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An Ethnography and Analysis of the Learning and Teaching of Academic Word List Vocabulary in the ESL Classroom

Wojcik, Rebecca Kate (2009) An Ethnography and Analysis of the Learning and Teaching of Academic Word List Vocabulary in the ESL Classroom. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Within the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), research into vocabulary acquisition has attained great prominence in recent years. A great emphasis has been placed on the need to measure vocabulary knowledge of second language learners in terms of both depth and breadth. Corpora, such as the British National Corpus (BNC) and the Academic Word List (AWL), have been used to determine which words learners must attain knowledge of for their specific needs. English as a second language (ESL) programs must determine whether learners have knowledge of these words or facilitate their learning. Researchers have utilized quantitative methods to measure both breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge. Fewer studies have taken an ethnographic approach to provide information about how words are learned. Ethnographic methods can provide an insight into the learning and teaching of vocabulary which quantitative methods alone cannot account for. This thesis employs qualitative methods to examine the implementation of a rigorous vocabulary curriculum as well as student and teacher perceptions of the implementation. 50 AWL words were taught across the curriculum over the course of a three-month term to full-time ESL students in an intensive ESL program. Data was collected through classroom observations, questionnaires, and interviews. In addition, initial learning outcomes were measured by a pretest and posttest, though this was not the focus of the study. The findings show that an average of more than 2 hours a week was spent explicitly teaching the weekly AWL words. Writing original sentences appeared to be the most common exercise type. The students were generally satisfied with the curriculum, though they expressed the need for skill-specific activities with the core words. The teachers generally thought the curriculum had potential but felt that better coordination was needed. The pretest and posttest revealed that the majority of the students were able to write a syntactically and semantically accurate sentence for a slight majority of the 50 words. These results suggest that learning and teaching vocabulary is much more difficult than one would expect.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wojcik, Rebecca Katerkb8@pitt.eduRKB8
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJuffs, Alanjuff@pitt.eduJUFF
Committee MemberMcCormick, Dawn Emccormic@pitt.eduMCCORMIC
Committee MemberMizera, Gregorygmizera@pitt.eduGMIZERA
Date: 4 June 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 15 April 2009
Approval Date: 4 June 2009
Submission Date: 21 April 2009
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: corpora; depth of knowledge; qualitative study; SLA
Other ID:, etd-04212009-122910
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:40
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:41


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