Processing heard versus transcribed English vocabulary in English second language (ESL) learners : a quasi-experimental study at a secondary school in KwaZulu-Natal.
At a technically biased secondary school in KwaZulu-Natal, teachers of Grade 12 English Second Language (ESL) learners, including myself, found it problematic to assess students' writing which is often fraught with spelling and grammar errors. This meant that these learners were disadvantaged because they were assessed with a lower score in comparison to students who edited their work and ensured that their writing was free from spelling and grammar errors. The aim of this study is to improve English vocabulary spelling of ESL learners by investigating the effectiveness of processing Heard English Vocabulary, in comparison to the Transcribed Vocabulary Training Programme (TVTP). This study is theoretically framed by the Cognitive Load Theory (2003), and employs a quasi-experimental approach as a methodology (Goodwin, 2005). It is a quasi-experiment because the sample was not randomly selected, as in a classic experiment. The sample consisted of 60 Grade 12 English Second Language (ESL) volunteers from a technically biased high school in Ethekwini, KwaZulu-Natal. Significant findings revealed first, that the comparative analysis of the Nonequivalent Control Group (NECG) in comparison to the Experimental Group (EG) was that the Transcribed Vocabulary Training Programme (TVTP) increased the 06-010 average scores for the EG by 36.3%, yet reduced the average time by 40 seconds; second, the visual and kinetic nature of transcription facilitates distinct pattern markings on the graphemic output lexicon; third, transcription also facilitates semantic processing, because meaning can be derived from context, and finally, there is a strong positive correlation between transcription and sustained attention, which implies that correct transcription depends on sustained attention. The findings in this research are compatible with the principles underpinning Sweller and Cooper's (1998) Cognitive Load Theory and Instructional Design. It is argued that if the instructional design uses more than one sense of perception, for example, auditory and visual, then the cognitive load on the working memory is decreased and the mental capacity (attention levels) is increased. When mental capacity is increased, the chances of retrieval are greater. It is also argued that time and training results in automatic processing, which decreases cognitive load, and increases mental capacity. Training also enhances performance, and reduces performance time. In this study, performance would mean written retrieval of English vocabulary. The findings also suggest that any ESL learner who attentively transcribes meaningful English vocabulary will successfully retrieve English vocabulary. The overall conclusion of this research is that instructional designers (for example, educators) have some control in increasing attention levels through synergizing the senses of perception at the encoding stage of the instructional design, and presenting meaningful data. The use of transcription as a 'hands on' instructional design in a quasi-experiment makes this an innovative project. This study began in March 2005 and was completed in July 2008.