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The effects of an interactive vocabulary strategy on teachers' and students' perceptions of word learning

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Kendall K Latham
Abstract:
It is a well established fact that the level and degree of vocabulary knowledge plays an important role in adolescents' literacy development. The purpose of this study was to examine teachers' and students' perceptions and use of an interactive vocabulary strategy, in the form of an interactive word wall, as the focal point of systematic instruction in a vocabulary-rich literacy program. An interactive word wall is an instructional tool for supporting word learning activities in which students explore, evaluate, reflect, and apply word meanings in meaningful contexts (Harmon, Wood, Vintinner, & Willeford, 2009). A sociocultural theory served as the theoretical framework to guide this study. Sociocultural theory emphasizes that knowledge is constructed collaboratively in a social context, which the individual and social world have mutually interrelated roles in the learning development. Based on a qualitative inquiry, a case study design was used to examine teacher and student perceptions, use, and adaptations of the interactive word wall. This study employed interviews, observations, assessments, surveys, knowledge rating scales, and artifact data. This research study was conducted over six weeks during the fall of 2010. Participants included four content area teachers and their students in one urban middle school in the southeastern United States. Each content area (mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts) is represented in this study. Within-case and cross-case analyses were used to analyze the data. The main findings from this study are: (1) Teachers and students viewed the interactive vocabulary strategy as being beneficial in enhancing word learning in their content area, (2) Student choice is an important factor to consider when planning instructional strategies in content area classrooms, (3) Teacher resistance to vocabulary instruction decreased over time as they adapted the interactive word wall strategy to meet their specific content goals, and (4) Student word knowledge broadened and deepened during the interactive word wall instructional design. Several conclusions and implications are drawn from the findings. Recommendations for future research are also discussed in the final chapter of this study.

VIII TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF TABLES XI

CHAPTER 1: Introduction 1

Vocabulary and Reading Achievement 2 Statement of Problem 5 Significance of Study 11 Theoretical Framework 12 Personal Perspective 15 Research Purpose and Questions 17 Definition of Terms 19 Summary 23 CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 25

Vocabulary 26

Theoretical Framework 27

Historical Development 32

Vocabulary Development 34

Vocabulary Instruction 37

Features and Instruction of Content Area Vocabulary 51

Teacher Beliefs and Student Achievement 63

Summary 65

CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY 67

Research Methodology 67

Case Study Design 69

IX Research Context 72 Data Collection Methods and Procedures 78 Data Analysis 91 Trustworthiness 96 Summary 97 CHAPTER 4: RESEARCH FINDINGS 99 Research Question One 100 Language Arts Classroom 100 Social Studies Classroom 103 Science Classroom 105 Mathematics Classroom 107 Teacher Perceptions 109 Student Perceptions 117 Research Question Two 126 Within-Case Analysis 126 Cross-Case Analysis 176 Research Question Three 181 Language Arts Classroom 181 Social Studies Classroom 183 Science Classroom 184 Mathematics Classroom 185 Summary 187

X CHAPTER 5: FINDINGS 189 Conclusions 190 Implications 200 Limitations 204 Future Research 205 Summary 206 REFERENCES 208 APPENDIX A: IRB APPROVAL 241 APPENDIX B: STUDENT SURVEY 242 APPENDIX C: KNOWLEDGE RATING SCALE 244 APPENDIX D: TEACHER INTERVIEW PROTOCOL 245 APPENDIX E: STUDENT INTERVIEW PROTOCOL 248 APPENDIX F: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SCRIPT 252 APPENDIX G: OBSERVATIONAL PROTOCOL 259 APPENDIX H: LESSON PLAN FORMAT 264

XI

LIST OF TABLES

TABLE 1: Teacher Demographic Information 74

TABLE 2: Student Demographic Information 78

TABLE 3: Data Collection Phases 80

TABLE 4: Instructional Framework for the Professional Development 85

TABLE 5: Instructional Framework 86

TABLE 6: Lesson Plan 89

TABLE 7: Initial Codes 92

TABLE 8: Secondary Codes 93

TABLE 9: Analysis of Pre Student Survey- Language Arts 101

TABLE 10: Analysis of Post Student Survey- Language Arts 102

TABLE 11: Analysis of Pre Student Survey- Social Studies 103

TABLE 12: Analysis of Post Student Survey- Social Studies 104

TABLE 13: Analysis of Pre Student Survey- Science 105

TABLE 14: Analysis of Post Student Survey- Science 106

TABLE 15: Analysis of Pre Student Survey- Mathematics 107

TABLE 16: Analysis of Post Student Survey- Mathematics 108

TABLE 17: Analysis of Pre Student Survey- Language Arts 136

TABLE 18: Analysis of Post Student Survey- Language Arts 137

TABLE 19: Analysis of Pre Student Survey- Social Studies 148

TABLE 20: Analysis of Post Student Survey- Social Studies 149

TABLE 21: Analysis of Pre Student Survey- Science 158

XII TABLE 22: Analysis of Post Student Survey- Science 159

TABLE 23: Analysis of Pre Student Survey- Science 170

TABLE 24: Analysis of Post Student Survey- Science 171

`

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

“The integration of language and content should relate language learning, conte nt learning, and the development of thinking, and should aim to find systematic connections among them.” —Bernard A. Mohan (1990, p. 113)

Educational researchers have long acknowledged three critical facts as sociated with vocabulary and literacy development: (1) There is strong relationship betw een vocabulary and comprehension (Anderson & Freebody, 1981; Beck, McKeown, & Omanson, 1987; Kame’enui, Dixon, & Carnine, 1987; Mezynski, 1983; Nagy & Herman, 1987); (2) The vocabulary learning task is tremendous (Graves, 2004; Nagy & Anderson, 1984, 1992); and (3) There is a profound difference in the vocabulary among students from different socioeconomic backgrounds (Beck & McKeown, 2007, Hart & Risley,1995). The established connection between vocabulary and reading comprehension is well-documented (Beck, Perfetti, & McKeown, 1982; Coyne, Simmons, & Kame’enui, 2004; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; National Reading Panel Report [NRP], 2000; Stahl & Nagy, 2006). This association has emerged in factor analyses studies (Da vis, 1944, 1972; Spearitt, 1972), in correlations between vocabulary and reading comprehension measures (Baker, 1995; Biemiller & Boote, 2006; Farr, 1969; NRP, 2000; Snow, 1998; Stahl & Nagy, 2006), and in readability research (Chall, 1958; Harrison, 1980). Not surprisingly, the more words a student knows, the better their reading comprehension (Boote, 2006; Graves & Fink, 2007). Yet, the vocabulary learning task

2 students’ face as they encounter reading in multiple disciplines can be overwhelm ing (Graves, 2004). Reading materials read by students over an academic year i nclude well over 100,000 different words (Nagy & Anderson, 1984), and the average child enters school with a small vocabulary. While students learn approximately 3,000 to 4,000 words a year in school (Anderson & Nagy, 1992; Anglin, 1993; Nagy & Anderson, 1984; White, Graves, & Slater, 1990), this is often insufficient to keep up with the new vocabulary encountered within the multiple sources of reading material in cla ssrooms. An additional concern is the profound difference in the incoming vocabulary knowledge among students from different socioeconomic groups. There is substantial evidence that many poor students enter school with smaller vocabularies than their middle-clas s peers (Becker, 1977; Biemiller, 2001; Hart & Risley, 1995, 1999; NRP, 2000; RAND Reading Study Group, 2002; White et al., 1990). Vocabulary and Reading Achievement Vocabulary is critical to a student’s ability to develop and improve their knowledge, as well as gain access to meanings of words they read. There are over eight million struggling readers in grades 4-12 (National Center for Education Stat istics [NCES], 2003). When students encounter too many unknown words for which they cannot access the contextual and conceptual meanings, comprehension of the text is unlikely to occur (Becker, 1977; Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990). The National Assessment of Educational Progress’(NAEP) 2009 Report Card , a congressionally mandated assessment project run by the National Center for Educational Stat istics (NCES, 2009), revealed that almost two-thirds of fourth grade students could not read for understanding in fourth grade level content area materials. This is commonly r eferred to

3 as the “fourth-grade slump” (Chall & Jacobs, 1983), in which the comprehension of written material begins to exceed many children’s vocabulary (Becker, 1977; C hall & Conard, 1991: Chall et al., 1990). In the primary grades, the focus of reading is primaril y decoding words and following the plot of simple narrative texts (Dole, Duffy, Roehl er, & Pearson, 1991). As students transition from third to fourth grade, they are often challenged by new vocabulary and concepts (Armbruster & Gudbrandsen, 1986). During

this time, students progress from Stage Two to Stage Three of Chall’s (199 6) Stages of Reading Development, in which students move from learning-to-read to reading-to-l earn. Progressing from Stage Two to Stage Three, the texts become more vari ed, complex, and challenging linguistically and cognitively for students (Chall, 1996). In orde r to comprehend what is being read, students must possess the necessary prior knowledge to connect what is read and learned, the vocabulary knowledge to understand the concept loaded words, and the metacognitive skills to monitor understanding (Baumann, Kame'enui, & Ash, 2003; Gardner, 2007; Nagy, 2005). Since the connection between vocabulary and reading comprehension is well- documented (Beck et al., 1982; Coyne, Simmons, & Kame’enui, 2004; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; NRP, 2000; Stahl & Nagy, 2006), the lack of progress in reading achievement of middle school students is of significant concern. Far too many adolescents are struggling to read at a proficient level. The most recent N AEP data (2009), reported that only 30 % of eighth graders read at a proficient level, and onl y three percent of the students read at an advanced level when assessed on reading abiliti es in the contexts of literary experience, gaining information, and performing a t ask. Additionally, 27% of eighth-grade students scored below the basic level, which means they do not have

4 partial mastery of the appropriate grade-level knowledge and skills at the e ighth grade level (NCES, 2009). Even more alarming is the gap between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. The 2009 NAEP results indicate that 83% of white children in eighth gra de are reading at or above the basic level. Conversely, only 59% of Hispanic students and 56% of African-American students scored at the same level (NCES, 2009). Students

scoring at the basic level have partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at the eighth grade level. Students scoring below basic levels cannot access the contextual and conceptual meanings and have littl e chance of comprehending the secondary curricula that includes complex vocabulary. Although vocabulary research has ebbed and flowed over the years, there has been a recent emphasis on vocabulary as a key component of effective reading instruction. The upcoming fourth edition of the Handbook of Reading Research (Kamil, Pearson, Moje, & Afflerbach; in press) contains several chapters devoted to vocabul ary research. The third Handbook of Reading Research (Blachowicz & Fisher, 2000; Nagy & Scott, 2000) contained two chapters that addressed vocabulary, as well as Farstrup & Samuels’ (2008) comprehensive review of vocabulary instruction. Pearson, Hiebert, a nd Kamil (2007) noted, “After a nearly 15-year absence from center stage, vocabul ary has returned to a prominent place in discussions of reading, and it is alive and well in readi ng instruction and reading research” (p. 282). Furthermore, the National Reading P anel (2000) study highlights the importance of vocabulary knowledge in comprehension by noting that “reading comprehension is a cognitive process…and cannot be understood

5 without examining the critical role of vocabulary learning and instruction in its development” (p.5-11). In spite of the NRP’s (2000) recent findings, they concluded that the extant vocabulary research knowledge base is insufficient. Fisher and colleagues (i n press) indicated that although a comprehensive approach to vocabulary instruction is needed (Kamil & Heibert, 2005; Stahl & Nagy, 2006; Watts-Taffe, Blachowicz & Fishe r, 2009), relatively few studies have directly investigated comprehensive approaches . Without further research investigating vocabulary comprehensively, students will cont inue to struggle with comprehension, especially informational material that contain s a large amount of specialized vocabulary.

Statement of the Problem The educational implications for adolescents with limited vocabulary are profound. Since the strong correlation between comprehension ability and vocabular y knowledge has been established, vocabulary knowledge is vital for academic success (Baker, Simmons, & Kame’enui, 1998; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998). Vocabulary proficiency is considered to be both a precursor to reading comprehension and an outcome of it (Bromley, 2007). Students who do not have sufficient vocabularies or word-learning strategies continue to struggle throughout their educational ca reers, which leads to a cycle of frustration and continued failure (Hart & Risley, 2003; Snow, Barnes , Chandler, Goodman, & Hemphill, 2000; White et al., 1990). Furthermore, the vocabulary level of an individual is viewed as a means of unlocking or closing access to informat ion and often illustrates whether a person is considered educated (Beck & McKeown, 2002; Stahl & Nagy, 2006).

6 The discrepancy in vocabulary knowledge of students from different socioeconomic groups is alarming. There is a wide gap in vocabulary knowledge betw een economically disadvantaged children that begins in preschool and continues through the school years and is an important link to poor school performance (Becker, 1977; Coyne et al.; Hart & Risley, 1995; Templin, 1957; White, Graves, Brunetti, & Slater, 1982). Children who enter school with limited vocabulary find reading difficult, resist reading, learn fewer words, and fall further behind (Stanovich, 1986). Students with limited vocabularies often graduate high school only knowing one-fourth as many words as thei r peers (Smith, 1941). Conversely, students with large vocabularies find reading eas ier, read more widely, and are more successful in school (Lubliner & Smetana, 2005). Becker (1977) was one of the first researchers to stress the importance of vocabulary development by connecting vocabulary size to the academic achieve ment of disadvantaged students (Baumann & Kame’ enui, 1991). In his findings, he explained that vocabulary deficiencies were the primary cause of academic fai lure of disadvantaged students in grades three through twelve. He noted that reading comprehension of disadvantaged students in grades three and four resulted primarily from lack of ade quate vocabulary knowledge. Almost a decade later, Graves and colleagues (1982) found the

usable vocabulary of kindergartners with low-socioeconomic status (SES) was l ess than half of the higher SES students’ vocabulary. In a study conducted by Chall and Jacobs (1983), they found that students from low-income families were on grade level in third grade and experienced a drop in fourth grade due to the increased emphasis on content specific knowledge. Furthermore, Hart and Risley (1995) found that the socioeconomic status of a child’s family could account for 42% of the variance in the child’s rate of

7 vocabulary growth and 40% of the variance in their use of vocabulary when they were three years old. Nagy (2005) suggested a causal connection between vocabulary knowledge and comprehension ability, with the correlations between .6 and .7. The closer the correlati on coefficient to -1 or +1, the more closely the variables are related. Since t he relationship is seen as reciprocal, students who possess more vocabulary knowledge when they begin school will likely develop the ability to comprehend texts they read. According to N agy’s research findings (2005), as student’s comprehension increases, their vocabular y knowledge will increase. Conversely, students who begin school with limited vocabulary

knowledge may struggle with reading comprehension, and that struggle will lim it their vocabulary growth. Biemiller (2005) found a correlation between vocabulary size and reading comprehension to be around .81. Consistent with these findings, the NRP (2000) identified lack of vocabulary knowledge as a key element to school failure. All of this suggests that vocabulary knowledge impacts reading comprehension throughout students’ school experiences. Further exacerbating the problem as students progress through later elem entary and into middle school is the increased emphasis on informational material with spe cific vocabulary in each content area class. Content area textbooks are explanatory, de tailed and full of specialized and technical terms (West, 1978). Therefore, students m ust possess a specialized vocabulary knowledge to sort through the text (Harmon, Hedric k, Wood, & Gress, 2005; NRP, 2000). Without a strong understanding of key vocabulary within each discipline, students will be unable to comprehend material within specifi c content areas (Chall & Jacobs, 2003; Kamil, 2003; Manzo, Manzo, & Thomas, 2006;

8 NRP, 2000). In order for adolescents to be successful in school, they need to be able to comprehend the complexities of the language and the specific vocabulary for e ach discipline. Although the relationship between vocabulary and comprehension is well- established, there is often little emphasis on vocabulary development in the school curricula (Beck, McKeown, Kucan, 2002; Biemiller, 2001; Blachowicz & Fisher, 2000; Scott, Jamieson, & Asselin, 1998; Watts, 1995). Durkin (1978-1979) was the first to document that upper elementary teachers spent less than one percent of reading instruction focused on vocabulary. Additionally, Scott and Nagy (1997) found that a mere six percent of school time was devoted to vocabulary, and only 1.4% of school time was devoted to content-area vocabulary. Recently, Scott, Jamieson-Noel and Asselin ( 2003) studied classroom instructional time devoted to vocabulary instruction in 23 upper level classrooms in Canada. They found that only a minimal amount of time was spent on vocabulary instruction in both language arts classrooms and content area classrooms . Specifically, only 1.4% of school time was spent on supporting vocabulary learning i n science, social studies, and mathematics classrooms. In a study conducted b y Bailey, Butler, LaFramenta & Ong (2004), they found that in upper elementary science classrooms “students were rarely required to be actively involved in the acquisit ion of academic vocabulary” (p.88). The vocabulary instruction in these classrooms typic ally involved what Vacca and Vacca (2006) label as “assigning and telling” with limit ed emphasis on conceptual understandings, word morphologies, and metacognition. In conjunction with limited classroom instructional time devoted to vocabulary, Wals h

9 (2003) found that most of the basal programs widely used in classrooms did not provide the necessary attention to vocabulary needed to increase comprehension. Nagy (1998) explains three problems with traditional methods of vocabulary instruction. First, the definitional approach to vocabulary building leads to a superfic ial level of word knowledge. Nagy and Herman (1987) explained that dictionary definitions

often fail to account for the gaps in children’s vocabulary knowledge and cannot include all the necessary information about a word or concept needed to comprehend a text. A second problem with traditional vocabulary lessons is using context to define a word (Nagy, 1998). Using the context method, students are required to determine the meanin g of the word based upon sentences surrounding the word. Unfortunately, surrounding sentences do not always contribute enough information to the student to allow the students to derive a meaning for the word (Shatz & Baldwin, 1986). Thirdly, traditional

vocabulary teaching often provides only partial knowledge of a word. Superficially teaching vocabulary words may provide the students with an initial awareness of the word, but may not provide the student with the ability to comprehend and apply the vocabulary words in different contexts. Research devoted to the integration of effective vocabulary instruction in content area reading instruction (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Snow, 2002) is lacking. Recently, researchers have called attention to the need for investigating content ar ea vocabulary instruction and its impact on content area comprehension (Baxter & Reddy, 2007; Scammacca, Roberts, Vaughn, Edmonds, Wexler, Reutebuch, & Torgesen, 2007). The RAND Reading Study Group (2002) stressed the need for research on conditions that optimize learning vocabulary and that consider the interaction of text factors w ith the

10 reader, activity and sociocultural context. Although there is growing evidence of best practices in vocabulary instruction, little attention has been devoted to developing teacher knowledge of the skills and strategies that promote vocabulary development and comprehension of informational texts (Snow, 2002). Without basic vocabulary skills, students will continue to struggle to comprehend text, which negatively impacts their opportunities in school and often leads to students dropping out (Alliance for Excellence in Education, 2006). Nearly 1.2 million students fail to graduate from high school on time (Editorial Projects in Education Resear ch Center, 2008). Although students drop out for a variety of reasons, the most commonly cited reason is that students do not have the literacy skills needed to comprehend the secondary curriculum (Kamil, 2003; Snow & Biancarosa, 2003). The connection between vocabulary and reading comprehension, as well as vocabulary and school performance i n all content areas, is one of the most strongly established in educational researc h (Davis, 1944, 1968; NRP, 2000). Therefore, vocabulary instruction in content specific areas is critical to the development of comprehension, as well as overall school performance.

The ability to read and vocabulary knowledge are vital for students’ academic success (Baker, Simmons, & Kame’enui, 1998; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998). The reduced instructional time (Durkin, 1978-79; Rosenshine & Stevens, 1984) and increased textual vocabulary in content area classes (Nagy & Anderson, 1984) play a cr itical role in the lack of vocabulary development for older learners. As students begin to enter cont ent area classrooms in middle school, they must possess specialized vocabulary knowledge to understand the text (Harmon et al., 2005; NRP, 2000). Vocabulary knowledge is one of the major reasons students have difficulty with the demands of content area textbooks

11 (Alvermann & Swafford, 1989; Armbruster & Nagy, 1992; Bintz, 1992; Blachowicz & Fisher, 2000; Walpole & McKenna, 2004; Wood, Harmon, & Hedrick, 2004). Without a strong understanding of key vocabulary within each content area, students will be unabl e to comprehend the material (Chall & Jacobs, 2003; Kamil, 2003; Manzo et al., 2006; NRP, 2000). Thus, there is a need to examine the effects of vocabulary instruction on individual words and instruction that promotes student’s ability to learn words on their own (Baumann & Kame’ enui, 2004; Carlo, August, & Snow, 2005; Folse, 2004; Graves, 2000; Kamil & Hiebert, 2005; Nagy, 2005; NRP, 2000; Osborn & Lehr, 2003; RAND Reading Study Group, 2002; Stahl, 1998). Significance of this Study This study examines teachers’ and students’ perceptions and use of an interactive

vocabulary strategy, the interactive word wall (Harmon, Wood, Hedrick, Vintinner, & Willeford, 2009), as a means of improving middle school students’ understanding of the vocabulary in the content areas. It is an important study for several reasons. S ince the late 20th century, prevention of reading difficulties in the early grades (pre-k through t hird) has been the focal point of spending from state and federal agencies (Moje & Tysvaer, 2010). Recent national reports highlighted the need for vocabulary research (NRP, 2000; RAND Reading Study Group, 2002). Specifically, the RAND Reading Study Group (2002) stressed the need for research on conditions that optimize learning vocabular y and that consider the interaction of text factors with the reader, activity, and so ciocultural content. Research on vocabulary instruction in the content areas is less establis hed than in reading classrooms. There is little published research specifically devoted to teaching vocabulary in the content areas (Harmon et al., 2005). Moreover, there are fewer

12 resources for teachers at the middle and high school levels, and those that do exist of ten focus on vocabulary instruction in the English classroom (Dixon-Krauss, 2001; Dole, Sloan, & Trathen, 1995; Harmon, 1998).Therefore, there is a need to further examine the effects of an instructional vocabulary tool, in the form of an interactive word wall, whi ch incorporates current knowledge of effective vocabulary instruction, as well as cont ent area instruction. This study will also have the potential to inform and guide secondary content area pedagogy. Educators are searching for instructional approaches to add ress the gap that exists in vocabulary knowledge between high and low-performing readers. This

research has the potential to influence the way vocabulary is taught by providing a

strategy that encompasses the components of rich instruction designed to help stude nts deepen and broaden their understanding of word meanings. Findings from this study will contribute to the corpus of research surrounding content area vocabulary development. Moreover, the greatest potential significa nce of this research will occur at the local level, with potential to impact the student s and the teachers involved in the study.

Sociocultural Lens This study is grounded in the sociocultural theory of learning and is informed by David Ausbuel’s meaningful learning theory. Understanding that literacy is a social practice (Freire, 2000; Gee, 1990; New London Group, 1996; Street, 1984), sociocultural theory provides a framework for examining how literate practices such as vocabulary learning are socially and culturally mediated. This theory draws heavily on the work of scholars such as Rousseau (1762), Dewey (1933), Vygotsky (1978), Lave & Wenger

13 (1991), and Wertsch (1991). I use this lens in this study to examine how students and teachers use an interactive vocabulary strategy to learn new concepts. Beginning in the 18 th century, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s theory emphasized learning by experience. He stressed the importance of children developing idea s for themselves, to make sense of the world in their own way and to draw their own conclusions from their own experiences (Doyle & Smith, 2007).

Consistent with Rousseau’s theory, John Dewey, a leader of the Progressive Movement during the ear ly 1900s, believed that experiences were the central tenet of learning. Dewey (1938)

considered learning a joint task between the learner and the teacher. The teache r is the guide who supports the learner. In summary, the work of the theorists outlined are relevant to the present study and linked to the sociocultural theory because they emphasize the importance of the active and social nature of learning and the need to make connections to one’s existing knowledge. Aligned with previous theorists, Lev Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural theory of learning states that learning cannot be separated from its social, cultur al, historical and linguistic contexts. It conceptualizes that knowledge is constructed colla boratively in a social context, which the individual and social world have mutually interrelated role s in the learning development. The process (the ways the instruction is delivered and the

social interactions that contextualize the learning experience) and the c ontent are considered equally important (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002). Moreover, the interaction between individuals, people, and cultural artifacts, all of which contribute to the social formulation of the individual mind (Wertsch, 1991), lead to the awareness of socially valued goals (Daniels, 1996; Engestrom, Miettinen, & Punamaki, 1999; John- Steiner & Mahn, 1996; Rogoff, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978; Whipp, Eckman, & Van de

14 Kieboom, 2005). Wertsch (1991), a contemporary scholar of Vygotsky’s work, emphasizes that mediated action and cultural tools shape cognitive processes. Li kewise, sociocultural theorists Lave and Wenger (1991) see learning as being develope d through social interactions that are driven by common interests and knowledge, as well as being presented in an authentic context. A secondary theory that informs this study is David Ausubel’s (1968) meaningful learning theory, which is rooted in cognitive learning theory. Ausubel’s theory cont rasts meaningful learning with rote learning. He explained that rote learning is "discrete and relatively isolated entities that are relatable to cognitive structure onl y in an arbitrary and verbatim fashion, not permitting the establishment of [meaningful] relationships " (p. 108). Therefore, rote learning has little or no association with one’s existing cogni tive structure. Conversely, meaningful learning is the process of relating and anc horing new material to relevant established entities in cognitive structure. Lear ning is also related to experiences with events or objects. This theory is relevant to the present study because the integration of new information with existing knowledge is highlighted. A sociocultural, as well as a meaningful learning lens, offers important ins ights into how word learning is influenced by the social environment and prior experiences. The theoretical framework for this study will be further developed in chapter t wo.

Full document contains 280 pages
Abstract: It is a well established fact that the level and degree of vocabulary knowledge plays an important role in adolescents' literacy development. The purpose of this study was to examine teachers' and students' perceptions and use of an interactive vocabulary strategy, in the form of an interactive word wall, as the focal point of systematic instruction in a vocabulary-rich literacy program. An interactive word wall is an instructional tool for supporting word learning activities in which students explore, evaluate, reflect, and apply word meanings in meaningful contexts (Harmon, Wood, Vintinner, & Willeford, 2009). A sociocultural theory served as the theoretical framework to guide this study. Sociocultural theory emphasizes that knowledge is constructed collaboratively in a social context, which the individual and social world have mutually interrelated roles in the learning development. Based on a qualitative inquiry, a case study design was used to examine teacher and student perceptions, use, and adaptations of the interactive word wall. This study employed interviews, observations, assessments, surveys, knowledge rating scales, and artifact data. This research study was conducted over six weeks during the fall of 2010. Participants included four content area teachers and their students in one urban middle school in the southeastern United States. Each content area (mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts) is represented in this study. Within-case and cross-case analyses were used to analyze the data. The main findings from this study are: (1) Teachers and students viewed the interactive vocabulary strategy as being beneficial in enhancing word learning in their content area, (2) Student choice is an important factor to consider when planning instructional strategies in content area classrooms, (3) Teacher resistance to vocabulary instruction decreased over time as they adapted the interactive word wall strategy to meet their specific content goals, and (4) Student word knowledge broadened and deepened during the interactive word wall instructional design. Several conclusions and implications are drawn from the findings. Recommendations for future research are also discussed in the final chapter of this study.