Impact of web-based working mode on lexical development among upper secondary students of English

Marja-Leena Niitemaa
University of Turku
maleni _arvaa_ utu.fi

In future language learning environments, in line with CEFR principles, learning tasks will be more and more authenticated, and therefore spell-checkers, search engines and electronic dictionaries will be available not only in classroom work but also during examinations.

Writing in a foreign language in a web-based working mode can be considered a cognitively complex task not only in terms of attention management and working memory load, but also when evaluating the relevance of lexical findings. Complex tasks involve interplay between automatic performance and controlled knowledge. This processing plays an important role e.g. for gamers in situations that require transforming the working strategy at a new level of the game. I believe that foreign language learners are in a similar situation.

The aim of the current study is to investigate the impact of web-based working mode on upper secondary level English learners´ vocabulary development over a period of two years. Given that vocabulary knowledge is commonly considered one of the most important indicators of language proficiency, the study focuses on fluctuations of receptive and productive vocabulary size and knowledge of collocations, and in writing tasks on word frequency, lexical diversity and use of collocations. The study began in autumn 2012 with 49 upper secondary students as informants.  To date, receptive and productive vocabulary size tests and collocation tests have been administered for baseline, the subjects´ computer use and exposure to English have been surveyed, and two compositions have been analyzed. The current research phase concentrates on monitoring the participants´ dictionary activity, e.g. the words the writers look up, the dictionaries they use, the words they choose, and whether the writers check the appropriateness of their findings.

 

Keywords: web-based working mode, electronic dictionaries, vocabulary size, collocations

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