Authors: Spencer S, Clegg J, Lowe H, Stackhouse J
Title: Increasing adolescents’ depth of understanding of cross-curriculum words: an intervention study
Source: International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 2017 52(5): 652-668
Year: 2017
Research Design: Case Series

Background: There is some evidence that vocabulary intervention is effective for children, although further research is needed to confirm the impact of intervention within contexts of social disadvantage. Very little is known about the effectiveness of interventions to increase adolescent knowledge of cross-curriculum words. Aims: To evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention programme designed to develop adolescents’ knowledge of cross-curriculum words. Methods & Procedures: Participants were 35 adolescents aged between 12 and 14 years who were at risk of educational underachievement with low scores on a range of assessments. Participants received a 10-week intervention programme in small groups, targeting 10 cross-curriculum words (e.g., ‘summarize’). This was evaluated using a bespoke outcome measure (the Word Knowledge Profile). The study involved an AABA design, with a repeated baseline, delayed intervention cohort and blind assessment. Intervention included both semantic and phonological information about the target words and involved the adolescents using the words in multiple contexts. Outcomes & Results: Results were promising and participants’ knowledge of the targeted words significantly increased following intervention. Progress was demonstrated on the Word Knowledge Profile on the item requiring participants to define the word (for the summer intervention group only). This increase in depth of knowledge was seen on taught words but not on matched non-taught words. Conclusions & Implications: Cross-curriculum words are not consistently understood by adolescents at risk of low educational attainment within a low socio-economic context. A 10-week intervention programme resulted in some increases to the depth of knowledge of targeted cross-curriculum words.

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