A two-study investigation of research on vocabulary strategies and their implementation in fourth grade social studies classrooms
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Among the multiple dimensions of reading, vocabulary knowledge and strategies are essential to skilled reading. As a result, this two-part dissertation (a) systematically examines the vocabulary intervention research, in both content and methodology, published since 1999, and (b) documents the implementation of evidence-based vocabulary strategies in fourth grade social studies classrooms. Twenty-four studies were included in the systematic literature review. Results of this study corroborate findings of past studies that several vocabulary strategies have emerged that are effective for increasing students’ vocabulary knowledge. Findings further reinforce the National Reading Panel’s recommendations regarding the context and magnitude of studies needed. Additionally, results of the analysis of the methodological characteristics of the 24 studies revealed mixed alignment of research methods with standards recommended by educational and research organizations. A study of 26 fourth grade social studies teachers’ use of vocabulary strategies was conducted based on an existing data set acquired as part of a larger professional development study. In that study, teachers were randomly assigned to either a typical practice or professional development group. Analysis of teachers’ instructional practice revealed that few of the vocabulary strategies identified in the literature are used in typical fourth grade social studies classrooms. Teachers who received professional development used a wider array of strategies. Controlling for teachers’ preknowledge of vocabulary strategy instruction, results of a MANCOVA showed that the professional development group was statistically different from the typical practice group in terms of overall instructional quality, time allotted for vocabulary instruction, and variety of strategies. Additional analyses were conducted comparing the findings of Durkin’s study of comprehension in fourth grade social studies classrooms to the current practices of nine fourth grade social studies teachers. Findings showed little change in teachers’ reading comprehension instruction even though the knowledge base of effective instruction has increased in the past 30 years.
Hairrell, Angela R. (2008). A two-study investigation of research on vocabulary strategies and their implementation in fourth grade social studies classrooms. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from