Facilitating vocabulary inferring through root-word instruction


The purpose of this study was to determine whether the manner in which students acquire word components (e.g., ex = out and sect = to cut) affects their ability to infer the meanings of the resulting word composites (e.g., exsect = to cut out). College students were randomly assigned to one of three instructional conditions: free study, which encouraged application of students' own preferred method of study to learn separately 10 word prefixes and 10 stems; semantic, which provided contextual examples that included familiar words containing the prefixes or stems; and mnemonic, which combined the contextual examples for learning the prefixes with a mnemonic "keyword" strategy for learning the stems. A fourth, no-instruction control condition was also included. On a subsequent multiple-choice test, students in all three instructional conditions were superior to control subjects on direct-inference vocabulary items (items that were defined directly in terms of the two previously learned components), but not on indirect-inference items (items that were not-so-directly defined). There were no differences among the three instructional conditions on either type of item. The same pattern of results was obtained on a delayed test administered 3 days later. Of particular interest was the finding that mnemonically instructed subjects were not at a disadvantage relative to the more "naturalistically" instructed subjects. In fact, the performance of mnemonic subjects was descriptively higher on both item types. © 1988.

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Contemporary Educational Psychology