The effectiveness of a mnemonic strategy on vocabulary recall performance

Year: 2016

Author: Wyra, Mirella

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Learning new words and their meaning is a requirement of learning in all disciplines. Vocabulary learning, a necessary part of foreign language acquisition, is a cognitive task that poses difficulty for learners. To address this difficulty considerable research attention has been given to the keyword method as a strategy that facilitates foreign language vocabulary acquisition, with the majority of a large number of studies arguing that the keyword method proved superior to a range of other vocabulary learning methods (e.g., Atkinson & Raugh, 1975; Beaton, Gruneberg, Hyde, Shufflebottom, & Sykes, 2005). However, the major concern with the keyword method has been with its influence on the encoding of new words and little systematic attention has been given to the use of the method during word recall. Very few studies discuss the effects of the keyword method on backward recall, where a foreign language word is recalled, and none focus on teaching explicit retrieval in both directions of recall, i.e., recalling a foreign word when a learner is provided with its first language meaning (backward recall), and recalling meaning when a learner is presented with a foreign language word (forward recall) (Wyra, Lawson & Hungi, 2007).In this experimental study students have been taught how to use the keyword method for learning new foreign language vocabulary. Both experimental and control groups learned how to use the keyword method at the time of encoding and the experimental group has learned how to use the keyword method at the time of recall.Vocabulary recall performance of students learning alphabetic and non-alphabetic languages has been assessed on three occasions; immediately after the end of the keyword method learning and then on two later occasions. The focus of analysis of data has been on the effects of additional instruction on how to use the keyword method at the time of recall on vocabulary recall performance. The implications of the findings are discussed in relation to theory, research and practice in the fields of cognitive psychology (strategy training) and foreign language education (vocabulary learning).