Examining the Impact of Using Etymology as a Teaching Method to Aid English Vocabulary Acquisition by Observing and Talking to Students

Scholars have defined etymology as the study of the origin and history of different words. Considering the earlier proof-of-concept that explained that the identification of language could be based on their bi-gram patterns and their characteristic levels, a hypothesis was drawn that English words, given their etymologies, must be given a classification using source-languages according to their orthographic characteristics (Farber, 2015). The stories that underpin a language are useful in exploring the ideas and meanings that ought to be communicated. While using etymology in teaching other disciplines may not be effective, this technique is essential in understanding English vocabulary. For English teachers, etymology is a threshold concept that is vital in helping students understand many spelling patterns in the language, and this is depicted in how students provide feedback to teaching terminologies such as medical terminology as a show of interest (Bujalkova, 2013). Bellomo (1999) conducted research that aimed at examining the effects accruing from using etymology instruction, which is basically teaching students about Latin roots (as a second language) in English. The students involved were from both non-Latin and Latin language backgrounds. The study outcomes confirmed that it was advantageous to use etymology instruction strategy or methodology for students who are Latino. In general, either of the two groups of students benefitted equally from the roots’ explicit instruction. This is evident that etymology is vital when employed by teachers to learners of both L1 and L2 language backgrounds.

Etymology may not be effective in teaching vocabulary, particularly in regards to the second language curriculum, because most second language learners do not achieve high levels of learning languages, which makes it difficult to use etymology. This can only be overcome if the learners use role learning by repetition and imitating, cognitive learning by recalling and association, or by translation mode that uses confirmation and mixing of meaning through translations from modern language (Yamsani, 2018). In this regard, this research will focus on exploring the impact of etymology as a teaching method to aid English vocabulary acquisition. Using etymology as a training model for English offers expressive verbal evidence and principles to students. Furthermore, educational psychologists argue that this model of teaching has all the attributes that constitute effective learning. Other factors include cognitive and effect or learning (Yamsani, 2018). Essentially, this type of learning is connected to prior learning, it is highly memorable and generalizable and thus more superior in comparison to rote learning.

Understanding the impact of etymology in teaching English vocabulary is significant in creating practical teaching schedules. Husnu (2017) suggests a teaching framework with etymology-based instructions to encourage meaningful language education by incorporating information about the origin of words. Although there is no empirical data supporting the effectiveness of this model in vocabulary acquisition, many scholars have developed further experiments that exhibit its impact. Therefore, the findings of this study will be crucial in providing persuasive evidence that etymology is necessary for students to acquire and retain English vocabulary.

Various researchers have discovered that vocabulary acquisition is among the most important needs of English learners. To build vocabulary, various activities such as conversations, reading, and watching are vital. This research is practically significant as it will explore the effectiveness of etymology in vocabulary acquisition among learners. Suter (2011.), in his article Qualitative Data, Analysis, and Design, argues that remembering has been deemed easier when students have a body of information with which they can associate a particular word. Consequently, Ehri and McCormick (1998) argue that discovering the common routes of different words can help learners in retaining the meaning of unknown words derived from the same routes.

Thus, the findings of this study will assist in understanding the interdependence of language mastery and vocabulary acquisition but also the extent to which new words are synthesized by different students when etymology is used as a model for teaching.

The theoretical significance of this study will be in the validation of etymology as an English teaching approach, its strengths, weaknesses, and how it can be improved. Additionally, the study will also indicate the impact of etymology on students’ vocabulary and its validity. The findings of the study can, therefore, be applied by teachers to improve their teaching programs (Wang et al., 2008). This study is relevant because foreign language learners are facing difficulties in understanding a new language. Conducting a study concerning etymology will be relevant in trying to look for a long-term solution to the problem. This study will provide a good contribution towards looking for the best alternatives to tackle the problem.

Subsequently, the researcher will be able to develop a theory that relates to the approach. The practical significance of this research study is that etymology as a factor in vocabulary learning can be defined in terms of numerical indices. As such, the results of how etymology assists students in the learning of vocabulary can be established statistically.

Research Question

What are the Impacts of Using Etymology as a Teaching Method to Aid English Vocabulary Acquisition?


Methodological Approach

This research study will utilize a mixed methods research design. This design incorporates both the qualitative and quantitative approaches for data collection with the aim of answering the research study questions (McKim, 2016). Due to the need to collect comprehensive data for this study, it is necessary to utilize both the qualitative and quantitative approaches for data collection. The two methods, when used together, are more effective than when only one of them is utilized. Therefore, the mixed methods research design will be the most appropriate to use for evaluating the effect of applying etymology to improve vocabulary acquisition among students. Moreover, using these methods together is not only complimentary but will also aid in providing a complete and detailed analysis (McKim, 2016).

In quantitative research, the researcher uses categorical data to explore the relationship between existing factors. Quantifiable data is collected and analyzed using statistical and mathematical techniques (Sanders, 2018). In this model, a researcher isolates different factors such as the IQ, age, and origin of the participants and casually creates a relationship between them (McKim, 2016). Additionally, the researcher has the power to determine which variables to study and which ones to leave out. In this regard, they are able to utilize the appropriate instruments and techniques that will yield the best results.

Qualitative research encompasses the use of information that is presented in secondary sources. This may also include observations of students that will be conducted in class as students participate in their learning activities. Researchers use this model of research to interpret the meanings that people have constructed on different variables. Typically, this research design involves participant observation, which results in a specific narrative (Sanders, 2018). Usually, qualitative data is collected by engaging with the participants in their daily activities in the setting in which the study is framed. Ultimately, qualitative research explores the research problem from multiple contextual factors (McKim, 2016).

Justification of the Methodological Approach

The mixed-methods approach is beneficial in data collection in similar research studies. It aids in the collection of data that can be correlated and used to seek further clarifications for the research questions (Bell, 2014). Furthermore, it is possible to use the units of analysis, such as groups of the participants, that will assist in answering the research problem exhaustively (McKim, 2016). In this regard, qualitative and quantitative methods complement each other in exploring different variables.

Therefore, when collected sequentially, numerical and text data will be vital in exploring the impact of etymology in enhancing vocabulary acquisition among English learners (Sanders, 2018). The investigator is also able to gain breadth and generates a deeper understanding of the research topic when offsetting the weaknesses that would result if they were to use each approach by itself. By applying the triangulation of both the qualitative and quantitative techniques, the investigator is able to identify the aspects of etymology from varying vantage points by applying a variety of methods and techniques. Nonetheless, McKim (2016) maintains that effective triangulation entails a systematic analysis of the type and nature of the information extracted from the study participants during the interaction and observational phases.

The collection of sufficient and reliable data for reference and analysis will be fundamental, and utilizing a sequential mixed-method research design will justify the relevance and validity of this study. Using the methodology will ensure sufficient and reliable data is collected for analysis. This method has two distinct phases, with the first phase involving the collection of numerical data by interacting with the chosen participants by asking them specific questions to assess their vocabulary. This step will be completed by asking the participants to read out specific words. The main purpose of this phase will be to identify learners whose instructors have utilized etymology in teaching them English vocabularies and identify any potential predictive power of the impact of this teaching approach. The second phase will involve a qualitative study which will be conducted by observing the 50 participants. The data that will be collected will involve how the usage of etymology has impacted the participants’ way of learning and how fast they are able to learn when etymology is applied and when it is not applied by teachers. The purpose of the observation will be to find out the responsiveness of the participants in understanding different vocabularies while learning the English language. The adoption of this approach is that quantitative data will only present a general overview of the research problem, such as the number of learners who have acquired English vocabulary or the number of participants whose English proficiency is attributed to the etymological teaching approach. However, a qualitative approach will further refine and explain the numerical results acquired by exploring the participants’ extent of vocabulary acquisition in more depth through observing how they communicate and articulate different English vocabularies (Sanders, 2018).

Data Collection Strategies, Instruments, and Participants

After the participants for this study are selected, the quantitative approach will be used for data collection. The approach will entail issuing the participants with questionnaires, among other elements included for a quantitative approach to facilitate accurate data collection. Before selecting the participants for the study, the initial stage will involve the identification of the most suitable population. This stage will involve the selection of English students to act as the 50 study participants. The selection will be based on students who can be depended on to provide not only valid but also accurate results. This step will be done by using non-probability sampling to determine where each participant in the study will fit more appropriately in the observation or the interaction stage.

Sampling participants to be involved in the qualitative phase of the study is defined as purposive by McKim (2016), as there is less emphasis on the population. As such, greater attention is paid to the reliability of the sample by asking the “How” or “What” questions. Additionally, McKim (2016) adds that in such an approach, the use of subjective techniques in the study through the implementation of the initial pilot plan assisting in the determination of whether all the selected participants can be relied on in the collection of valid and accurate data. Subsequently, the investigator is able to easily formulate a hypothesis that directs how the data is collected.

The second phase will presuppose the collection of qualitative data. It will involve the use of a descriptive design tactic to observe and record information on how etymology assists the chosen 50 participants to improve their English vocabulary. The observational phase will involve making notes, while the participants interact with each other (Bell, 2014). Their use, articulation, and use of words will be noted. As a result of the data collection by observation and interaction, a correlation tactic will be practical in the examination of the relationship between vocabulary learning and application of etymology by applying statistical tools.

During the study, data will be collected using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Observation of the selected participants, among other methods, will be the primary technique used to collect data to maximize accuracy and efficiency. However, McKim (2016) maintains that it is vital for the investigator to ensure that data collected in the observational phase is based on their notes and not those of others. The participants used for the study will be English students. They will be divided into groups based on their vocabulary learning. The researcher will then apply the findings in each group for them to analyze the findings in terms of individual and group interactions to determine the teachers who have applied etymology in the teaching of vocabulary. In the interaction phase, the students will be asked various English questions and asked to read some words aloud. The investigator will then record the data.

Pre-test for the study

A total of 50 selected participants will be involved in the pre-test session to determine their level of knowledge of the English language. Since the participants are English students, they will be tested according to their levels of study. The pre-test will be aimed at determining the level of knowledge of the English language before the introduction of etymology as a technique of improving vocabulary and understanding of the English language. During this phase, the students will be individually tested to check their vocabularies. Each student will be provided with a test that consists of different English words. They will then be required to use the words in the construction of English sentences. This test will check the ability of the students to use different English words to construct complex sentences that are understandable. In addition to this, the participating students will also be given another test with words where they will be required to insert the most appropriate one to complete a sentence. This will check their ability to identify the most appropriate choices of words that can be used to make a comprehensive stance in English.

Post-test for the study

After the pre-test exposure for the participants, they will be subjected to group work where they will be expected to interact with others to enhance their English vocabulary. In this test, the participants will be required to engage in discussion with the group members on a particular topic. They will then be required to write notes during the discussion. This approach for the post-test will help to check the ability of the students to comprehend information shared by their group members. With the information that they collect from the group discussion, the students will be required to present it in the form of an essay with short paragraphs. The ability of the student participants to make complete and comprehensible paragraphs using notes taken during the group discussions will test their capability to use English vocabulary to express various ideas. Also, it will be a good test to explore the impact of etymology in improving English proficiency for students.

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Data Analysis Strategies

Sanders (2018) argues that the analysis of mixed data demands an enormous amount of flexibility in the data investigation process. As such, in the qualitative phase, collection and analysis of data will proceed simultaneously. The necessity of this factor is justified by the fact that ongoing findings affect the nature of data and how it is collected. Subsequently, the researcher will use their notes to conceptualize the outcome and attempt to answer the research question. Moreover, they can offer a theory as an explanation of their answers.

The analysis of qualitative data will also involve data reduction, data display, and organization, as well as drawing the final conclusions. Sanders (2018) gives a suggestion that this phase requires creativity, which means that the researcher needs to be able to construct patterns and themes from the answers given by the respondents. As such, Bell (2014) proposes being open to multiple possibilities or multiple ways of analyzing a problem. Additionally, by applying mental excursions such as making linkages through the use of either the “zigzag” or “sidetracking” approach, the investigator is able to improve the quality of qualitative data analysis.

The validity of data collected in qualitative research is usually dependent on participants’ worthiness and credibility (Bell, 2014). In this case, the data collected during the observation case needs to be not only accurate but also steadily obtained. Common ways of checking for validity include consistency checks by sampling raw data and create codes and categories. Consequently, the participants who provide data that is unsteady will be asked to evaluate the interpretation and the explanations pulled from the data. This approach will help in reducing the recording of irrelevant data. The data recorded in the form of notes from the observational phase of the study will be used to generate an understanding of the patterns of how etymology assists in teaching vocabulary (McKim, 2016). This analysis will be different from that of the quantitative approach in which the participants will be asked specific questions to determine if their teachers use etymology as a teaching tool. Subsequently, the analyzed quantitative data be interpreted and combined with the quantitative data to answer the research question.

In the quantitative data analysis stage, the raw data recorded from the study will be processed and presented in a form that is more understandable. Rational and critical thinking techniques will be used for data interpretation and presentation. This phase will also involve the calculation of frequencies of the study factors and the differences between them. The data will be checked and then processed on a computer. The researcher will then choose the most suitable tables and diagrams in accordance with the research objectives (McKim, 2016). The next step will involve selecting the most suitable statistics to define and examine the data. Consequently, one will be able to identify trends and patterns from the analyzed data.

The aforementioned factor means that interacting with the students will allow the investigator to gather data about the proficiency of the participants’ vocabulary. The data will be obtained in the form of the answers provided to the questions asked by the researcher concerning the nature of their vocabulary. They will also proceed to make a comparison between the vocabulary of each participant and whether their teachers use etymology or not (Sanders, 2018). By comparing the vocabulary of the participants against the use or lack of etymology in the teaching of English, the researcher will be able to determine if etymology contributes to improving vocabulary and, if so, to what extent.

However, it is important to exercise careful judgment while analyzing quantitative data. For instance, the researcher should consider possibilities of other factors affecting the findings of the study in cases where the fluency of the vocabulary of the participants may be due to other factors other than etymology. McKim (2016) recommends the precise piece of primary data results to be censoriously analyzed and empirically interpreted by linking the results with other discoveries within the context of etymology research. Furthermore, literature review findings that will be done in the early stages of this study will need to be included in the analysis of data so as to reflect on other probable points of view by other authors in regards to the impact of using etymology as a teaching method to aid English vocabulary acquisition (Sanders, 2018). However, the secondary information will have to be linked with the primary data in a rational and unprejudiced way.

Simply stating the existence of a positive or negative correlation between etymology and learning of vocabulary will not be satisfactory for the study. As such, the researcher will need to provide a thorough explanation of how the variables relate to each other and what other factors affect the nature of the findings. A set of statistical and analytical software such as ANOVA and SPSS will be used to analyze the data.

The final stage of data analysis will be combining the findings of qualitative and quantitative analysis. This step will be critical in improving the quality of evaluation by ensuring that the limitations of one type of data are balanced by the strengths of another. In this regard, the triangulation of data will ensure that understanding of the findings is improved by integrating both varying and similar findings (Sanders, 2018). This approach will ensure that the participants’ point of view is accommodated by no just basing the study on the researcher’s approach.

Limitations of the Approach

By applying both qualitative and quantitative study data in the analysis, the investigator will be able to explore and establish the relationship that exists in the use of etymology as a teaching technique to aid English vocabulary acquisition. Additionally, this approach allows for data triangulation where data is obtained from numerous sources. This aspect will enable the researcher to identify aspects of etymology that are concurrent with vocabulary learning (Sanders, 2018). Nevertheless, successful triangulation necessitates a cautious analysis of the nature of data provided by each technique. The mixed-method analysis is also advantageous, as findings obtained with the help of one method can be used to inform the findings of another. This factor means that information not provided by the qualitative approach can be provided by the quantitative approach and vice versa. The mixed-method analysis technique is fundamental as it allows the researchers to find answers to the research questions from various points of view. For this research, the mixed-method analysis technique will facilitate finding the correlation between English vocabulary acquisition and etymology use. This aspect allows for the answering and clarification of unexpected findings in the study. Mixed methods are also adopted to develop theories about a specific phenomenon and then test it (Sanders, 2018). The mentioned results are achieved when a complete understanding of the research question from the qualitative and quantitative data is provided. The investigator is able to develop more context-specific instruments that can be used to develop other instruments with greater validity.

Delimitations of the Approach

The combination of both qualitative and quantitative research approaches for a study may be challenging for researchers. In addition, the combination of the qualitative and quantitative approaches for research is time-consuming and tedious. It may also be challenging to design and implement one technique by depending on the results of another, in this instance, qualitative and quantitative analysis. McKim (2016) explains that using both quantitative and qualitative techniques together may pose the challenge of resolving inconsistencies that may occur during the interpretation of findings. To be consistent with the research design, the research will, therefore, be designed such that it accommodates more resources to facilitate extensive planning before they are implemented.

Potential Ethical Issues

The issue of informed consent for the study may arise in cases where a student would not want to participate in the study. Berg et al. (2001) maintain that informed consent necessitates an individual to knowingly, logically, and freely give accord to participate in a research study. For instance, the researcher will need to obtain consent from all the relevant authorities before deciding to collect data from the students. The ethical issue of anonymity and confidentiality may arise when the patient provides information that is confidential while interacting with the researcher (Sanders, 2018). As such, an ethical issue may arise when the researcher fails to keep such information confidential.



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