Too Many Words, Too Little Support: Vocabulary Instruction in Online Earth Science Courses

Too Many Words, Too Little Support: Vocabulary Instruction in Online Earth Science Courses

Mary F. Rice (Department of Language, Literacy, & Sociocultural Studies, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA) and Donald D. Deshler (Center for Research on Learning, University of Kansas, Lawrence,USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJWLTT.2018040104

Abstract

As online coursework become more popular, students with disabilities that need vocabulary support for reading comprehension will be among the increase in cyber school students. Researchers have some evidence that certain types of vocabulary support strategies are more efficacious for students with disabilities. The purpose of this article is determining if what was known about strategies for supporting vocabulary was being applied to online learning coursework. A content analysis of types of vocabulary and types of support strategies was performed on science courses from three online course vendors. The results of this study indicate a need for online course vendors to pay more explicit attention to the types of words supported and the strategies they use to do so and for those who support online learners (teachers, parents) to be more proactive about vocabulary support deficiencies that are likely to be present in the courses.
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Framing Vocabulary Support For Science Content

Corson (1984) proposed the concept of a lexical bar. This bar is essentially a threshold between common words in English that are usually learned through oral communication during childhood and the academic written language in English learning educational settings. This bar, Corson observed, is easily crossed by some students, but for others, it is a daunting task. For almost all students, crossing the lexical bar requires instruction that explores the lexical nature of academic written language, which includes vocabulary instruction. The purpose of this section is to describe what it takes to cross the lexical bar in terms of science vocabulary, explore the ways in which words that help students reach the lexical bar are identified for instruction, and summarize research on vocabulary support strategies for students with disabilities—a group that has particular trouble crossing the lexical bar.

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