Mental rotations during vocabulary training

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Robust Vocabulary Learning and Sentence Processing in French

Natasha Tokowicz and Tamar Degani

1. Abstract

This study focuses on testing a vocabulary training method with the goal of achieving robust learning (particularly in terms of longer-term retention). We teach students French vocabulary in association to pictures in unusual orientations (condition of interest) and in association to pictures in normal orientations, English words, and to a combination of both English words and pictures in unusual orientations (one presentation of each). In past research, learning vocabulary in association to pictures in unusual orientations was superior to learning vocabulary in association to pictures in usual orientations or to English words, when tested using recall of the new-language vocabulary. The probable benefit to learners is enhanced memory for the instructed vocabulary. Data collection is in progress with students in French on-line and off-line courses at Pitt and CMU. We are also collecting data from a sample of Introductory Psychology students at Pitt.

Procedure: Students participate in three sessions approximately one week apart. Session 1 consists of two cycles of training and a recognition test in which first an English word or a picture is presented, followed by a French word; students push a button to indicate whether the first item represents the meaning of the French word. Session 2 consists of two cycles of training and a recall test in which an English word is presented and the students type in the French translation. Session 3 is a test-only session in which students complete the recognition test followed by the recall test. At the end of Session 3, a language history questionnaire is completed.

2. Glossary


3. Research question

How is robust learning affected by vocabulary instruction methods that discourage activation of dominant-language words?

4. Dependent variables

We test learning immediately following training on Sessions 1 and 2, and alone on Session 3.

The recognition test includes accuracy as the primary measure of robust learning. We operationalize accuracy using d-prime which is a measure of sensitivity that takes response bias into account because second language learners are often biased to respond "yes" on yes/no decision tasks. The recall test also includes accuracy as the primary measure of robust learning, operationalized as percent accuracy.

For both tests, reaction times on correct trials form the secondary measure of learning. Because responses are typed, these times include response formation as well as typing, therefore they are a somewhat less informative measure than response accuracy.

5. Independent variables

Training condition is a within-participants factor with 4 levels: English word, picture in normal orientation; picture in unusual orientation; English word and picture in unusual orientation

6. Hypothesis

Second language vocabulary for picturable objects that are learned by associating second language words to pictures in unusual orientations (e.g., upside down) will be learned better than vocabulary learned by associating second language words to pictures in normal orientations (e.g., right side up) or to dominant language words.

It is not clear how learning second language vocabulary in association to both pictures in unusual orientations and to dominant words will affect learning, however this condition was suggested by Pavlik's work on Chinese vocabulary training and is included here for comparison purposes.

7. Explanation

Associating new second language vocabulary to pictures in unusual orientations reduces the likelihood that the dominant-language word will become active. Because robust learning of second language vocabulary requires that a strong connection be formed between the new word and its meaning, reducing the activation of over-practiced associations between that meaning and the dominant-language word should ensure a stronger connection for the second language word. In other words, only the appropriate knowledge components will become active in the unusual orientation condition. Such learning should form a strong association that endures despite testing conditions--even when tested by showing a dominant-language word (considered to be one of the most difficult tests of second language vocabulary knowledge), words learned in association to pictures in unusual orientations should have an advantage.

8. Descendents


9. Annotated bibliography