Retention of words learned incidentally by Saudi EFL learners through working on vocabulary learning tasks constructed to activate varying depths of processing

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Al-Hadlaq, Mohammed S.
Ely, Christopher M.
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Thesis (Ph. D.)
Department of English
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This study investigated the effectiveness of four vocabulary learning tasks on 104 Saudi EFL learners' retention of ten previously unencountered lexical items. These four tasks were: 1) writing original sentences (WS), 2) writing an original text (i.e. composition) (WT), 3) filling-in-the-blank of single sentences (FS), and 4) filling-in-the-lank of a text (FT). Different results were obtained depending on whether the amount of time required by these tasks was considered in the analysis or not. When time was not considered in the analysis, the WT group outperformed the other groups while the FS group obtained the lowest score. No significant differences were found between WS and FT. The picture, however, changed dramatically when time was considered in the analysis. The analysis of ratio of score to time taken revealed no significant differences between the four groups except between FT and FS, and it was in favor of FT. The differences in vocabulary gains between the four groups were ascribed to the level (or depth) of processing these tasks required the subjects to do and to the richness of the context available in two of the four exercises, namely WT and FT. The researcher concluded that composition writing was the most helpful task for vocabulary retention and also for general language learning, followed by FT. Sentence fill-in was considered the least useful activity in this regard.