Investigating the effectiveness of involvement load in acquisition and retention of ESL learners’ collocational knowledge

Majd, Nazy (2017). Investigating the effectiveness of involvement load in acquisition and retention of ESL learners’ collocational knowledge PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2017.447

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Author Majd, Nazy
Thesis Title Investigating the effectiveness of involvement load in acquisition and retention of ESL learners’ collocational knowledge
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2017.447
Publication date 2017-03-27
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Peter Renshaw
Michael Harrington
Total pages 259
Total colour pages 30
Total black and white pages 229
Language eng
Subjects 2004 Linguistics
1701 Psychology
Formatted abstract
Learning collocations is one of the difficult tasks in second language acquisition that has been largely overlooked in the research literature. The patterning of words and collocations in a language is not predictable based on grammar and lexicon alone. A variety of factors have been found to affect the acquisition of collocations in the ESL context such as exposure, the degree of L1-L2 differences, language proficiency level, and type of collocations. Previous research has focused predominantly on detecting ESL learners’ collocational errors in which lexical miscollocations are among the most common. In particular, verb + noun lexical collocations such as draw conclusions are found to be more difficult than others. However, designing effective ways for second language learners to acquire collocations has not been examined in detail. The current study attempted to address this issue by exploring the effect of tasks with different involvement indexes with regard to verb + noun collocations, and by operationalising the Involvement Load Hypothesis proposed by Hulstijn and Laufer (2001) that provides the theoretical framework for the study.

The main aim of this thesis is to increase the understanding of how ESL learners acquire and retain collocations, and to improve the effectiveness of tasks designed for assisting the acquisition and retention of L2 collocations. Learning tasks were designed where Involvement Load was varied from Low to Medium to High. The experimental hypothesis is that tasks with higher involvement load facilitate the learning and retention of L2 collocations better than tasks with lower involvement load. The participants in the study were selected from a single language group, Mandarin speakers from China, who were all university students studying at the University of Queensland.

The study was based on a within subjects experimental design that included a detailed system for tracking learning tasks and items across groups so that the effects of different involvement loads could be measured. A pretest, an immediate posttest and a delayed-posttest of learning was performed. Also, at the conclusion of the experimental phase the participants answered a questionnaire that probed their learning experiences and evaluation of the tasks, focusing in particular on the difficulty and perceived effectiveness of the collocation tasks that varied from low to high involvement.

The results of the data analysis showed a significant difference between prestest and posttest; and between prestest and delayed posttest, with a very strong effect showing that learning took place and a significant improvement was found for all Levels of Involvement. Hence, the findings from the analysis of the data did not support the prediction that tasks with higher involvement load would be more effective that lower involvement load tasks for learning collocations. In fact the low involvement tasks were found to be more effective immediately following the completion of the tasks. Moreover, results from the participants’ perception questionnaire confirmed their significant learning through the experimental stage of the study. A large majority of the participants not only reported a positive effect from their involvement with the collocation tasks, but also believed their awareness of how to effectively learn collocations had increased from their participation in these activities.

The findings in the current study increase the understanding of the mechanism of acquisition and retention of collocations with regard to the ESL verb + noun collocations. The findings indicate that tasks inducing more involvement were not more effective for the acquisition and retention of the collocations, and the most effective task was found to be the low condition. Moreover, it was found in the current study that tasks with low involvement were perceived as easier to do by the participants and needed less time than the two other tasks. High involvement tasks were perceived to be the most difficult and needed more time to complete but were perceived as more effective. These results suggest that combining the two approaches could provide both short-term efficiency in learning collocations and longer-term reflective and strategic involvement in broadening knowledge of collocations.

From the findings of the study suggest that the processing of a word combination in a collocation happens at a rather lower level than processing the meaning, considering that the problem with collocations is not a problem of meaning. The study has implications for language teachers and material developers. Directions for future research are provided in light of the findings of this research.
Keyword Collocation
Involvement load
Second language acquisition
Additional Notes color: 114, 116, 117, 118 168-177 195,196 216 239-250 landscape: 237,238,258

Document type: Thesis
Collections: UQ Theses (RHD) - Official
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Thu, 16 Mar 2017, 20:54:05 EST by Mrs Nazy Majd on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)