The effect of levels of encoding and organizational processes on children's recall of words

Andrew D'Ambrosio, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship of levels of encoding and organizational processes to children's recall of words. More specifically, the study examined whether there are differential effects of semantic, acoustic, and orthographic encoding upon children's recall, and whether these effects also vary with the age of the child. The study also examined the relationship between encoding and recall organization and sought to delineate the developmental aspect of this relationship. The sample included 189 second-, fourth-, and sixth-grade children who participated in the incidental learning of a list of 18 common nouns. The words were similar in meaningfulness, imagery, and categorizability and were common members of one of three categories: animals, furniture, or clothing. Children in each grade were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions, each inducing a different type of encoding by presentation of orienting questions that focused the child on either the meaning, sound, or physical characteristics of the words. Analyses of variance were performed to examine the differential effects of encoding type and grade level on recall scores and clustering scores. Zero-order and partial correlation coefficients, the latter controlling for intellectual ability, were computed to examine the relationship of recall and clustering for each type of encoding. Results indicated greater recall with semantic as compared to orthographic and acoustic encoding for all of the children, and a greater advantage for semantic encoding with development, relative to orthographic. Recall increased across grade levels with both semantic and acoustic, but not with orthographic encoding. Semantic was associated with greater recall organization than acoustic or orthographic encoding for the second and fourth graders. A moderate positive relationship between clustering and recall in the semantic condition was observed for the sixth graders, suggesting that superior recall with semantic encoding was associated with a facilitation of recall organization. It was suggested that developmental differences were associated with the underlying knowledge base that develops with age. Educational implications of improved recall with meaningful, organized materials were discussed.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Language arts|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

D'Ambrosio, Andrew, "The effect of levels of encoding and organizational processes on children's recall of words" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8821952.