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Student engagement in learning vocabulary with CALL

Language teachers should always dedicate time to ensure that students are actively engaged in their language learning with students investing adequate effort to learn and retain new words (Connell & Wellborn, 1991; Fredericks, Blumenfeld, & Paris; 2004). With regards to vocabulary learning, teachers should provide students with tasks which promote just such engagement. Tasks which grab students’ attention and interest, are relevant to their individual needs, and have a satisfying outcome are more likely to result in high levels of engagement across time (Keller, 1987; Stroud, 2013). Students studying with more traditional book-based vocabulary lists for example (without interaction or feedback on their progress) may often struggle to keep themselves focused upon learning new words. However, the recent creation of easy-access mobile applications which have dynamic, collaborative, and even competitive style approaches can potentially take students to new levels of learning engagement. Many educational institutions worldwide are switching their students to application-based vocabulary learning with the use of such applications. Students can create, practice and share word cards within a designated online classroom, and can often take part in ranked competitive games with their fellow learners. There appears to be a strong trend amongst language teachers at present to switch students from paper-based approaches to digital learning such as this. Despite this new found enthusiasm for online vocabulary learning systems, there is currently very little pedagogical data regarding student opinions of using such systems. Furthermore, there may also be an assumption that such websites are used as enthusiastically away from class (as they are in full view of the teacher in class). This study examines recent survey data from Japanese university students on the use of such a system (Quizlet), as well as out-of-class system usage data for the same students. Evidence of student opinions, preferences and actual system usage during a course (with targets for system usage) are given. In addition, system usage behavior of students post-course (when no targets were present) is also provided. Discussions of this data will focus upon how the implementation of such a system could realistically be influencing the engagement and vocabulary learning progress of language students worldwide. Handouts will be provided to all attendees.

Connell, J. & Wellborn, J. (1991). Competence, autonomy and relatedness: A motivational
analysis of self-esteem processes. In M. R. Gunnar & L. A. Sroufe (Eds.), Self processes in development: Minnesota symposium on child psychology (pp. 167-216). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Fredericks, J., Blumenfeld, P., & Paris, A. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59-109.
Keller, J. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of instructional design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), 45-67.
Stroud, R. (2013). Increasing and maintaining student engagement during TBL. Asian EFL Journal, Teaching Articles, 67, 28-57.


Robert Stroud    
Science and Technology Department
Kwansei Gakuin University

Robert Stroud has an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching from the University of Nottingham. His research focuses upon the improvement of students' engagement in learning through the use of motivational task-design and computer-assisted language learning. He is currently undertaking a PhD in Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham and is undertaking research on the effects of task design upon student engagement in classroom tasks.


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