English for Academic Skills Independence: Focus on Vocabulary.

Mark Bassett, Quentin Allan


What does it mean to know a word?  When asked this question, students often appear flummoxed, lacking either the metalanguage or linguistic knowledge to articulate an insightful response.  This paper argues that lexical awareness, coupled with an extensive vocabulary are essential components of the multiple academic literacies required of students.  In order to support students’ vocabulary acquisition and understanding, Auckland University of Technology’s Student Learning: Puna Aronui (SL) has developed a targeted English language programme called English for Academic Skills Independence (EASI) with a clearly foregrounded vocabulary component.  So, what does it mean to know a word? Using Nation’s (2001) framework we take as our point of departure the tripartite structure of form, meaning and usage.   Under the heading of form, the main focus is on parts of speech and morphology (derivational roots and affixes).  Under the heading of meaning, we consider first denotative and connotative meanings, touching on notions of concept development, then move on to explore sense relations (synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, polysemy, metonymy).  Under the heading of usage, our approach is informed by recent developments in corpus linguistics which yield frequency information leading to resources such as Coxhead’s (2000) Academic Word List; also included under the heading of usage are syntactic and lexico-grammatical considerations such as collocation and colligation.  This paper will outline the theoretical approach taken in developing the vocabulary component of the EASI programme and report on feedback from both students and the teaching team.  A strong sensitivity to vocabulary within academic discourses is fundamental to academic literacies development at tertiary level.


Learning Advising; Academic Vocabulary Learning; Post-Entry Language Assessment; Systemic Functional Linguistics

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