Effective vocabulary learning: Materials design and evaluation

Tara McIlroy & Jennie Roloff-Rothman

This paper describes research carried out as part of the ongoing process of curriculum development in a university freshman English course. The research committee tasked with curriculum development identified vocabulary materials as an area for potential improvement. In the course, sets of words are taught explicitly in themed units. Discussions and consultations in 2009 led to the development of new materials trialed in the 2010 academic year. This study reports on the results of that trial, which evaluated both the design and effectiveness of the materials by collecting teacher observations and administering a specially designed vocabulary test. Using Nation’s (2001) framework for form, meaning, and use, the materials from two units were analyzed to determine which aspects of knowing a word were relevant to our context. A vocabulary test measuring vocabulary knowledge was administered to compare the materials’ effectiveness against no explicit instruction whatsoever.