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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A comparative study of two methods involving the incidental learning of spelling and vocabulary Sweet, Arthur Fielding


The present study was undertaken as a comparison of two, methods of learning the spelling and meanings of words. It was specifically concerned with the incidental learning of the spelling and meanings of words as a result of seeing and writing them in context. The central problem as finally established was: Do pupils, learning by a method designed to develop spelling ability, also learn the meanings of the words so studied? Do students, learning by a method designated to develop vocabulary ability, also -learn the spelling of the words so studied? To attempt a study of this problem, eighty words, selected from among a list of words most needed to be taught to the experimental group, were chosen as the subject matter of the experiment. Two groups worked with the same eighty words. The material was presented to the pupils in the form of worksheet type lessons. These work-sheets served not only to control the time factor and to practically eliminate the teacher variable, but also as a means of introducing the experimental variable in the learning situation. Group A, learning by a method designed primarily to develop spelling ability, utilized a good standard spelling method based on the practice recommended by Arthur I. Gates and used by him and his co-authors in 'The Canadian Pupils' Own Vocabulary Speller'. Group B, learning by a method designed primarily to develop vocabulary ability, used a method wherein they read numerous paragraphs and sentences containing the eighty words comprising the experimental material. The eighty words were presented in such a manner that the pupil met each of them five times at regular intervals throughout the course of the experiment. Each time a word was met the pupil was required to look at it and write it in a contextual situation. At no time were the pupils of Group B informed that they were learning spelling or vocabulary—they were merely "working and playing with words". Eight grade seven classes in the junior high schools of New Westminster, B.C. acted as experimental subjects. Data concerning chronological age, I.Q., and scores on author-constructed tests in spelling and word meaning were collected for each pupil. No significant difference appeared between the two groups in any of these measures. The reliability of the spelling test (r = .94) and the word meaning test (r = .88) was established by using a control group composed of six grade seven classes ( 170 pupils in all) from the adjoining municipality of Burnaby, B.C. The control group was given the tests on the opening day of the experiment and again on the closing day of the experiment, but received no instruction. At the close of the experiment the spelling and word meaning tests were again administered to the experimental groups as a basis for comparison of gains. Complete data in spelling and word meaning were available for 100 members of Group A and 107 members of Group B. The experiment, including pre-tests and post-tests in the subject matter, required two forty-minute periods per week for six weeks, while the experiment proper required eight forty-minute periods. [Rest of abstract omitted]

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