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Use Quizlet to Increase Your Students’ Vocabulary Gains

The importance of vocabulary in second language (L2) learning is being increasingly acknowledged (Schwanenflugel & Nikolova, 2005). Beglar and Hunt (2005, p.7) claim that vocabulary learning is ‘…the central component in successful foreign language acquisition’. In addition, students need an effective and systematic approach to vocabulary learning in order to avoid frustration and demotivation (Nation, 2001). It seems clear that language teachers have a responsibility to prioritize L2 vocabulary, and to provide students with effective tools and strategies for learning new words. Research suggests that using flashcards is among the most efficient means of deliberate vocabulary study techniques available. Firstly, flashcards are portable and therefore more convenient; as a result they facilitate spaced learning, a metacognitive learning strategy (Nation, 2003). This revisiting of lexical items over an extended period of time provides a more structured study regime and greatly increases the rate of vocabulary acquisition (Hulstijn, 1992; Webb 2007).Secondly, using flashcards transfers responsibility over to students for their own learning. Increasing learner autonomy can significantly increase the rate of vocabulary building (Nation 2006). Thirdly, flashcards can be systematically organized into sets, allowing a more logical and targeted approach (Cohen, 1990). Finally, flashcards are more visually stimulating and can provide a useful link between L1 and L2 target words and phrases (Cross, 1991). Quizlet is a free Web 2.0 application enabling users to create and study with digital flashcards. The site received more than 50,000,000 visits in the twelve months between July 2011 and July 2012 (Quizlet, 2014). The Quizlet interface is attractive and intuitive. Users need minimal knowledge of computer technology to interact, share flashcards and study vocabulary on the Quizlet site (Foster, 2011). The aim of the present study was to investigate the effectiveness of Quizlet compared to paper flash cards. The author conducted a mixed methods ANOVA to evaluate vocabulary learning outcomes using Quizlet compared to traditional paper flashcards. The within-subjects and the between-subjects factors each consisted of 2 levels, Quizlet vs. paper-based flashcards, and high-intermediate vs. beginner level students, respectively. The dependent variable was the measure of vocabulary gain calculated from a pre-post, 2-form, 30 item vocabulary test. Students from four classes, 2 from each level, received 45 minutes of training with each study method. There was a significant main effect of the method of vocabulary study on increased learning outcome. However, there was no significant effect for the between-subjects factor of student level. In addition, the analysis showed that beginner level students using Quizlet had higher vocabulary learning gains than intermediate students. The results showed that Quizlet improved the amount of vocabulary retention over more traditional flashcard techniques, and that Quizlet can be more effective for lower level learners. The presenter will explain the full experimental design, discuss possible explanations for the findings and offer detailed and practical advice on how to integrate the learning opportunities afforded by the site into your language classes.


Bob Ashcroft    
Foreign Language Centre (Building 1)
Tokai University

Originally from York, England, Bob Ashcroft has taught English in Poland, Germany, and Cambodia, and is currently an Associate Professor at Tokai University in Japan. He also works as a dissertation supervisor for the Department of English at Birmingham University (UK). His current research interests include blended learning, vocabulary acquisition and Content Management Systems. Bob has a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics and a Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA). He is a member of the Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT) and Assistant Editor for ‘Language Education in Asia’. As well as spending time with his young family, Bob also enjoys running and the great outdoors.


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