An application of semantic mapping in teaching English vocabulary for students of food processing at Nghe An trading and tourism vocational college

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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING VINH UNIVERSITY NGUYEN THI LAN PHUONG AN APPLICATION OF SEMANTIC MAPPING IN TEACHING ENGLISH VOCABULARY FOR STUDENTS OF FOOD PROCESSING AT NGHE AN TRADING AND TOURISM VOCATIONAL COLLEGE Major: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Code: 60140111 MASTER’S THESIS IN EDUCATION SUPERVISOR:: TRAN BA TIEN, Ph.D Nghệ An- 2014 STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP I certify that the thesis entitled “An application of semantic mapping in teaching English vocabulary for students of Food Processing at Nghe An Trading and Tourism vocational college" is the result of my own work, and that the minor thesis or any part of the same has not been submitted to any university or institution. Vinh, August 2014 Author’s signature Nguyen Thi Lan Phuong i ACKNOWLDGEMENTS The thesis could not have been completed without the help of many people to whom I am indebted. I would like to thank Dr. Tran Ba Tien, who commented on my work, for his kind help and valuable advice he provides me. I am also grateful to the head of Foreign Language Department at Nghe An Tourism-Trading Vocational College, my colleagues and students of K18B5 and K18B6 who helped me much to finish the methodology of the research. I wish to thank my parents and my loved family who love, care, support and encourage me a lot in the production of this study. Finally, I am too aware that despite all the advice and assistance, I feel that the thesis is far from perfect, it is therefore, my sole responsibilities for any inadequacies that it may be considered to have. ii ABSTRACT At Nghe An Trading and Tourism vocational college, when students learn English, they usually face with many difficulties not only in specific language skills but also in vocabulary. Semantic mapping is considered as a good strategy be applied in teaching of vocabulary. Based on literature review, it is found that semantic mapping has had good effects on vocabulary learning; especially it improves the retention and retrieval of word meanings. This study was conducted to explore the students’ vocabulary performance under the treatment of semantic mapping and their reflections on the teacher’s application of this method. This experimental study followed a two-group pre-test and post-test design. The participants were 87 freshmen of Food processing students at At Nghe An Trading and Tourism vocational college. Three instruments: (1) the tests on vocabulary knowledge, (2) the questionnaire on the students’ perceptions towards semantic mapping, and (3) the interview on the students’ reflections towards semantic mapping were employed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP............................................................................i ACKNOWLDGEMENTS.........................................................................................ii ABSTRACT.............................................................................................................iii TABLE OF CONTENTS..........................................................................................1 LIST OF ABBRIVIATIONS.....................................................................................5 LIST OF TABLES....................................................................................................6 LIST OF FIGURES...................................................................................................7 LIST OF CHARTS....................................................................................................8 Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION...................................................................................9 1.1. Rationale 9 1.2. Aims of the study 11 1.3. Research questions 12 1.4. Significance of the study 12 1.5. Organization of the study 12 Chapter 2: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND.......................................................14 2.1. What is vocabulary? 14 2.2. The importance of vocabulary 15 2.3. Approaches to teaching vocabulary 16 2.3.1. General traditional methods 16 2.3.1.1. The grammar-translation method 16 2.3.1.2. The direct method 16 2.3.1.3. The audio-lingual method 17 2.3.2. Communicative approach to teaching vocabulary 2.4. Semantic mapping 21 2.4.1. Definitions of semantic mapping 21 2.4.2. A typology of semantic mapping 23 2.4.2.2. Story mapping 25 2.4.2.3. Concept mapping 27 1 17 2.4.3. The use of semantic mapping in empirical research 29 2.4.3.2. Stage to use 32 2.4.3.3. Way to use 33 2.5. The roles of semantic mapping in EFL classrooms 35 2.5.1. Improvement in success and rate of foreign language acquisition 35 2.5.2. Improvement in attitudes towards foreign language acquisition 36 2.6. Implications for English vocabulary teaching practices 37 2.6.1. Stage 1: Introduction 38 2.6.2. Stage 2: Brainstorm 38 2.6.3. Stage 3: Categorization 38 2.6.4. Stage 4: Synthesis 2.7. Summary 39 39 Chapter 3: METHODOLOGY................................................................................40 3.1. Study setting 40 3.2. Participants 40 3.2.1. The Control Group 41 3.2.2. The Experimental Group41 3.2.3. Resemblance 41 3.3. Data types of methods of data collection 42 3.3.1 Experiment42 3.3.1.1. Pre-test 43 3.3.1.2. Experimental teaching process 3.3.1.3. Post-test 43 45 3.3.2. Interview 45 3.3.3. Questionnaire 46 3.4. Analytical framework 47 3.4.1. Quantitative analysis of pre- and post-tests 3.4.2. Qualitative analysis of interview 48 3.4.3. Quantitative analysis of questionnaire 48 2 47 Chapter 4: DATA ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION..............................................49 4.1. Results from the experiment 49 4.1.1. Pre-test results 49 4.1.1.1. The Control Group 49 4.1.1.2. The Experimental Group 50 4.1.1.3. Pre-test similarities 50 4.1.2. Post-test results 51 4.1.2.1. The Control Group 51 4.1.2.2. The Experimental Group 52 4.1.2.3 Post-test differences 52 4.1.3. A comparison of pre- and post-test results for each group 53 4.1.3.1. Means53 4.1.3.2. Distribution of score types 54 4.2. Results from interviews and questionnaires 55 4.2.1. About the role of vocabulary and the application of semantic mapping in its teaching 56 4.2.1.1. The students’ preference for the approach to teach vocabulary 56 4.2.1.2. The students’ impression on semantic mapping 57 4.2.1.3. The students’ reflections on the teacher’s application of semantic mapping58 4.2.1.4. The students’ opinions for the frequency of using semantic mapping 65 4.2.2. Summary 66 4.3. Discussion 66 4.4. Overall summary 67 Chapter 5: CONCLUSION......................................................................................68 5.1. Conclusions 68 5.2. Recommendations for English language practitioners 5.2.1. For teachers 70 3 70 5.2.2. For students 71 5.3. Suggestions for further research 5.4. Summary 71 72 REFERENCES........................................................................................................73 APPENDIX A.........................................................................................................78 APPENDIX B.........................................................................................................82 APPENDIX C.........................................................................................................86 APPENDIX D.........................................................................................................87 APPENDIX E..........................................................................................................88 APPENDIX F..........................................................................................................93 4 LIST OF ABBRIVIATIONS EFL: English as a foreign language P: Participant Q: Question S.M.: Semantic mapping W.L: word list %: Percent LIST OF TABLES 5 Table 3.1: The Control Group’s background information.......................................41 Table 3.2: The Experimental Group’s background information..............................41 Table 4.1: Pre-test score analysis for Control Group...............................................49 Table 4.2: Pre-test score analysis for Experimental Group......................................50 Table 4.3: Post-test score analysis for Control Group.............................................51 Table 4.4: Post-test score analysis for Experimental Group....................................52 Table 4.5: Approaches to teach vocabulary that the students’ former teachers used ................................................................................................................................. 56 Table 4.6: How the students found semantic mapping............................................57 Table 4.7: Students’ responses to the effect of S.M. on creating motivation...........58 Table 4.8: Students’ responses to the effect of S.M. on stimulating the vocabulary learning process.......................................................................................................60 Table 4.9: Students’ responses to the effect of S.M. on facilitating the vocabulary learning process.......................................................................................................61 Table 4.10: Various strengths realized by the students............................................62 As can be seen in table 4.11, for the Students’ responses to the effect of S.M. on promoting group-work competence.........................................................................63 Table 4.11: Students’ responses to the effect of S.M. on promoting group-work competence.............................................................................................................. 64 Table 4.12: Students’ responses to the constraints of S.M.......................................64 6 LIST OF FIGURES Figure 2.1: Model of a word mapping (Source: http:// graphic.org)........................24 Figure 2.2: Items in bedroom (Gairns and Redman, 1986)......................................25 Figure 2.3: Basic framework of a story mapping (Source: http:// graphic.org)........26 Figure 2.4: Semantic mapping for “human life circle’(Gairns and Redman, 1986)..............26 Figure 2.5: Detailed example of a story mapping (Source: http:// graphic.org).......27 Figure 2.6: Model of a Double Cell Diagram (Source: http:// graphic.org).............28 Figure 2.7: Model of a Project Concept Mapping (Source: http:// graphic.org)…...28 Figure 2.8: Word Scroll by Beers (2003, p. 192).....................................................30 7 LIST OF CHARTS Chart 4.1: The change in pre- and post-test means for each group..........................53 Chart 4.2: Control Group’s score type distribution..................................................54 Chart 4.3: Experimental Group’s score type distribution.........................................55 Chart 4.4: Students’ impression on semantic mapping............................................57 Chart 4.5: Students’ opinions for the frequency of using semantic mapping...........65 8 Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1. Rationale Vietnam is entering a unique stage of its development. With impressive economic growth over the last ten years, it has been integrating with the region and the world exemplified by its recent accession to WTO, membership of the UN Security Council, and active participation in various major regional and international activities. To sustain the growth and enhance its status in international arena in the years to come, more than ever it needs a highly-skilled workforce that can help achieve its stated goals of modernization, industrialization and international integration. One of the important skills needed is the mastery of foreign languages, especially English, as claimed by Vietnam’s Prime Minister Dung Tan Nguyen (as cited in Tran, 2008 para. 2) that from now on to 2020, it will be the nuclear point in the foreign language educational policy and in communication. Indeed, during the last ten years English has maintained its dominant role as the first foreign language in Vietnam. This phenomenon comes from various demands in both personal and social aspects. In the light of the former, English proficiency is seen as a vital requirement for employment or overseas higher education. For example, the mastery of basic English is one of the prerequisite demands for applicants for jobs in offices and companies, and certifications such as TOEFL, IELTS or TOEIC are a must for those students who want to study overseas. In regard to the latter, English plays an extremely important role in international co-operation. For instance, with the recent economic policy promulgated by the government to attract capital investment, it has significantly facilitated economic co-operation “with an ever greater influx of foreign investment, mostly from capitalist countries” (Do, 2006 p. 2). Due to such necessary demands, in the last decade English has developed “with an unprecedented speed in Vietnam” (ibid., p. 8). Specifically, hundreds of 9 language centres have been established all over the country, with an overwhelming majority of learners studying English (Ministry of Education and Training, as cited in Do, 2006, p. 2). Though it has not yet fully documented, “around 90% of foreign language learners have been studying English” (ibid., p. 8). Despite the recent English learning boom, “the basic knowledge about this popular language of a great majority of the learners has not met the demands in reality” (Nguyen, 1992, p. 21). One of the major reasons for this problem is their shortage of vocabulary stock. Truly, in a language, lexical items are the building blocks, since they label objects, actions and ideas, without which people cannot convey the intended meaning. Many students’ difficulties, both receptive and productive, result from inadequate vocabulary, and even when they are at a higher level of language, they are still in need of it. Hence there is no doubt that lexical knowledge can directly influence the success of language learning in which “students with affluent vocabulary tend to have advantages in enhancing the four language skills” (Nguyen, 2006, p. 2). Although it is of such great importance and in high demand, the interest in vocabulary in the teaching of English as second or foreign language has long been neglected. Until the last decade or so, it was a common practice to consider the teaching of vocabulary as an afterthought or an “appendage” to the more important tasks of teaching other levels in the study of language such as grammar and pronunciation. This misconception is proven by the fact that the teaching of vocabulary in many schools and universities in Vietnam is strategically limited. A recent report by the Department of Education and Training of Quang Ninh Province (2008) shows that the teaching of vocabulary in many schools tends to be “conventionally restricted to translation into the mother tongue or improvised”. (p. 2) Obviously, practices such as listening to teachers, writing down the target language new words and their mother tongue equivalences, and trying to memorize word lists passively are what students normally involve themselves in. These practices surely cause students a feeling of boredom and indigestibleness. Likewise, 10 as asserted by Nguyen (2006, p. 4) “such obsolete and poor presentations have resulted in students’ negative attitude to vocabulary learning; thus most of them rarely remember the meanings of new terms beyond the tests”. What is worse, as articulated by Hoang and Wright (2005), the recent strategies to instruct vocabulary in Vietnam “rarely take place in a communicative environment” (p. 3). Although this field has recently begun to take a greater interest in the strategies for vocabulary instruction manifested with the appearance of studies which suggest some interesting and efficient strategies for teaching and retrieving vocabulary, such as the investigation of teaching vocabulary through games (Nguyen & Khuat, 2003; Nguyen, 2006) and the exploration of creative approaches to build vocabulary (Hoang & Wright, 2005), none have exploited the strategies which can create mental linkages to reinforce the memorization of words yet. Hence the call for employing such strategies to diversify the lexical instruction is necessary, and it is high time the strategies which can synchronize the easy retrieval of words with the creation of a relaxed and communicative learning atmosphere were applied. As there has hardly been any investigation into semantic mapping and its effects on the improvement of the memorization of words as well as the creation of a positive and exciting learning attitude for students until now in Vietnam, such a useful strategy captures the researcher’s curiosity and deserves due research attention. The expectation of effectively employing this strategy for vocabulary instruction, therefore, generated ideas from which this study came into being. 1.2. Aims of the study The study is, thus, conducted in an attempt to investigate the feasibility and educational values of applying semantic mapping as a strategy into the teaching of vocabulary to enhance its effectiveness and, concurrently, students’ positive attitudes towards lexical acquisition. 11 1.3. Research questions To achieve the aim established above, the process of researching is guided by the following main research question: 1. What is students’ vocabulary performance under the treatment of semantic mapping? 2. What are their reflections on the teacher’s application of this strategy into their learning of vocabulary? 1.4. Significance of the study The study pays its contributions to both theoretical and practical aspects. Theoretically, by exploring semantic mapping, the study adds to the growing demand of strategies for learning and memorizing words for English language learners (ELLs). Also, by investigating semantic mapping within academic settings, it is hoped to provide useful information about characteristics and benefits of this interesting but less-exploited strategy in dealing with vocabulary so far. Practically, the study is hopefully to provide helpful knowledge about kinds of semantic mapping and recommend clear guidelines for teachers to use this strategy to deal with vocabulary in particular and, thus, to facilitate their teaching of English in general. For learners, this study hopefully provides useful instructions so that they can use semantic mapping as an effective vocabulary self-learning tip. 1.5. Organization of the study The study consists of 5 chapters. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the topic of the study by stating its context, aim, research questions, significance, and structure. Chapter 2 reviews relevant theories of vocabulary and semantic mapping which are organized along five main categories: definition, typology, use in empirical research, roles in language pedagogy, and implications for language teaching practices. Chapter 3 justifies the design and methods of investigation by taking the four features of setting, participants, data types of methods of data collection, and analytical framework into account. Chapter 4 presents the data analysis and interpretation for the three types of data: experiment, journals and 12 questionnaire. It then discusses the findings in the light of the data already presented. Chapter 5 draws conclusion by explicitly answering the research questions, gives some recommendations for English language practitioners, and proposes topics for further research. 13 Chapter 2 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND As presented in the previous chapter, the teaching and learning of vocabulary have not been effective up till now in Vietnam due to the limitative application of strategies. Therefore, an exploration of one of them – semantic mapping – is necessary. To know how to apply it into practice effectively to solve the problem of vocabulary teaching, a theory of vocabulary and semantic mapping needs to be carefully worked out. Thus this chapter shapes the background that is relevant to the topic under investigation in the present study by firstly exploring the concept of vocabulary, roles of vocabulary and methods to teach vocabulary. Secondly, it give definition of semantic mapping, it classifies its types; however, as only three of them will be employed to teach the selected lessons, these three are theoretically examined in detail. Thirdly, it reviews some empirical research in which this strategy is used. Fourthly, it considers the roles this strategy plays within English as a foreign language (EFL) classrooms. The chapter ends with some implications for English vocabulary teaching practices. 2.1. What is vocabulary? So far there have been a lot of definitions of vocabulary. Vocabulary is defined as words in a specific language or freestanding items of language that have meaning (McCarthy, 1990). Penny Ur (1996) defined vocabulary roughly as “the words we teach in the foreign language”. She also suggested that “a new item of vocabulary may be more than a single word, a compound of two or three words (e.g., post office, mother-in-law), and multi-word idioms (e.g., call it a day)”. Besides, vocabulary is broadly defined as knowledge of words and word meanings (Lehr et al., 2004). According to Lehr and his colleagues, vocabulary is more complex than this definition suggests. First, words come not only in oral forms including those words that can be recognized and used in listening and speaking but also in print forms to be recognized and used in reading and writing. 14 Second, word knowledge also comes in two forms: receptive and productive. Receptive vocabulary is words that can be recognized in reading and listening. Productive vocabulary refers to words that can be used in speaking and writing (Lehr et. al., 2004). Therefore, vocabulary is understood as knowledge of word spelling, pronunciation, collocations (i.e. words it co-occurs with), and appropriateness (Nation, 1990). However, Pyles (1970) confirmed that vocabulary is the focus of language with its sounds and meaning, which interlock to allow us to communicate with one another. As discussed above, vocabulary can be seen in many different ways. Vocabulary refers to words or a set of words in a language or knowledge of words regarding its forms, meanings and how to use it accurately in the context. In the present study, vocabulary refers to the words, compounds and idioms in a language that can be used to conveyed and received information in oral and written communication. 2.2. The importance of vocabulary Regarding the importance of vocabulary, Krashen (1989) pointed out that “a large vocabulary is, of course, essential for mastery of a language”(pp 73, 440-463) as without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed. (Wilkins, 1972) Rubin and Thompson (1994) considered the significant role of vocabulary in communication as stating that “one cannot speak, understand, read or write a foreign language without knowing a lot of words. Vocabulary learning is at the heart of mastering a foreign language”. Nguyen and Khuat (2003) also accepted that vocabulary knowledge plays an important role in learning a foreign language. Vocabulary is one element that links the four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing all together. Vocabulary is a core component of language proficiency and provides much of the basis for how well learners listen, speak, read, and write (Richards and Renandya, 2002). In fact, vocabulary is a means to support communication. It is a necessary component of language instruction. In order to communicate well in a foreign 15
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