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The Effectiveness of a Structural-cum-Communicative Approach to L2 Vocabulary Building

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 11:00am – 11:30am parallel session



Room 2 – 303-G14, Sem



Dr Fiona Kwai-peng Siu
City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong



L2 learners of English, especially those possessing a significantly lower level of English proficiency, often have a somewhat limited vocabulary range, which inherently impedes their reading ability.  To address this matter, many researchers have focused on the effectiveness of sources of input as well as on theoretical frameworks for vocabulary building pedagogy. Krashen’s (1985) Input Hypothesis concept has provided theoretical support for indirect approaches to teaching vocabulary, whereas direct approaches have found support from the theoretical concept known as “Focus on Form” (Ellis, 2001).  More recent approaches to vocabulary building attach importance to L2 learners’ knowledge of word formation in addition to using a communicative approach. This study aims to investigate the effectiveness of using a structural-cum-communicative idea involving both direct and indirect approaches, to widen L2 learners’ vocabulary range.

A total of 52 foundation students taking a 13-week reading and writing course offered by the City University of Hong Kong in 2018-19 participated in the present study. Both the control and the experimental groups took a pre-test in the third week of the course and a post-test in the last lesson, during which they matched 25 words to the list of meanings provided. During the course, both groups of participants were taught word-formation knowledge, but the experimental group were taught using a communicative approach.

The data were analyzed using Independent-Samples T-test. The experimental group scored significantly higher on the post-test (mean: 7.35) than on the pre-test (mean: 5.15) at p<0.05, whereas the control group showed no significant difference between the two tests.

The findings suggest that the teaching of word-formation knowledge as well as engaging students with questions related to the target words seems to constitute an effective pedagogical framework for enhancing the participants’ vocabulary while meeting the target of the tight reading schedule of the course.


Presentation topic

Academics – Changing academic practice

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