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The Effectiveness of Classroom Vocabulary Intervention for Adolescents with Language Disorder

Lowe, H. (2018). The Effectiveness of Classroom Vocabulary Intervention for Adolescents with Language Disorder. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, Universtiy of London)


Children who have language disorder frequently have difficulties with vocabulary acquisition, and these difficulties often persist into adolescence. Language disorder is known to be associated with long-term influences on a range of academic, social, emotional, health, and employment outcomes. Phonological-semantic intervention has been shown to be effective in enhancing the vocabulary skills of children with language disorder in small-group or individual settings, but less is known about vocabulary interventions for adolescents with language disorder or interventions in whole-class models of delivery.

This thesis undertook three strands of enquiry: a systematic review; a survey of teaching and speech and language therapy practice; and an experimental effectiveness study. The systematic review of the evidence regarding vocabulary intervention with adolescents confirmed that the use of a phonological-semantic approach in a universal model of delivery is under-researched in this age group. The survey of mainstream secondary school teachers and speech and language therapists showed that a phonological-semantic approach is frequently used by speech and language therapists but less often by teachers. The experimental study investigated the effectiveness of phonological-semantic vocabulary intervention, delivered by teachers and embedded into the secondary school curriculum in a whole-class model of delivery, for adolescents with language disorder.

In the intervention study, 78 adolescents with language disorder aged 11 – 13 years were taught science curriculum words by teachers in class, under two conditions: 1) 10 words taught through usual teaching practice; and 2) 10 matched words taught using an experimental intervention incorporating phonological-semantic activities, embedded into the teaching of the syllabus. Ten matched control words received no intervention. Word knowledge was assessed at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and follow-up timepoints.

The main findings of the study were that: the experimental classroom vocabulary intervention was more effective than usual teaching practice in increasing the word knowledge of participating students; there was a high degree of acceptability for the intervention activities amongst both students and teachers; and there were mixed preferences amongst students for whole-class, small-group, and individual models of intervention delivery.
Clinical and teaching implications include the importance of intervening during the adolescent years, with classroom vocabulary intervention being a viable option for collaborative teacher and speech and language therapy practice.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: P Language and Literature
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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