Realizing personalized vocabulary learning in Hong Kong context: Differentiating through fulfillment of intrinsic needs

Mui Lan CHOI

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Most of the teenage students in Hong Kong experience difficulties in learning English vocabulary. This is notably due to the linguistic distance between Chinese and English, inadequate exposure to English in the social context as well as the standardized curriculum and the controlling instruction which expects every student to learn with the same input and at the same pace while pursuing the same goal. While personalized learning becomes the pedagogical ideology of quality education in the 21 st century with a view to celebrating diversity, respecting individual differences and maximizing learning potential, this teacher research has constructed, implemented and evaluated a new personalized instruction approach Personalized Vocabulary Learning (PVL ), based on William Glasser's Control Theory, to see whether and how PVL attends to learner differences and motivates students in vocabulary building. This research, which was spread over eight months, uses a case study method to examine how 57 limited proficiency secondary students engage in the three-component PVL, which frees and empowers students in learning input, learning process and learning output. The central literature on which the study draws is William Glasser's (1986) Control Theory, which contends that fulfilment of students' intrinsic needs such as freedom and power motivates responsible behaviour in learning. Supported by an array of quantitative and qualitative data, the study shows that the low banding students selected words for vocabulary growth, developed multiple personalized strategies for strategic learning, and built learning confidence in the challenging task. Also, the students achieved a high retention rate of their self-selected words in personalized assessment. The positive effects of PVL shown in this study validate the potential of the new approach in realizing personalized vocabulary learning in the EFL classroom and developing a higher degree of personalized vocabulary instruction in the research field. The study also reveals a robust picture of what the low banding students needed in vocabulary building. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • MA, Qing 馬清, Supervisor
  • LI, Chor Shing David, Supervisor
Award date09 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Vocabulary -- Study and teaching
  • Hong Kong
  • English language -- Study and teaching
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 2013


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