Assessing vocabulary depth and breadth and their role in adult literacy reading comprehension

Assessing vocabulary depth and breadth and their role in adult literacy reading comprehension

First Author: Katherine Binder -- Mount Holyoke College
Additional authors/chairs: 
An Tran; Kathryn Tremblay
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: This study examined relationships among vocabulary breadth, vocabulary depth, and reading comprehension in adults with low literacy skills. The focus of the study was to examine the construct of vocabulary knowledge and how these components were related to reading comprehension among Adult Basic Education (ABE) students.

Methods: Participants were 117 adults who were currently enrolled in ABE programs. They were asked to complete a total of 12 tasks known to measure vocabulary breadth, depth, and reading comprehension. Importantly, tasks that were thought to measure the depth component assessed semantic, syntactic, and morphological aspects of vocabulary ability.

Results: First, we found that our assessments were reliable in testing vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension for this population of readers. Second, the results of a factor analysis showed vocabulary knowledge consists of at least two dimensions: vocabulary breadth and vocabulary depth. Third, we also found that each component made a significant independent contribution to explain reading comprehension.

Conclusions: These data demonstrate that vocabulary is a multi-dimensional construct, and morphological awareness plays a large role in the depth factor. From these findings, we can propose some suggestions for vocabulary instruction for ABE participants.