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An Empirical Research on Incidental Vocabulary Learning in Light of Involvement Load Hypothesis

Author: ZhaoLei
Tutor: WangWeiJia
School: Nanjing University of Technology
Course: Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords: Involvement Load Hypothesis Task Incidental Vocabulary acquisition L2learners
CLC: H319.3
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2012
Downloads: 14
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Vocabulary learning is one of the most important and indispensable tasks learnershave to undertake in the process of acquiring a second/foreign language. However, itis also the most challenging and sometimes frustrating task as well. To assist learning,vocabulary acquisition theories and studies to test these theories have mushroomed.One typical theory is the Involvement load Hypothesis (Laufer&Hulstijn,2001),which was proposed on the basis of incidental vocabulary learning. In brief, theInvolvement Load Hypothesis states that the construct of involvement of learners in atask is composed of three components: need, search, and evaluation, and the higherinvolvement load a task induces, the better vocabulary retention effect a learner canget. Additionally, a study conducted by Kim (2008) was also worth our attention,which tested not only the effect of different tasks that had different involvement loadsbut also the effect of the same load tasks. Besides, learners’ proficiency levels werealso tested in her study. Although Kim’s (2008) study has made so manyimprovements based on the involvement load hypothesis theory, her study onlypresented the explanation of the hypothesis in ESL settings with a very small numberof participants. Thus, in order to explore more about the efficacy of the hypothesis inEFL settings with more participants, the writer partially replicated her study but onChinese EFL learners and involved319students in September,2011. The presentstudy is composed of two experiments, investigating the following two researchquestions respectively:1. Do tasks with different levels of involvement load affect differently the initial and retention of new vocabulary learning of the students from differentproficiency levels?(Experiment I)2. Do different task types of the same level of involvement load affect the initialand retention of new vocabulary learning of the students from differentproficiency levels in the same way?(Experiment II)In experiment I, the subjects were the students from6intact classes majoring indifferent subjects in Huaiyin Institute of Technology, among whom110students werefreshmen, and125students were sophomores. They were grouped into two levels ofproficiency (Group A-freshmen and Group B-sophomores). For each group, subjectswere randomly assigned to perform one of three tasks: Reading, Gap-filling, andSentence writing. An immediate post-test was administered right after the tasks werefinished, and a delayed post-test was administered one week later.Using the same method as in Experiment I, the subjects of Experiment II weredivided into two different proficiency levels as well and were randomly assigned totwo different tasks: writing original sentences (“Sentence writing”) and writing acomposition (“Composition”). For the Sentence writing task, the same data from asubset of Experiment I were used; that is, Sentence writing groups of two proficiencylevels in the Experiment I were also used in Experiment II to represent Sentencewriting groups. To contrast with them, another two intact classes who did notparticipate in Experiment I were brought in to perform the Composition task: oneclass was freshmen and the other was sophomores. An immediate post-test wasadministered right after the tasks were finished, and a delayed post-test was administered one week later.After colleting all the data about immediate and delayed posttests, the researcheranalyzed it by SPSS16.0. The results of the present study are summarized as followsin line with the research questions:1. The result of Experiment I has shown that a higher level of learnerinvolvement during the task did promote more effective initial vocabularylearning and better retention of the new words in general. However, theeffectiveness of task3(sentence writing) was not significantly better than task2(gap filling) in the present study, which was nevertheless significantly betterthan task1. Besides, no significant effect was found on the factor ofproficiency level.2. The result of Experiment II has shown that when two different tasks (task3-sentence writing and task4-composition) were set with the same load on thethree components of involvement, they were equally effective on the initialvocabulary learning and retention of the new words. Similar to the result ofExperiment I, no significant effect was found on the proficiency levels.In conclusion, the results of the present study partially support the InvolvementLoad Hypothesis. As a pedagogical implication, the researcher suggested that teachersshould explore more task types with higher load for learners in order to raise theefficiency of their vocabulary acquisition. Regarding future researches on thishypothesis, the writer suggested that it is very necessary to test it with a variety oftasks and from different dimensions. Furthermore, the search element of the three involvement load elements should be investigated more as it seemed to be oftenneglected in previous studies.

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