Techniques in Teaching and Testing Vocabulary for Learners of English in an EFL Context

  • Imen RiahiEmail author
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


Acquiring an extensive vocabulary is one of the major challenges of foreign language learners. In many cases, learners struggle with the language because of their lack of vocabulary. This article explored vocabulary teaching and testing techniques among Tunisian EFL secondary school teachers. It also aimed to obtain a better understanding of the teachers’ perceptions of what techniques are effective in presenting and testing unknown vocabulary and consolidating word knowledge in memory as well as the reasons for their beliefs. Analysis and discussions were based on the data collected from three research instruments: Questionnaires (n = 200), observation and interviews (n = 12). The findings showed that using reading passage (4.07) (SD = 1.18), Example sentences (4.06) (SD = 1.14), situation examples (4.03) (SD = 1.27), and semantic relations (3.71) (SD = 1.11) are the most frequent and effective techniques in presenting new words. However, for consolidating newly taught words, teachers resorted to text book vocabulary exercises (4.04) (SD = 1.01), writing task (3.98) (SD = 1.25) and classroom interaction (3.73) (SD = 0.87). Besides, for assessing students’ vocabulary knowledge EFL teachers tied to traditional techniques such as reading comprehension tasks (3.85) (SD = 1.27), writing tasks (3.64) (SD = 1.37), gap filling (3.60) (SD = 3.05) and multiple choice (3.55) (SD = 1.28). This study also addressed a need to examine and improve current vocabulary teaching and testing techniques of EFL teachers and suggested improvements accordingly.


Vocabulary Vocabulary knowledge Vocabulary teaching techniques Vocabulary testing techniques 


  1. Al-Seghayer, K. (2001). The effect of multimedia annotation modes on L2 vocabulary acquisition: A comparative study. Language Learning & Technology, 5(1), 202–232 A.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, I., McKeown, M. G., & Omanson, R. C. (1987). The effects and uses of diverse vocabulary instructional techniques. In M. G. McKeown & M. E. Curtis (Eds.), The nature of vocabulary acquisition (pp. 147–163). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  3. Chun, D. M., & Plass, J. L. (1996). Effects of multimedia annotations on vocabulary acquisition. The Modern Language Journal, 80(2), 183–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cunningham, A. E. (2005). Vocabulary growth through independent reading and reading aloud to children. In E. H. Hiebert & M. L. Kamil (Eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Daller, H., Milton, J., & Treffers-Daller, J. (2007). Editors’ introduction: Conventions, terminology and an overview of the book. In H. Daller, J. Milton, & J. Treffers Daller (Eds.), Modelling and assessing vocabulary knowledge (pp. 1–32). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Duin, A. H., & Graves, M. F. (1987). Intensive vocabulary instruction as a prewriting technique. Reading Research Quarterly, 22(3), 311–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Folse, K. (2004). Vocabulary myths: Applying second language research to classroom teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Graves, M. (2009). Teaching individual words: One size does not fit all. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.Google Scholar
  9. Gu, Y. (2003). Fine brush and freehand: The vocabulary learning art of two successful Chinese EFL learners. TESOL Quarterly, 37, 73–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Haastrup, K., & Phillipson, R. (1983). Achievement strategies in learner/native speaker interaction. In C. Faerch & G. Kasper (Eds.), Strategies in interlanguage communication (pp. 140–158). London: Longman.Google Scholar
  11. Harmer, J. (1991). The practice of English language teaching. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  12. Hidri, S. (2014). Developing and evaluating a dynamic assessment of listening comprehension inan EFL context. Language Testing in Asia, 4, 4. Scholar
  13. Hidri, S. (2015). Conceptions of assessment: Investigating what assessment means to secondary and university teachers. Arab Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(1), 19–43.Google Scholar
  14. Hiebert, E. H., & Kamil, M. L. (Eds.). (2005). Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  15. Hulstijn, J. H. (2000). The use of computer technology in experimental studies of second language acquisition: A survey of some techniques and some ongoing studies. Language Learning and Technology, 3, 32–43.Google Scholar
  16. Johnson, A. P., & Rasmussen, J. B. (1998). Classifying and super word web: Two strategies to improve productive vocabulary. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 42(3), 204–209.Google Scholar
  17. Laufer, B., & Hill, M. (2000). What lexical information do L2 learners select in a CALL dictionary and how does it affect word retention? Language Learning and Technology, 3(2), 58–76.Google Scholar
  18. Laufer, B., & Nation, P. (1999). A vocabulary size test of controlled productive ability. Language Testing, 16, 33–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lyman-Hager, M., & Davis, J. N. (1996). The case for computer-mediated reading: Une Vie de Boy. The French Review, 69(5), 775–790.Google Scholar
  20. Lyman-Hager, M., Davis, J. N., Burnett, J., & Chennault, R. (1993). Une vie de boy: Interactive reading in French. In F. L. Borchardt & E. M. T. Johnson (Eds.), Proceedings of the CALICO 1993 annual symposium on assessment (pp. 93–97). Durham, NC: Duke University.Google Scholar
  21. Maximo, R. (2000). Effects if rote, context, keyword, and context/keyword method on retention of vocabulary in EFL classroom. Language Learning, 50(2), 385–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McCarthy, M. J. (1990). Vocabulary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Meara, P. (1995). Single-subject studies of lexical acquisition [Special issue]. Second Language Research, 11(2).Google Scholar
  24. Nagy, W. (1997). On the role of context in first- and second-language vocabulary learning. In N. Schmitt & M. McCarthy (Eds.), Vocabulary: Description, acquisition and pedagogy (pp. 64–83). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Nagy, W. (2005). Why vocabulary instruction needs to be long-term and comprehensive. In E. H. Hiebert & M. L. Kamil (Eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice (pp. 27–44). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from PsycINFO database.Google Scholar
  26. Nation, P. (2000). Learning vocabulary in lexical sets: dangers and guidelines. TESOL Journal, 9, 6–10.Google Scholar
  27. Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nation, P., & Newton, J. (1997). Teaching vocabulary. In J. Coady & T. Huckin (Eds.), Second language vocabulary acquisition (pp. 238–254). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. National Reading Panel. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.Google Scholar
  30. Nelson, K. (2008). Teaching vocabulary to primary grade students within a school reform project. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of Utah.Google Scholar
  31. Oxford, R., & Scarcella, R. C. (1994). Second language vocabulary learning among adults: State of the art in vocabulary instruction. System, 22(2), 231–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Read, J. (1997). Vocabulary and testing. In N. Schmitt & M. McCarthy (Eds.), Vocabulary: Description, acquisition, and pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Read, J. (2000). Assessing vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Richards, J. C., & Renandya, W. A. (2002). Methodology in language teaching: An anthology of current practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schmitt, N. (2000). Vocabulary in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Schmitt, N., & Carter, R. (2000). The lexical advantages of narrow reading for second language learners. TESOL Journal, Spring, 4–9.Google Scholar
  37. Siala, M. (2010). Implementing a summative test for final year secondary Tunisian learners. E-Teacher Professional Development Workshop University of Maryland Baltimore County and University of Oregon, Summer 2010.Google Scholar
  38. Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Stahl, S. A. (2005). Four problems with teaching word meanings (and what to do to make vocabulary an integral part of instruction). In E. H. Hiebert & M. L. Kamil (Eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice (pp. 95–114). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  40. Stahl, K. A. D., & Bravo, M. A. (2010). Contemporary classroom vocabulary assessment for content areas. The Reading Teacher, 63(7), 566–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tran, T. H. (2011). EFL teachers’ perceptions about vocabulary acquisition and instruction. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. San Diego, CA: Alliant International University.Google Scholar
  42. Wallace, M. (1982). Armaments and escalation. International Studies Quarterly, 26(1), 37–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zareva, A., Schwanenflugel, P., & Nikolova, Y. (2005). Relationship between lexical competence and language proficiency: Variable sensitivity. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27(4), 567–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishThe University of Letters, Arts and Humanities of ManoubaTunisTunisia

Personalised recommendations