela, 2004; Yoon, 2008; Varley, 2009). On the other hand, the subjects also mentioned some disadvantages of concordancing learning such as having to spend much time and experiencing difficulties in analyzing the concordancing output. Although the participants were given much autonomy to learn vocabulary, they still considered the assistance from the instructor important. Another point worth mentioning is that the features of the concordancing program such as the augmented online dictionaries and the corresponding Chinese translation were fully utilized by the participants.
Two limitations of the present study were identified. The first one is that the participants in the study were only seven students. The limited number made it difficult to have a randomly selected control-experiment group for contrastive analyses and made it
impossible to conduct parametric statistical inferences. Due to this limitation, we cannot generalize the significance of the concordancing treatment to the whole population of primary school students. The second point is that the format of the self-designed vocabulary tests was restricted. We required the participants to repeatedly provide only one word sense, word usage, and illustrated sentence. They might have felt bored and answered the tests with careless manners. Therefore, how much they learned from the concordancing output was unclear. However, the present study is an inspiring step to demonstrate that the integration of concordancing was successful in the EFL primary school vocabulary learning. By displaying a large number of sentences from the concordancing program, concordancing approach appears to provide a rich contextual support for the primary school learners and scaffold their vocabulary knowledge of word meaning, word usage, and sentence production. Further research is necessary to explore factors involved in the concordancing-integrated vocabulary instruction in the EFL primary school setting from a longitudinal perspective.
Several pedagogical implications can be drawn from this study. Firstly, the findings of the study confirmed that the primary school students could advance their vocabulary knowledge, provide correct definitions and create complete sentences when they were given sufficient contextual support as scaffolding. Specifically, they could develop meta-cognitive knowledge to induce the grammatical functions of the target words from the concordances. Moreover, teachers’ role could
process. Second, when designing the concordance-enhanced instruction, instructors need provide more direct trainings and practices in the concordance analysis so that the learners could better exercise skills on analyzing the concordancing output, as Cobb (1997) suggested. Besides, primary school students’ physical development and mental conditions should also be taken into consideration when designing corpus-based activities. Their short attention span and their characteristic of “easily getting bored” might lessen the advantages of concordancing learning. Hence, teachers should express a clear instruction on what is expected of their learners and integrate a variety of activities during concordacning. In addition, in order to promote a sense of participation of the young learners, an incentive like a little gift worked very well. The reinforcement of intrinsic motivation from the joy of discovery learning, combined with extrinsic motivation like the gift, could keep learners motivated. In addition, learners are encouraged to play active roles in deciding their learning pace and thus practicing more learner autonomy. By allowing students to do so, this concept may coincide with one of the Taiwanese English education goals may be met in that primary school students should promote their interests and adopt varied approaches in their English learning; through such practices, these students can effectively learn English with full learner autonomy (MOE, 2008). Lastly, concordancing could improve students’ language awareness. The display of English-Chinese corpus enables students to notice the structural differences between the two languages. Using concordancing could be viewed as an introduction of translating English into Chinese, and vice versa. Primary school students with advanced proficiency level might have the potentials to develop the capability of translation when using concordancing.
The paper is partially funded by two National Science Council projects under grant numbers of NSCU95U-2520-S-007-002-MY3 and
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Li-Tang Yu graduated from the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at the National TsingHua University (Hsinchu, Taiwan) in 2009, and he is currently a teacher at the Hsinchu Municipal JiaDong Primary School. His research interests include computer assisted language learning, research methodology, and English teacher education. He is also an adjunct lecture at the Department of English Instruction of the National Hsin Chu University of Education.
Professor Hsien-Chin Liou has been teaching at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature of the National TsingHua University-NTHU (Hsinchu, Taiwan) since 1989. She has done research on computer assisted language learning, EAP, English teacher education, etc., and published quite a few book chapters, journals (Language
Learning & Technology, CALICO Journal, Computer Assisted Language Learning, System, International Journal of Computer Assisted Language Teaching) and conference articles, and books. Professor Liou
had served as the chair of the NTHU’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literature during 2001 to 2004, and is currently serving her second term as the department chair since her appointment in 2010.
Jason S. Chang, professor of computer science at the National TsingHua University, has taken a long-term interest in natural language processing and once served as Director of Republic of China Computational Linguistics Association.
ViphaveeVongpumivitch is an assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, National TsingHua University, Hsinchu, where she has taught language testing, research methodology, and EFL since August, 2005.