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Homograph Acquisition


Elaborate Processing and Homograph Acquisition:

An Educational Tool Proposal

Nicole Lee

Jill Laing

Steven Mercier

Joshua Weinberg

Wanling Zhang

HUDK 4029 Cognition and Learning

Professor Barbara A. Tversky

Teachers College, Columbia University

May 5, 2009
A common challenge facing language educators is the teaching of homographs - that is, words
that are spelled in exactly the same way, but which differ in meaning or derivation. The challenge of
homograph education is perhaps compounded even further when students are not native speakers of the
language in which the words are being presented. In this paper, we propose the use of a tool designed
to facilitate homograph education based on the dual-code theory and depth of processing; in particular,
we hope to demonstrate how the tool may be used to aid students in acquiring the
subordinate meanings of homographs, or their less-frequently-used meanings. First, we provide a
review of the literature pertinent to our tool, along with relevant research questions. Next, we propose
the tool within the method section of the paper. Then, we present hypothetical results and a discussion
of how to interpret the results and improve the tool if our expected outcomes were not achieved.

Review of the Literature

Prior to examining methods for facilitating students' acquisition of homographs, this paper will focus
on homograph instruction as a subject of inquiry within the realm of corpus linguistics. Wang Ming-
Tzu and Nation (2004) examined homography within Coxhead’s (2000) Academic Word List (AWL),
which consists of a 570-word subset made up of word families from the Academic Corpus. The
Academic Corpus covers 28 separate subject areas, divided among the four main divisions of
commerce, law, science and the arts. In order to produce quantifiable measurements of homography for
words within the AWL, Wang Ming-Tzu and Nation (2004) developed a semantic relatedness scale by
which the various meanings of a word could be evaluated for how closely they relate to one another.
The researchers determined that polysemes, i.e. words possessing multiple meanings, should be treated
as having a central underlying meaning, and that educators would do well to encourage students to look
for connections between word definitions; it is suggested that by so doing, students will engage in
deeper-level processing and possibly acquire the multiple definitions more easily.
Other studies on polysemy have yielded additional evidence that focusing on subordinate word
meanings can be crucial to meaning acquisition. Simpson and Krueger (1991) conducted a follow-up
experiment on the lexical ambiguity of homographs, and their results supported Simpson and Burgess'
(1985) study, in addition to offering new insight on the phenomenon. Participants were undergraduate
psychology students who volunteered for the study. The experiment examined the selective access of
dominant and subordinate meanings of homographs in sentence contexts. They discovered that when
students were given sentences that were strongly biased in favor of either the dominant or subordinate
homograph meaning, they were able to correctly identify the meaning of the homographs. However,
when given an ambiguous sentence, the dominant homograph remained active and was chosen over the
subordinate. Researchers concluded that although both lexical meanings can be retrieved, based on
frequency, the dominant meaning usually remains open for selection. However, context is ultimately
influenced by lexical choice. Other researchers such as Tabossi (as cited in Simpson & Krueger, 1991)
have gone further to emphasize that "context will constrain lexical access only if it activates critical
features of the relevant homograph meaning" (p. 637). Simpson and Krueger (1991) support this by
presenting and contrasting strong-context and weak-context sentences (containing homographs). In
other words, priming will take place when salient features of the intended homograph are integrated
into context. As an example, consider two sentences for the homograph spring: "This is a broken and
rusty old spring," and "The mechanic thought it was a bad spring." The meaning of spring in the first
sentence is more context-embedded based on the priming effects of "broken," "rusty," and "old" versus
"mechanic" (1991).

A good student of language learns how to resolve such ambiguity. To facilitate this kind of learning,
our tool seeks to aid students in encoding their memories of the meanings of homographs with greater
recollective distinctiveness. Such elaborate encoding should serve as a hedge against the ambiguities of
homographs. The results of a series of five learning experiments published by Gallo, Meadow, Johnson
and Foster (2008) suggest possibilities for enhancing the memory encoding of words with recollective
distinctiveness. In the study by Gallo et al.(2008), subjects were asked to study words by turns either
shallowly, or deeply. For shallow processing, subjects were asked to make a mental note of whether a
word presented to them during the experiment contained an e. For deep processing, subjects were
asked to determine if the word could be considered pleasurable. The results of these experiments
confirmed the recollective distinctiveness hypothesis. This hypothesis specifies that deep processing
produces a distinctiveness characteristic that subjects may use in order to recall (with better than
chance accuracy) if they had performed deep or shallow processing on a target word (p. 1095).

The experimental results of Gallo et al. (2008) show an expected superiority of deep processing over
shallow processing in a study of short 5-to-7 letter words. This superiority extends both to the area of
recognition and to distinctive memories formed during the encoding (p. 1100). The enhancements
made to experiments 4 and 5 are also significant, in that they again increased accuracy in subject
scores. In experiments 4 and 5 subjects were asked to hear and then transcribe words to paper. Gallo et
al. (2007) cite previous publications and experiments showing that transcription increases the
recollective distinctiveness effect and decreases false recognition scores, possibly by encoding the
additional cognitive and motor operations required by transcription (p. 1105). Experiments 4 and 5
clearly show the use of the transcription technique further reduces false positives and boosts
recognition scores (p. 1107).

The Gallo et al. (2007) study follows up previous work by Gallo et al. (2004) wherein subjects were
found to make fewer false recognition errors when lexical learning tasks were coupled with images, as
opposed to lexical learning alone, thus showing some evidence for recollective distinctiveness as an
effect related to the dual-code theory. Although images were not employed in any experiments within
the Gallo et al. (2007) study, the paper cites the previous study by its authors, in which a combination
of images and lexical content did facilitate further recollective distinctiveness by virtue of dual coding
(p. 1098).

All five experiments show disassociation between the respective experimental methods. For this
reason, it is possible to calculate the effect of these methods when applied separately. The Gallo et al.
(2008) paper suggests that a tandem approach for the activation of recollective distinctivness in a
language oriented learning task would be effective. Therefore, creating a learning environment in
which students must identify and associate the relevant meaning (possibly in the form of an image)
with the relevant homograph and transcribe an example sentence on paper would appear to be a
maximal method of encoding recollective distinctiveness as the semantic portion of a learning task.
Such a method would be well supported by the experimental work documented in Gallo et al. (2008).

In addition to the mnemonic benefits involving images and semantic association, research has found
that self-reference elaborations can also result in better memory. In Forsyth and Wibberly's (1993)
study, the self-reference effect (SRE), which occurs when individuals show superior memory for
information that pertains to the self-schemas, was demonstrated in a classroom experiment. In this
study, an incidental memory procedure was administered to 58 undergraduate and graduate students in
Social Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. At the beginning of the experiment,
participants were asked to number a blank sheet of paper from 1 to 20. The instructor then read a list of
18 adjectives aloud and asked participants to circle the number corresponding to the adjective if they
felt it was self-descriptive. If, for instance, participants thought that Item 6, “loyal,” described them,
then they would circle the number 6 on their sheet of paper. When the self-rating task was completed,
the instructor talked about miscellaneous matters for 1 minute, then asked the participants to list, in any
order, all of the adjectives they could remember. When participants finished the incidental recall task,
the instructor distributed the list of items. The participants counted and recorded the total number of
adjectives that they circled during the self-rating task, the number of self-reference words recalled, and
the number of non-self-referent words recalled. They then calculated the percentage of self-referent
adjectives recalled and the percentage of non self-referent adjectives recalled.

The result effectively demonstrated mnemonic superiority of the SRE. Subjects recalled only an
average of 42.5% of the non-self-referent words as compared to 56.0% of the self-referent terms. The
findings documented that subjects’ memory for self-referent items was superior to their memory for
items that were not self-referent. The argument was that self-referent information was processed at a
deeper level than the nonreferent information. For instance, a question “Does the word have more than
two syllables?” was a shallow-processing question as opposed to “Does the word describe you?” and
would not lead to particularly durable memories. In contrast, self-referent encoding required much
deeper processing, and therefore led to better memory.
The mnemonic superiority of SRE was extensively discussed by Symons and Johnson (1997). The
authors' meta-analysis confirms the expected SRE in memory, with self-referent encoding strategies
yielding superior memory relative to both semantic and other referent encoding strategies. The paper
reviewed evidence and experiment models to demonstrate that the content of self-schematic domains
can have a wide variety of motivational, affective, and mnemonic consequences. Based on
observations, the major benefit of self-reference lies not in its ability to invoke elaborative processing
per se, but rather its likelihood to spontaneously create matching between encoding and retrieval
conditions. In sum, this effect distinguishes the self-reference task from other tasks and may be the
primary reason why it promotes memory more than other kinds of processing in the typical incidental
learning situation.
Incidental learning of vocabulary and the effects of context have been studied by various
researchers. Brown, Waring, and Donkaewbua (2008) are an example of researchers who used a variety
of contexts to conduct a study to determine whether or not foreign language students could incidentally
learn new English vocabulary from reading, reading while listening, and listening to stories. They had
35 Japanese students studying English literature (ages 18-21) participate in this experiment. The
participants were considered pre-intermediate or intermediate English speaking students. The
participants were told that they were taking part in a vocabulary learning strategy program and that they
would be using background knowledge, context, and co-text to infer meanings of unfamiliar words.
They would also have to write some comments on their feelings after reading or listening to a story.
Brown et al. (2008) used graded readers with a 400 word count, which was also considered a high-
beginner level. The three readers chosen were: The Elephant Man, One-Way Ticket, and The Witches of
Pendle. The researchers substituted words with unrealistic (made up) words throughout each story;
each real word removed was a common concept known to the learners (e.g., happy). Some words were
repeated more frequently than other words; the highest level of frequency was 20 times and the lowest
was 2. The students were divided into three groups. Each group participated in a reading, reading-
while-listening, and listening task in order to account for student preference and retention. For instance,
Group A listened to the story of The Elephant Man in week 2. In week 4, Group A read the story called
One-Way Ticket. Finally, in week 6, Group A read and listened to The Witches of Pendle. None of the
groups did the same task simultaneously. During the listening only task, participants were provided
approximately 6-7 pictures related to the story since each text had pictures.
In order to evaluate the participants, Brown et al. (2008) gave a multiple choice test that prompted
recognition and a meaning-translation test that required learners to come up with the definition of a
word (or a synonym) using their native language (Japanese). The meaning-translation test was always
given immediately after the story was listened to, read, or read and listened to. The multiple choice test
was given the following week. After three months, each group took both tests again.
Brown et al. (2008) found that after 3 months participants were still able to remember word
meanings when prompted via the multiple choice test. However, the students had less success being
able to recall the meanings of the words on the meaning-translation test. They concluded that retention
rates for the meaning-translation test were probably lower because it was harder for the students to
access the meaning without a cue. They also confirmed that the more frequently a word was used in a
text, the more likely it was that students would learn the word. In addition, the researchers asked the
students to provide their own insight regarding their experiences. The majority of the students stated
that they preferred the reading-while-listening activity more because it was more comfortable to them.
Accordingly, some students mentioned that the reading-while-listening section allowed them to focus
on content without having to "chunk" (p. 157) on their own. Finally, the researchers posited that
listening was a problem for the learners because of their "inaccurate perception of pronunciation" (p.
157) for these students were not being exposed regularly to native speakers of English as this was a
foreign language setting.
Hyde and Jenkins (1973, as cited in Anderson, 1980) propose that intentional learning has no greater
impact on a learner than incidental learning. They state that it is a matter of how the material is
processed. Brown's et al. (2008) study allowed participants to learn new words in context. The effects
of context, or encoding effects, have proven to influence memory (Anderson, 1980). In addition,
Brown's et al. study provides evidence that those who are recalling vocabulary are able to do so when
properly cued. Moreover, the participants mentioned they had difficulty listening to the text, which
confirms Anderson's (1980) claim that speech recognition is problematic because of segmentation; for
these particular students, segmenting speech in English is particularly difficult. These results impacted
our decision to incorporate context into our educational tool.
In consideration of the foregoing, helping students learn how to distinguish between the dominant vs
the subordinate meanings of homographs clearly lies in the area of facilitating deeper processing during
the encoding of new information. The tool proposed below seeks to achieve just these effects and
simultaneously answer the research questions specified below:

1). What is the effect of our educational tool on the ability of students to disambiguate homographs?

2). What is the effect of increasing frequency of the subordinate homograph meanings within

source materials provided to students?

3). To what degree is learning homograph disambiguation facilitated by integrating images in

a text based educational tool?

4). What additional effect will students' transcribing homograph words have on their ability to

disambiguate homographs?

Method and Tool Proposal

The educational tool we propose is an interactive series of tasks created to help students
disambiguate homographs by building on the vocabulary that they have already learned, including
homograph definitions that are considered dominant (the most frequently employed definitions of
homographs). The educational tool proposed would be designed primarily for intermediate to advanced
ESL students of high school age and older, in a U.S. classroom-based setting. This tool is most useful
in a classroom setting with a teacher as a facilitator, and may also be adapted for one-on-one tutoring
sessions. At the current time, this tool is not useful as a self-study resource; however, if this tool were
to become available online, set up in such a way as to ensure a strict order for the execution of the
tasks, this would also be useful. The steps to be followed by students are as follows.

1. Pre-test

2. Listen to paragraph being read

3. Read a paragraph silently

4. Teacher assistance: Call attention & figure out definitions of homographs

5. Read and listen: paragraph is the same as in steps 2 and 3

6. Pull images of the subordinate homograph out of a box to match to words in the paragraph.

7. Student exercises (repeated with 10 or more sentences) :

a. Get a cloze sentence (sentence with a blank)

b. Using the previously selected images t0 represent the subordinate meanings of homographs,

match pictures to fill in sentences

c. Fill in the blank for sentences in 5a.

d. Write self-referential sentences using the words in the subordinate meaning

8. Post-test

Each of the above series of tasks is predicated on principles already discussed

in the literature review. However in the following section, we have provided both
an elaboration for each task in the series and citation of the experimental work
upon which each task is predicated.

1. Pre-test
Evaluation of students' abilities occurs both at the beginning and the end of the program. This allows
for an evaluation of the tool itself. The evaluation consists of a set of twenty (20) or more test
sentences. Students will categorize the set of sentences according to meaning. Sentences contain
dominant, subordinate, ambiguous, and distractor vocabulary. Each sentence has a definite answer that
must be placed in one of three categories; meaning 1, meaning 2, other. Ambiguous sentences (such
as: "I'm sure that will be a good date.") belong in both meaning categories. The below table
demonstrates an example of an expected outcome for this task.

[Insert table]

2. Listen to paragraph being read

Nation (2001) and Schmitt (2008) acknowledged that learning vocabulary through meaningful and
interesting contexts is beneficial to the learners. Therefore, the educational tool begins with a short
story. Within the story, homographs are interspersed so that the dominant meaning (or previously
taught meaning) is used once and the subordinate meaning (the new definition for the students to learn)
is used at least 3 more times throughout the text. Frequency is one critical factor for assisting students
in learning new vocabulary (Brown et al., 2008; Nation, 2001; Read, 2004; Schmitt, 2008). Nation
(2001) posited that a word must be encountered between a range of 5 and 20
times before it is learned.

Students listen to the short story containing subordinate and dominate

homographs. This story may be read to the students either by the teacher or an
audio recording. Schmitt (2008) argues that listening in general assists students
with picking up new vocabulary incidentally. In addition, Chang and Read (2006)
found that listening twice to a text was more effective than introducing
vocabulary prior to the listening task. However, some students learning a second
language have difficulty with the phonology of a language (Brown et al., 2008). It
can be argued that they are probably having problems processing verbal input,
which in turn would affect the "phonological store" component based on the
Baddeley theory of verbal working memory (Anderson, 1980; Baddeley, 1986). In
other words, students may not be able to store the phonological form of verbal
input if they are having trouble identifying the words they are hearing. Bearing
such considerations in mind, the listening portion of the tool provides an
opportunity to first hear the text being read in order to familiarize them with the
phonological aspect of the text being presented, and allow them time to recognize
some of the homographs that they had previously learned.

3. Read a paragraph silently

Next, students read the text they just heard silently to themselves. Reading
silently is one way of allowing students time to sort through the text. Some students prefer to read
silently and at their own pace, especially if the student has a higher reading proficiency level (Brown et
al., 2008). Slower readers may benefit from silent reading as it allows them time to reread or refer back
to portion of the text that they did not understand (Walczyk, Wei, Griffith-Ross, Goubert,
Cooper, and Zha, 2007).

4. Teacher assistance: Call Students' attention to the target words in the text.

After the second task has been completed, the teacher has the opportunity to ask the students if they
have any questions about the vocabulary, with a particular focus on the subordinate or dominant
meanings of the homographs.

Attention refers to the concentration of the mental powers upon an object. Based on Schmidt’s
(1990) noticing hypothesis with regard to second language learning, awareness (through attention) is
necessary for noticing, which in turn is essential for learning. Given the obvious differences between
first language (L1) acquisition and second language (L2) learning, it is commonly noted that adult L2
learners benefit from some form of explicit instruction. For this reason, we believe this section of
'consciousness raising’ executed by the teacher is necessary in drawing learners’ attention to the formal
properties of language. Explicit instruction "leads to greater and faster gains, with a
better chance of retention and of reaching productive levels of mastery" (Schmitt,
2008, p. 341).

5. Read and listen

In this task, there is a reading-while-listening component. Students will read
and listen to the same paragraph introduced to them previously. Reading while
listening to a text is especially helpful for vocabulary learning (Amer, 1997; Brown
et al., 2008; Schmitt, 2008). In particular, it allows non-native speakers of English
to become familiar with the prosody of the language and, for less proficient
readers, it allows working memory to focus on text comprehension without
decoding of text getting in the way (Brown et al.).

6. Pull subordinate homograph images out of a box to match to words in the paragraph.

One implication of the dual-code theory (as outlined by Anderson (1980)) is that a greater depth of
memory encoding can be achieved by using images in association with a lexical task (p. 108).
Additionally, the work cited by Gallo et al. (2008) points to an enhancement of the recollective
distinctiveness of a memory when utilizing images in the encoding portion of a learning activity (p.
2006). For this reason, we have chosen to integrate images into our word association task at this critical
point in the encoding process. Introducing this extra depth of association allows learners a greater
scope of content from which to draw on, in the recollection portions of this educational tool.

7. Student exercises (repeated with 10 or more sentences) :

a. Students receive cloze sentences, i.e. sentences with one word replaced by a blank).

Students will be presented with certain sentences based on the short story they have already read.
This step is based on Tulving and Thompson's (1973) encoding-specificity principle, which states that
the probability of a test item's recall is dependent on the similarity of its encoding in a test to its
encoding during a study period. Moreover, as recognition is often superior to recall, it is hoped that
there will be a greater likelihood of students' absorption of the homograph meanings if the students are
presented with material that is associated with recent past experience. In addition, there exists much
evidence that the manner in which students are primed during homograph education has a direct effect
on recall and recognition. While conducting a lexical ambiguity test with homographs, Swinney (1979)
found that both dominant and subordinate meanings of a word were activated within 400 milliseconds
of participants being exposed to homographs, after having read and having been primed with the
homographs in unambiguous sentences (i.e. sentences in which the meaning of the homograph is
clearly either the dominant or the subordinate meaning). After 700 ms, however, only the meaning
related to the prime was selected. In another study of homograph perception, Gadsby, Arnott and
Copland (2008) found that participants exhibiting a low capacity for working memory as defined by
Baddeley (1986) worked harder to "inhibit irrelevant information" (Gadsby et al., p. 216) in the form
of words unrelated to the homographs with which they were presented. By presenting participants with
opportunities to demonstrate knowledge of the words presented, we endeavor to see which definitions
have been retained from the priming in steps 1 through 3 and thus determine the effect of priming in
the teaching of homographs.

b. Using pictures that represent the subordinate meanings of homographs, match pictures to

cloze sentences
Using images in conjunction with preparatory word-study allows as a richer context for memory
retrieval by virtue of the dual-code theory. The work of Gallo et al. (2008) has shown that such deep
encoding enhances accuracy and reduces false positive identification in word recognition testing (p.
1109). This elaboration of encoding will afford students a greater context from which to distinguish
the dominant and subordinate meanings of a homograph.

c. Fill in the blank for sentences in a.

Having heard the homographs spoken aloud in the listen and read-along exercise, the act of writing
the homograph adds a final dimension of processing to the set of tasks which comprise the educational
tool. This final act adds a set of procedural memory motor routines that further deepen and elaborate
the processing associated with the subordinate meaning of the homograph. As previously mentioned,
the Gallo et al. (2007) study shows significant promise in suppressing false recognition by elaborate
processing of this type (p. 1108).

d. Write self-referential sentences using the words in the dominant meaning, or engage in a free
talk with a partner using these words in association with themselves.

The self-reference effect (SRE) refers to the research finding that free recall of linguistic items is
superior when those items have been processed with reference to the self, rather than others or other
things (Forsyth & Wibberly, 1993; Singh, 1995; Symons & Johnson, 1997). Evidence demonstrates
that the content of self-schematic domains can have a wide variety of motivational, affective, and
mnemonic consequences due to the superior elaborative and organizational properties of SRE. This
effect distinguishes the SR task from other tasks and may be the primary reason why it promotes
memory more than other kinds of processing in the typical incidental learning situation. Forsyth and
Wibberly (1993) obtained a self-reference effect for oral presentation of adjectives in classroom
conditions. For this reason, we have chosen to engage our learners in written or oral tasks where they
are encouraged to process vocabulary items in a deep level by associating the to-be-learned-words with
their own experiences.

8. Post-test

Students take the same test administered in step 1 and are evaluated according to a procedure
specified below. Results of the evaluation will determine the number of students who fall into
categories of: improvement, no improvement, and regression. These categories are defined in the
following hypothetical results section.

The results of the pre and post-tests are to be used as a measure of the relative performance of the
educational tool. Such an analysis will help to answer research question #1: "How effective is our
educational tool at helping students learn to disambiguate homographs?" Taking a set of student
scores in aggregate, the offset in student performance between the two tests yields three mean score
offsets for each of three catgeories. These categories are: ability to disambiguate homographs, ability to
recognize the subordinate meaning, ability to detect sentences as distracters.

Three evaluation cases are listed as follows:

Net Improvement

Students match the sentences correctly and demonstrate a good understanding of the dominant and

subordinate meanings of homographs. Students further demonstrate the correct preference for

dominant and subordinate meanings of homographs. Students correctly identify distractor sentences

as outside categories.

No Improvement

Students demonstrate uncertainty with regard to the meanings of dominant and subordinate



Students are unable to discriminate the distracter sentences consistently. Students consistently place

distracter sentences into either the dominant or subordinate categories. Students demonstrate little

or no ability to disambiguate between dominant and subordinate homograph meanings.

It is hoped that proper administration of the education tool would yield a net improvement in a
cohort of students. Such a question however remains open until there is sufficient use and evaluation of
the educational tool. Having acknowledged this point, it is the opinion of the authors that a language
learner of an intermediate skill level is bound to show some degree of improvement with language
practice of any kind. For this reason, if the evaluation of the educational tool were to show either no
improvement or regression, this unexpected result could point to the presence of confounds, such as
improper administration of the tool, test, learning environment, or poorly qualified students.

Having specified these broad hypothetical results of an evaluation of the educational tool. We now
shift discussion to the performance of individual students and how our performance metrics relate to
the different task-elements of the educational tool.

This educational tool has been created to help non-native English speaking students expand their
vocabulary knowledge, with particular reference to homographs. As educators, we hope for a positive
outcome; that is students’ learning the subordinate meanings of the homographs. However, we also
must consider the possibility of how we can improve the tool in the chance that students do not perform
as we expect.

If a student shows improvement in all categories, this indicates that our tool is operating optimally.
Contrarily if a student shows no improvement, any hypothesis about what might be changed in our tool
is conjectural because no improvement provides no data for analysis. Moreover, no improvement
results could be related to confounds such as the external environment, students' ability to focus, how
the tool was administered, or the test itself. Finally, an overall regression may indicate some
misapplication of either the tool or the student selected for its application.
There are four additional cases in which students can be grouped, the first two being that a student:
1) improved in ambiguity but regressed in unambiguous sentences and distractor sentences, or 2)
improved in ambiguity and distractor sentences but regressed in unambiguous sentences. These cases
could be an indication that the student did not understand the test instructions or the test instructions
were unclear. Improvement of the tool in these cases would be predicated on a review of the test
instructions and the way the test is administered.
Another case, in which a student regresses in ambiguity, but improved in unambiguous sentences
and distractor sentences could be explained by having too many uses of the subordinate meaning in the
reading material or the student's preference for dominant meanings when given an ambiguous sentence.
In this case, a student's response could be affected by the frequency of the subordinate homographs.
Improvement of the tool would either require a reduction or an increase of the frequency of subordinate
meaning sentences, relative to the dominant meaning sentences, in the reading material. The amount of
reduction or increase is dependent of course, on the students' performance in the test. Moreover, the
systematic modification of the frequency of subordinate meaning sentences in the reading materials,
and the results thereof, will help to answer the research question #2: "What is the effect of increasing
frequency of the subordinate homograph meanings within source materials provided to students?"
If a student is unable to consistently discriminate the distractor sentences, this may indicate that the
distractor sentences are too close in word choice or meaning to the target homographs. The creation of
suitable distractor sentences is critical to the evaluation of students' achievements, without penalizing
them for original thinking. Improvement of the tool in this case might call for the creation of a better
set of distractor sentences. Another possibility for tool improvement in this case, could take the form of
using different images in the dual-coding tasks, systematically modifying the images used might help
to answer research question #3: "To what degree is learning homograph disambiguation facilitated by
integrating images in a text based educational tool?"

Overall, this tool might be improved by adding more explicit instruction between each of the steps.
For instance, after the listening task, the teacher could read each subordinate word in a sentence from
the text and have the students write the word. This will increase the elaboration of processing and allow
the tool to answer research question #4: "What additional effect will students' transcribing homograph
words have on their ability to disambiguate homographs?" Other improvements could take the form of:
increasing pairwork, allowing them time for verbal communication, and giving students a composition


In conclusion, this educational tool is devised to help students learn to disambiguate homographs.
Although this tool has not yet been empirically tested, it is solidly based on theory and empirical
studies that have shown methods for improvement in word recognition and learning. Consideration has
been given to identifying those tasks that can be systematically altered to tailor the education tool for
better results in the educational environment. Moreover, the systematic tailoring of the educational tool
can enhance our understanding of the dynamics of learning by providing data that answers the
important research questions specified herein, while at the same time helping students tackle one of the
most difficult areas of language acquisition.

This spring I will take four classes.

This is a broken and rusty old spring.

ambiguous: The mechanic thought it was a bad spring.

distractor: This fall, I will take an English class.

Average scores which indicate overall improvement show that our tool is operating optimally. No
improvement indicates a need to adjust the some relevent aspects of the tool. While regression may
indicate some drastic misapplication of either the tool or the students selected for its application.

Scores in range C may be an indication that the student does not yet possess the requisite understanding
of the dominant meanings of homographs, a concept on which our tool is predicated. Our students
require a strong foundation on which to build the subtlety of word-play that homographs evidence.

One possible outcome for this tool is that the students will learn at least 80-100% of the subordinate
homograph definitions and retain the dominate meaning that they previously knew. Another outcome
would be categorized as false recognition or a successful association between the distractor and one of
the homograph definitions. For example, the learner showed an understanding of the association
between a metal spring and a spring that illustrates body movement (see Appendix #). The third
possible outcome would be that the learner show partial to no improvement. For partial improvement,
students would get 70-79% of the matching items correct. If the learner gets 69% or less correct on the
post-test, then it is considered no improvement.



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