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LINGUIST List 24.3797

Fri Sep 27 2013

Diss: Language Acquisition: Nakata: 'Optimising Second Language Vocabulary Learning from Flashcards'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

Date: 27-Sep-2013
From: Tatsuya Nakata <nakatatavodafone.co.nz>
Subject: Optimising Second Language Vocabulary Learning from Flashcards
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Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Program: School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2013

Author: Tatsuya Nakata

Dissertation Title: Optimising Second Language Vocabulary Learning from Flashcards

Dissertation URL: http://victoria.lconz.ac.nz/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=1574806

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Dissertation Director:
Stuart Webb
Paul Nation

Dissertation Abstract:

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate how we can optimise vocabulary
learning from flashcards (word cards) in a second or foreign language (L2).
This thesis examined the effects of the following factors on flashcard
learning: block size, retrieval formats, absolute spacing, relative
spacing, retrieval frequency, and feedback timing.

Study 1 examined the effects of block size on flashcard learning. Block
size refers to the number of words to be learnt at once. Existing studies
on block size are limited in that block size and spacing were confounded.
Study 1 set out to investigate the effects of block size in a more rigorous
manner than existing studies by manipulating spacing as well as block size.
The results showed that although a large block size is more effective than
a small one when spacing is confounded, there is no difference between the
two when they have equivalent spacing. The findings imply that introducing
a large amount of spacing between encounters may be more important than
using a particular block size. Study 1 also showed that superior
performance during learning may not necessarily lead to better posttest

Study 2 investigated the effects of retrieval formats on flashcard
learning. Retrieval format refers to the format in which vocabulary is
practised in flashcard learning. Retrieval practice can be categorised into
four types: receptive recall, productive recall, receptive recognition, and
productive recognition. Study 2 showed that the use of a productive recall
format may be particularly effective for the acquisition of knowledge of
orthography although it may decrease learning phase performance. For the
acquisition of form-meaning connections, recognition formats were found to
be more desirable than recall.

Study 3 examined the effects of absolute and relative spacing on flashcard
learning. Absolute spacing refers to the total amount of spacing that
separates all repetitions of a given item. Relative spacing refers to how
study opportunities are distributed relative to one another. Examples of
relative spacing schedules include equal and expanding spacing. Study 3
found no significant difference between equal and expanding spacing in
their posttest scores, suggesting that relative spacing may have little
effect on learning. The main effect of absolute spacing, however, was
significant. Massed learning, which led to the best learning phase
performance, turned out to be the least effective on the posttests.

Study 4 investigated the effects of retrieval frequency and feedback timing
on flashcard learning. Retrieval frequency refers to the number of
retrieval attempts in flashcard learning. The timing of feedback is
concerned with when to provide feedback for retrieval. Feedback has been
categorised into two types: immediate and delayed. The results suggested
that it may be most desirable to practice retrieval five times. The
advantage of repeated retrieval persisted 4 weeks after the treatment.
Contrary to the predictions of the delay-retention effect, delaying
feedback did not significantly increase learning.

Taken as a whole, the present thesis suggests that practising retrieval in
a difficult and effortful condition may enhance learning. The thesis also
showed that learning phase performance may not necessarily be a good index
of long-term retention. The results from the four studies in this thesis
are useful because they may allow us to make recommendations regarding the
optimal way to learn from flashcards.

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