The Influence of Child and Word Characteristics on Preschoolers' Word-Learning

The Influence of Child and Word Characteristics on Preschoolers' Word-Learning

First Author: Elizabeth Hadley -- University of South Florida
Additional authors/chairs: 
Robert F. Dedrick; David K. Dickinson; Kathy Hirsh-Pasek; Roberta M. Golinkoff
Keywords: Vocabulary, early childhood (age 4 - 6), Oral Language, Intervention
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Preschool vocabulary interventions have reported modest effect sizes for learning of target words with wide variability in learning among participants. To design interventions that are effective for all learners, more fine-grained information is needed about how word learning is influenced by child and word-level characteristics. The present study investigates how child characteristics, such as maternal education level, executive function, and prior vocabulary knowledge, and word characteristics, such as imageability and concreteness, predict vocabulary learning during a shared book-reading intervention.
Method: Preschoolers (n=139) were assessed on general receptive vocabulary knowledge (PPVT), executive function skills, and expressive knowledge of target words at pretest and posttest. Target words were rated on their imageability, concreteness, and consistency of shape. Crossed random effects models were used to explore child and word-level predictors of vocabulary learning in the same model.
Results: Controlling for other child- and word-level predictors in the model, target words' imageability, target word pretest scores, children's age, PPVT, executive function skills, and maternal education levels were all positive significant predictors of posttest vocabulary. The relationship between imageability and posttest vocabulary, controlling for pretest, was moderated by children's PPVT scores.
Conclusions: Learning from a vocabulary intervention is significantly influenced by child and word-level characteristics. Tailoring instructional strategies to better account for these factors may help to support the learning of a range of children and word types.