An investigation of the effects of a computer-based tutor in foreign language vocabulary learning

Regina Sperber Steinfeld, Fordham University


The effects, on Spanish vocabulary acquisition, of using the SIVL (Strategic Instruction for Vocabulary Learning) tutor along with small-group instruction were investigated. The SIVL tutor combines the principles of computer-assisted instruction (CAI) with instruction in the keyword mnemonic strategy. The SIVL tutor treatment was implemented with two groups of freshman high school students: one, whose academic achievement status was designated as "honors-level," and the other, designated as "average-level." The effects of the SIVL tutor treatment were investigated through application of nonequivalent control group and multiple baseline designs and analysis of individual student databases maintained by the SIVL program. Additionally, SIVL tutor treatment and effort-based attributions were investigated. Within the honors-level, comparison of mean weekly vocabulary quiz scores, between SIVL tutor and control groups, indicated positive treatment effects in the final weeks of the intervention. Scores on a cumulative vocabulary retention test suggested that, for these students, the treatment contributed to enhanced retention. For the average-level group, analysis of weekly quiz scores suggested that continuous treatment implementation contributed to enhanced performance. Among these students, withdrawal of SIVL tutor treatment had a detrimental effect on vocabulary retention. Analyses of individual subject databases indicated that for both honors- and average-level students (a) number of words correct increased significantly over trials and (b) mean reaction time, a measure of word retrieval, decreased significantly over trials. While errors committed decreased over trials, these decreases were only significant for one of four comparisons made. Correlational analysis revealed no significant relationship between SIVL tutor hint key use and effort-based attribution ratings. No significant change in effort-based attributions as a result of SIVL tutor treatment was found. Results were interpreted as suggesting that the SIVL tutor treatment is potentially beneficial in fostering foreign language vocabulary learning, particularly when it is used consistently by lower-achieving students. There is a strong suggestion that for lower-achieving students, the SIVL tutor treatment helped improve Spanish language vocabulary retention to levels on a par with their higher-achieving peers.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Educational software|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Steinfeld, Regina Sperber, "An investigation of the effects of a computer-based tutor in foreign language vocabulary learning" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9543465.