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Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor

Webb, Stuart A.

Abstract

This dissertation investigated Laufer and Hulstijn’s (2001) Involvement Load Hypothesis (ILH). The ILH claims that the retention of unknown words is conditional on one motivational factor (need) and two cognitive factors (search and evaluation) and predicts the relative effectiveness of activities on incidental vocabulary learning. While research tends to provide general support for the ILH, several studies revealed that the ILH prediction is not always accurate. Aiming to provide a summative evaluation of the ILH and enhance its predictive ability, the present thesis conducted a series of three meta-analytic studies to examine research that tested the ILH.

Chapter 1 outlines the thesis and provides background literature and the rationales for the three studies. Chapter 2 (Study 1) meta-analyzed studies testing the prediction of the ILH to investigate (a) the overall predictive ability of the ILH, (b) the relative effects of different components of the ILH, and (e) the influence of potential factors moderating learning. The results showed that the ILH significantly predicted learning gains. However, each ILH component contributed to learning differently and other factors were found to influence learning, suggesting potential for the ILH to be enhanced.

Chapter 3 (Study 2) aimed to update the ILH to enhance its accuracy in predicting learning. The results of the ILH studies were examined with the information-theoretic approach to determine the optimal statistical model that best predicts learning gains. The results showed that the prediction of the ILH improved by adopting the best operationalization of ILH components and optimal test format grouping and including other empirically motivated variables.

Chapter 4 (Study 3) systematically analyzed incidental vocabulary learning conditions that have been examined in studies of the ILH and calculated the estimated learning gains occurring across different activity types. The results revealed that the estimated mean learning gains were highest for composition-level varied use activities (e.g., composition-writing), followed by sentence-level varied use (e.g., sentence-writing), evaluation (e.g., fill-in-the-blanks), meaning-focused input (MFI; reading and listening) with need for comprehension of target words, and MFI in that order.

Lastly, Chapter 5 provides a final discussion of the thesis, followed by the limitations and potential future directions.

Summary for Lay Audience

Anyone learning a new language must acquire an extensive vocabulary to develop a proficient command of that language. Therefore, second language (L2) teachers must choose language activities that effectively increase students’ vocabulary. Laufer and Hulstijn's (2001) Involvement Load Hypothesis (ILH) is a framework that serves as a guide with which teachers can select activities that are effective for vocabulary learning. The ILH claims that L2 vocabulary learning is conditional on three factors: need (the necessity to understand or use a word), search (to look for information about a word), and evaluation (the comparison of the information about word meanings or forms). The level of presence of these components within an activity is called Involvement Load (IL), and the ILH predicts that language activities with higher ILs lead to greater vocabulary learning than activities with lower ILs.

Many studies have tested how accurately the ILH predicts the relative effectiveness of activities on vocabulary learning. While some studies report that their results supported the predictions of the ILH (e.g., Hulstijn & Laufer, 2001; Kim, 2008), other studies report that the ILH predictions were not always accurate (e.g., Folse, 2006; Keating, 2008). Aiming to provide a summative evaluation on the ILH and enhance its predictive ability, the present thesis examined the results of studies that tested the ILH by carrying out three studies.

The first study statistically summarized studies testing the prediction of the ILH to investigate how accurately the ILH predicts incidental vocabulary learning and how different variables influence learning. The results showed that the ILH adequately predicted learning gains. However, the results also revealed some potential for the ILH to be enhanced.

The second study aimed to enhance the accuracy of the prediction of the ILH. The results showed that the prediction of the ILH improved by revising the operationalization of the ILH and including other variables.

The third study systematically overviewed incidental vocabulary learning conditions that have been examined in studies of the ILH. The learning conditions were grouped into five activity types, and we calculated the estimated learning gains for each activity type.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Available for download on Friday, August 26, 2022

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