To know is not to use: The gap between students' productive vocabulary knowledge and their actual use in free writing

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Abstract

One major goal of vocabulary learning is to empower learners to use selected words whenever they need. However, there seems to be a phenomenon that some learners possess the necessary productive word knowledge, such as spelling and grammatical features of the target words, but still find it difficult to use the words correctly. This piece of research reports the process of identifying the potential developmental gap between knowing a word and using it in writing. It involved 12 Form 6 students from a local secondary school using English as the medium of instruction. They completed the Productive Vocabulary Levels Test which measured their productive word knowledge, and the results were adjusted and compared with the lexical profiling of their four pieces of writing for investigating if the words used by the learners belong to: (1) high frequency K2 words (i.e., the second most frequent 1,000 words in English); (2) mid frequency K3 words (i.e., the third most frequent 1,000 words); or (3) low frequency K4-K5 words (i.e., the fourth and fifth most frequent 1,000 words). In order to find out whether these two measures revealed a difference between knowledge and usage, a correlation test was first performed. Results confirmed that knowledge and usage were two different concepts. A follow-up t-test comparing the expected and actual proportion of use showed a significant difference with high frequency K2 words, but not K3 and K4-K5 words. We argued that there was a gap between knowing and using a word as well as students’ strategy to opt for lower frequency words. Pedagogical implications are discussed in relation to how teachers can assist learners in bridging this gap. Copyright © 2016 Hong Kong Teachers' Centre.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication《教育研究報告匯編:教育研究獎勵計劃 14/15》
Editors 楊沛銘
Place of Publication香港
Publisher香港教師中心
Pages81-103
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Citation

Hui, B., & Fung, D. (2016):To know is not to use: The gap between students' productive vocabulary knowledge and their actual use in free writing,輯於楊沛銘主編《教育研究報告匯編:教育研究獎勵計劃 14/15》,(頁81-103),香港,香港教師中心。

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