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Investigating the effect of spaced versus massed practice on vocabulary retention in the EFL classroom

Alfotais, Ahmad (2019) Investigating the effect of spaced versus massed practice on vocabulary retention in the EFL classroom. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

The expression ‘spacing effect’ refers to a commonly observed finding that spacing learning over a period of time leads to better retention than massing learning in a single session. The present study for the first time experimentally compared the relative effectiveness of spaced practice and massed practice on vocabulary learning in authentic EFL classroom settings at tertiary level. This thesis examined the difference in initial learning and longer-term retention between massed and spaced practice at four strength levels of knowledge of vocabulary meaning, namely receptive recognition (easiest), productive recognition, receptive recall, and productive recall (hardest) (Laufer & Goldstein, 2004). Furthermore, this thesis examined the difference in initial learning and retention between word classes, the role of individual factors in spaced learning compared with massed learning, and whether the four levels of vocabulary strength additionally constituted an implicational scale. With these aims, year-one Saudi EFL university students were taught the meaning of 30 new words in a massed learning condition and 30 other new words in a spaced learning condition. In the massed learning condition, each target word was practiced four times in one classroom session. In the spaced learning condition, each target word was practiced once in each of four classroom sessions. The same vocabulary tests were administered immediately after the intervention and four weeks later. Questionnaires were additionally used to gather self-reported individual data. The findings revealed that scores for items that were learnt in the massed condition were not only lower than scores for items that were learnt in the spaced condition but also yielded a greater fall between the immediate and delayed post-tests, although that fall was not significant at the easiest strength level. The benefit of spaced learning over massed learning applied equally to nouns and verbs, with the former’s scores being higher regardless of the time when the test occurred. Vocabulary learning with spaced practice was beneficial to all learners irrespectively of whether they preferred it or not over massed practice. The study agrees with Laufer and Goldstein’s (2004) finding of an implicational scale across the same four degrees of knowledge strength. In addition to further results, implications for second language acquisition and vocabulary learning theory, and English as a foreign language pedagogy are presented.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: EFL vocabulary learning The spacing effect Saudi EFL learning Receptive and productive knowledge EFL classrooms
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
Depositing User: Ahmad Al Fotais
Date Deposited: 29 Jul 2019 08:09
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2019 08:09
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/25062

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