While the first level of reading helps you understand what the author is saying, and the second helps you identify what they mean, the third level helps you analyze and contextualize the source so that you can respond to it.
The study of Waring and Takaki (2003) is particularly significant. Like Nagy et al. (1985), they too developed a methodology for measuring small gains by having several test formats. Where other studies had used only one measurement, this study used three different kinds of measurements. The measurements were a simple yes or no sight-recognition test, a standard multiple-choice test, and a translation test into the first language. Their results showed that incidental vocabulary learning from reading occurred at several levels and the gain scores depended on the test type, but not much new vocabulary was learned.
In this study, 35 subjects in three experimental groups read and listened once to three stories in graded-reader form, each of which was approximately 5,500 words long. The reading and listening treatments took place during three regular 90-minute classes at intervals of 2 weeks. The subjects were then assessed on their recognition and recall of the target vocabulary items with varying frequency of recurrence rates that they had met in each story. Similar to the Waring and Takaki (2003) study, it was decided that the vocabulary acquisition would be assessed at two levels and over three test periods. Eighty-four target words (3 sets of 28) were selected from three 400-headword-level graded readers. These words, which represented already known common concepts to the subjects (e.g., letter, restaurant, family), were then changed into substitute words. See Table 1 for an overview of the study.
Thirty-five Japanese students of English literature from a medium-sized private university in Kyushu, Japan, completed all aspects of the study. The ages of the 32 females and 3 males ranged from 18 to 21 years old. They had studied English for 7.5 years on average (including 6 years at junior and senior high school). The study began with 68 subjects, but 33 were omitted due to absence or incomplete data. The 35 subjects that saw the study through to its conclusion had been randomly assigned to three experimental groups. In Group A, there were 12 subjects from a 1st-year reading skills class; in Group B, there were 14 subjects from another 1st-year reading skills class; and in Group C, there were 9 subjects from a 3rd-year speaking skills class. All the subjects had pre-intermediate- or intermediate-level competence in English. This was determined by their classwork and homework assignments, as well as by two standardized tests: a 90-item Vocabulary Levels Test (Nation, 2001) and the paper-based version of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Table 4 also displays the mean scores of the input modes by text and test type, and these scores help indicate which modes were easier or harder for the subjects. We find that of the 28 new words presented in this study, the most outstanding gains of all were those achieved when the subjects read The Elephant Man (18.67 on the MC test and 8.11 on the translation test). These were followed by the reading-while-listening gains for The Witches of Pendle (15.30 on the MC test and 6.54 on the translation test). Conversely, it can be seen that on listening-only to The Elephant Man, the subjects did not register any perceptible gains on the translation test. With regard to One-Way Ticket, it can be seen that most of the test scores across the three input modes were quite close, with the test scores for listening-only being marginally better than those attained when listening-only to The Elephant Man. Interestingly, although the story was generally reported not liked, the test scores for listening only to The Witches of Pendle yielded the best overall results in this mode (9.11 on the MC test and 0.89 on the translation test).
Table 6 shows that there was relatively little decay over a 3-month period in the scores for the reading-only, reading-while-listening, and listening-only modes for the two test types. The scores remained about the same irrespective of the mode or the test, except for the meaning-translation test scores, which dropped more considerably or stayed very low in all three modes. Thus, the knowledge needed to complete a translation test seems to be far higher than simply selecting the best answer on an MC test.
The aim here is to determine if there are significant differences between the test types, which in turn can tell us if one type of test is more difficult than others, or to put it another way, do the tests measure different levels of word knowledge? This has considerable implications for the type of test used in this kind of research. There were significant differences between each test within each input mode as shown by the data in Table 4 and Table 12 and the ANOVA scores. For the reading-only mode there was a significant difference between the two test types, F = 57.17, p < .01, for the reading-while-listening mode, F = 68.14, p < .01, and for the listening-only mode, F = 208.49, p < .01.
In terms of preferred input mode, reading-while-listening was considered the most comfortable by the majority of subjects; a sizeable minority favored reading-only, while no one explicitly favored listening-only. The vocabulary gains shown in the data mirrored these preferences. It would seem that for the majority of subjects in this study, reading while listening to a 400-headword-level graded reader narrated at 93 wpm promoted good understanding. Informal interviews with some of the subjects after the study revealed that a key reason for favoring the reading-while-listening mode was that the necessity of having to segment or chunk the text of the story as they read it was done for them by the narrator on the cassette. Consequently, it would appear they had enough spare working-memory space to access the content more effectively, and in turn make better deductions of the meanings of the target words. This coincides with what Amer (1997) and Dhaif (1990) found in their studies.
Moreover, we could say, at least for these subjects, that because their reading level was substantially higher than their listening level, it would be wise for them to practice extensive listening at either (a) an easier graded-reader level than that at which they can read comfortably, or (b) at a slower speed of narration. The data also suggest that teachers should create extensive-listening tests to determine at what level students can listen comfortably rather than rely on tests based on reading ability. Lastly, if learners want to improve their aural perception of streams of speech, one bridge to proficiency in listening-only may be to do extended practice in the reading-while-listening mode first. Alternatively, learners could read the book first, then read-while-listening to it, and finally listen only. In this way, learners would be primed for the words when they listen to them.
This study examined data from only 35 subjects. Thirty-three other subjects had taken part at an earlier stage of the experiment, but for various reasons were not able to submit all the data. This suggests that in order to collect more reliable data, it is important to ensure that there is a larger cohort of subjects. A second limitation was that this study examined only Japanese learners. Therefore, learners from other language backgrounds should be investigated as well. A replication of this experiment would be welcomed. Thirdly, subjects were exposed to a mean of only 5,567 words in each input mode. Therefore, to gather more data on the effectiveness of learning vocabulary from reading and listening to stories in a foreign language, it would be better to devise studies that include multiple or longer texts in each mode. Lastly, the study assumed that the use of a 400-headword-level graded reader would provide no significant hindrance for the necessary conditions for inferring new words from context. As this was not precisely determined beforehand, it may have been a factor in the low learning and retention rates, especially in the listening-only mode.
Investigating how much collocation, lexical pattern knowledge and so forth is learnt from extensive reading and listening is probably where the future lies with this type of research, because numerous studies including this one have now determined how much learners can pick up from word-focused experiments, as opposed to word knowledge at the supra-word level (i.e., collocation and lexical patterns). We feel it is now time for researchers to look beyond the word level and research the more complex nature of vocabulary learning as measured by collocational knowledge, lexical pattern knowledge and so forth. 2b1af7f3a8