Contributions of Morphology Instruction to English Learner Adolescents’ Academic Vocabulary Learning

Contributions of Morphology Instruction to English Learner Adolescents’ Academic Vocabulary Learning

First Author: Amy Crosson -- Penn State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
McKeown, Margaret; Moore, Debra; Hirshorn, Elizabeth
Keywords: Vocabulary, Morphology, EAL, Intervention
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose. This study investigated effects of a morphology intervention about bound Latin roots (e.g., ben=good) on English Learner (EL) adolescents’ learning of general academic words (e.g, benefit), including: A) knowledge of word meanings; B) morphological analysis skill; and C) fluency of lexical access. We hypothesized that the intervention would produce stronger outcomes for learning academic words by strengthening their semantic and orthographic representations, essential components of the lexical quality of a word’s representation in memory and critical to skilled comprehension (Perfetti & Hart, 2002).

Method. Two groups of EL adolescents participated in each of two counterbalanced conditions (n=89 students). Each condition comprised six weeks of robust instruction about the same 24 academic words with (morphology condition) and without (comparison condition) morphological analysis using bound Latin roots. A 3-way mixed general linear model was performed for each outcome, controlling for English language proficiency.

Results. A) A multiple choice synonyms task administered at pre and post for each condition revealed significant gains in word knowledge in both conditions, with no difference between condition or group. B) For morphological analysis skill, a task involving using roots to infer meanings of unfamiliar words, individually administered following each condition, revealed large treatment effects for the morphology condition for each group (Cohen’s d = 1.33 and 1.47). C) For fluency of lexical access, a reaction time task administered individually using Eprime software following each condition revealed significant differences for the morphology condition: that is, faster response time for one group, and higher accuracy for target academic words compared to “filler” words averaged across groups.

Findings suggest added value of integrating morphological analysis using bound Latin roots with academic vocabulary instruction for ELs.