A Vocabulary Learning Tool for L2 Undergraduates Reading Science and Technology Textbooks

Chihcheng Hsu, Fang Chuan Ou Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Students of English as a second language who major in science and technology use English-language textbooks to ensure that they can read English materials upon graduation. Research indicates that teachers spend little time helping these students on the linguistic complexity of such textbooks. Vocabulary, grammar, and article structure are elements of this complexity, but to many students, these elements can be akin to locked doors. This study presents MyVLS-Reader, which focuses on unlocking the first of these doors-vocabulary-while assisting in reading. With explicit vocabulary learning, students learn and memorize individual vocabulary, but the context is lost if the depth of learning discards context. In implicit vocabulary learning, students acquire vocabulary through repeated exposure to contexts, but repeated encounters with new words are required. Few e-learning systems combine both vocabulary-learning approaches. MyVLS-Reader achieves such synergy by (1) using a keyword setting to provide context-matched vocabulary explanation while reading and (2) embedding multiple learning choices, such as keyword setting, the review and memorization of explicit vocabulary, and the option to ask instructors. This study includes two rounds of evaluations: (1) an evaluation of the learning achievements of control and treatment groups and (2) a quantitative and qualitative investigation of perceptions regarding the use of MyVLS-Reader. The evaluation results indicate that the treatment group developed a better vocabulary than the control group in significantly less time. The use of MyVLS-Reader also slightly improved higher-order thinking skills. This result suggests that MyVLS-Reader can effective assist students in building their vocabulary while reading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1110-1138
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 2013


  • English textbook
  • Explicit vocabulary learning
  • Implicit vocabulary learning
  • L2 undergraduates


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