Enhancing academic vocabulary knowledge through evidence-based instruction
Common Ground Publishing
Faculty of Education and Arts
Fogarty Learning Centre
Declining levels of adolescent literacy and the negative impact low literacy levels have on individuals' economic, social and personal outcomes (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011) are of increasing concern to educators and the wider community. A strong contributor to the development of literacy skills is vocabulary knowledge (Beck, McKeown and Kucan 2008). In secondary school, academic vocabulary becomes increasingly important. Academic vocabulary consists of two elements: content specific and general terms. Students must make meaningful use of academic vocabulary in their written work to demonstrate understanding and knowledge in content areas. The purpose of this research was to assess the impact of explicit, evidence-based vocabulary teaching on student vocabulary knowledge and its use in writing. The study involved students in one Year 8 Social Studies classes in each of two Australian secondary schools. Teachers were trained in the use of a number of different explicit vocabulary-building strategies. Writing samples were collected before and after the strategy instruction, and all students participated in pre and postassessments measuring their knowledge of target words relating to a history topic. Preliminary findings indicate that students in both schools made gains in both targeted vocabulary knowledge and use. The uptake of the strategies by the content specialist teachers will also be discussed.1.