The Effects of the Variable Spatial Contiguity of Digital Vocabulary Annotations on Reading Comprehension by English Language Learners at American Universities

Downey, Brendan, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Ferree, Ruth, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Ferster, William, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Kinzie, Mable, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Larsen, Valerie, Arts and Sciences Center for Instructional Technology, University of Virginia

Since the 1990s, electronic glossary systems have been a popular topic of inquiry for language educators and instructional designers. However, no published research describes a fully replicable toolset for performing empirical glossary user research in applied educational settings, leaving scant evidence about the effects of different styles of glossaries on reading comprehension and other outcomes (Welker, 2010). This study asked if learners would access vocabulary annotation features when offered in an electronic reading system, and if different modes of presentation would affect reading comprehension, according to the spatial contiguity principle (Mayer, 2005). Using off-the-shelf materials adapted for use with the system, students in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program (n = 20) at an American university read a short passage with an integrated glossary mechanism, followed by a reading comprehension assessment. Almost half of the participants (45%) opted to utilize the glossary features. No significant differences were observed between the contiguous and non-contiguous versions of the gloss in terms of reading comprehension, gloss clicks, gloss time, or reading time, and no correlations were observed between self-efficacy ratings of glossary and information technology and the reading comprehension or gloss activity measures. Data quality limitations precluded the use of robust inferential statistics. A platform for replications and modifications of the study in English-language academic settings was made available for future research through a freely available Web application and open-source PHP code.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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