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SECOND LANGUAGE

VOCABULARY
ASSESSMENT
Angela Sharpe

OBJECTIVES:

1.
2.
3.

4.

5.

Language area of vocabulary


Research in the area of vocabulary
Constructs in vocabulary assessment
Types of tasks and test items in vocabulary
assessment
Scoring and reporting of scores in vocabulary
assessment

VOCABULARY IN LANGUAGE ACQUISTION

Knowing a word requires productive and


receptive knowledge of:
1.

Form
2. Meaning
3. Use

THE ROLE OF VOCABULARY IN LANGUAGE


ASSESSMENT:

Early assessment of vocabulary focused a lot


on translation between the L1 and L2.
This

can be helpful for cognitive mapping if the


lexicalized items represent the same concept in both
languages, e.g. dog-perro.

Early assessments were scored subjectively


and holistically so individual components of
languages, such as vocabulary, were not
assessed.
(Read, 1997)

THE ROLE OF VOCABULARY IN LANGUAGE


ASSESSMENT:
Beginning in the 1920s, second language
testing became dominated by standardized
objective tests which utilized multiple-choice
items.
Vocabulary testing was done through a
discrete-point approach.

THE ROLE OF VOCABULARY IN LANGUAGE


ASSESSMENT:
In the 1970s there was a shift to the integrative
approach to language proficiency assessment.
This approach utilized dictation, the cloze
procedure and its variation the C-test.
This approach, like the translation approach, was
not primarily focused on assessing specific
components of linguistic competence but tests
could be tailored to function as measures of
lexical competence.

THE ROLE OF VOCABULARY IN LANGUAGE


ASSESSMENT:

The communicative approach to language testing:

Todays language proficiency tests do not set out to


determine whether learners know the meaning of
magazine or put on or approximate; whether they can
get the sequence of tenses right in conditional
sentences; or whether they can distinguish ship from
sheep. Instead, the tests are based on tasks simulating
communication activities that the learners are likely to
be engaged in outside of the classroom.
(Nation, 2000, pp.4)

THE ROLE OF VOCABULARY IN LANGUAGE


ASSESSMENT:

Vocabulary assessment in task-based language


teaching:

Bachman and Palmer (2010) see the purpose of language


testing as allowing us to make inferences about a learners
language ability through their performance on a test.

With regard to Bachman and Palmers


framework of language ability, which categories
do you think could include measures of
vocabulary knowledge?

THE ROLE OF VOCABULARY IN LANGUAGE


ASSESSMENT:

Grammatical knowledge:
Syntax:

word forms (vocabulary) fit into the slots of


sentence frames.
Phonology/graphology
Morphology

Sociolinguistic knowledge:
Idiomatic

expressions
Cultural references
Figures of speech
Registers

WHAT IS VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE?


Chapelle (1994) proposes a definition of
vocabulary knowledge as knowledge of
language and the ability to put language in
context.
Nation describes vocabulary knowledge in terms
of receptive and productive knowledge or the
difference between being able to recognize a
word when you hear or see it and being able to
use it in your own speech or writing.

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE IN LANGUAGE


ACQUISITION

Dimensions of vocabulary knowledge:


Receptive

Knowledge
Productive Knowledge
Breadth of Knowledge
Depth of Knowledge

These dimensions of vocabulary knowledge are


important when we think about construct
validity in designing vocabulary assessments.

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE IN LANGUAGE


ACQUISITION

From the point of view of receptive knowledge


and use, knowing a word involves:
Being

able to recognize the word when it is heard


Being familiar with its written form
Recognizing that it is made up of parts
Knowing that a word signals a particular meaning
Knowing what the word means according to context
Knowing the concept behind the word in order to
understand it in a variety of contexts
Recognizing typical collocations of the word

(Nation, 2013)

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE IN LANGUAGE


ACQUISITION

From the point of view of productive knowledge


and use, knowing a word involves:
Being

able to say it with correct pronunciation including stress


Being able to write it with correct spelling
Being able to produce a word to express an appropriate
meaning
Being able to produce synonyms and antonyms
Being able to use a word correctly in a sentence
Being able to recognize and use words according to register

(Nation, 2013)

RESEARCH IN VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND


ASSESSMENT
Stoddard (1929) was one of the earliest
studies of FL acquisition to directly compare
receptive and productive learning by comparing
results in equivalent test formats.
His results implicated:

Receptive tests are easier than productive tests.


The type of test favors the type of learning, i.e. those who
learned receptively got higher scores on the receptive test.
The effect of the type of test is greater than the effect of the type
of learning.

RESEARCH IN VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND


ASSESSMENT

In another study, Waring (1997) performed a


similar experiment but also tested the same
learners on the same items receptively first
then productively AND also tested the learners
the next day, one week later, and one month
later. The results and conclusions were
remarkably similar to Stoddards.

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND ASSESSMENT

In the context of vocabulary acquisition why do


you think that receptive learning is easier than
productive learning?

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND ASSESSMENT


Knowledge of form needs to be more precise
for productive purposes.
Receptive use generally gets more extended
practice which can account for differences in
receptive and productive vocabulary sizes.

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND ASSESSMENT


Anderson and Freebody (1981) distinguish two
more dimensions of vocabulary knowledge as:
Breadth of knowledge:

The

number of words a person knows at least some


of the significant aspects of meaning.

Depth of knowledge:
The

quality of a persons word knowledge.

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND ASSESSMENT

In terms of breadth and depth of vocabulary


knowledge, what do you think could be the
inherent flaw in assessing learners vocabulary
knowledge based on the word forms in a word
list such as the AWL?

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND ASSESSMENT


Research has shown that the AWL corpus is bias in
favor of Business while underrepresenting the
Natural Sciences and Engineering
It does not take into account into account register
variation and meaning
Does not show collocational preferences among
disciplines
Learners vocabulary size is derived from
frequency lists and compared to native speakers
vocabulary size

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND ASSESSMENT


Read (2013) questions from an assessment
perspective:
if a vocabulary test item targets a particular
word form and test takers answer correctly, can
we also credit them with a depth of knowledge
about that word form
The distinction lies making inferences about
quality from quantity.

CONSTRUCTS OF VOCABULARY ASSESSMENT

A construct defines what type of knowledge an


assessment is trying to show ability for through
inferencing from performance on a test.

What are vocabulary constructs we can


measure in assessments?

CONSTRUCTS OF VOCABULARY ASSESSMENT

Read (2000) indicates that one thing that


makes construct definition difficult in the area
of second language vocabulary is the lack of a
clear and concise framework to account for
vocabulary acquisition.

CONSTRUCTS OF VOCABULARY ASSESSMENT

Meara (1996) highlights the point that we


should not define the construct of vocabulary
knowledge in terms of simply knowing
individual lexical items.

VOCABULARY TASK TYPES

Recognition
Select
Receptive

knowledge

Recall
Supply
Productive

knowledge

Comprehension
Understanding

in context while listening and reading

Use
Target

words occur in learners speech and writing

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND ASSESSMENT


Recognition test/task formats:
Yes/No tests such as a checklist test or a selfreport test.
Synonym test
Short definition test
Picture-vocabulary
Usually requires a learner to select a response

VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND ASSESSMENT


Comprehension tasks require learners to
process vocabulary in real time so they must
recognize words and process input in chunks
instead of word by word.
Use tasks require learners to use appropriate
vocabulary accurately and idiomatically in a
natural way.

VOCABULARY TEST/ITEM TYPES


Translation
Multiple Choice
Checklist Test
Word Associates
Completion
Interviews
Matching
Self-report
True-False
Sentence writing
Presentations

Essays/Summaries
Role-Plays
Yes/No
Dialogues

SCORING AND SCORE INTERPRETATION


Recognition tasks are often MC or T/F so are
often reported as 0 or 1.
Recall, comprehension, and use tasks are
often assessed and reported by means of a
rating or level scale.

REFERENCES
Nation, I. S. P. Learning vocabulary in another
language. Second Edition.
Read, J., & Chapelle, C. A. (2001). A framework
for second language vocabulary assessment. Language Testing, 18(1), 1-32.
Read, J. Assessing vocabulary. UK: Cambridge
University Press.
Read, J. Assessing vocabulary in another language.
Encyclopedia of language and education 7, 99-107.