Analyzing the Effectiveness of Textbooks for Vocabulary Retention
Rachael Ruegg and Cherie Brown
Akita International University
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Although many language educators are aware of factors necessary for
vocabulary acquisition and retention, in many institutions around the
world instructors are required to use textbooks as a basis for instruction,
yet, to date, little has been done to analyze the effectiveness of textbooks
to foster vocabulary acquisition and retention. Therefore, the purpose of
the present study was to analyze the vocabulary content of a range of
textbooks. The number of target words, frequency level of those words
and length of reading texts were analyzed in reading texts and their
associated activities of 20 English as a Second Language (ESL)/English as
a Foreign Language (EFL) textbooks. It was found that each text had as
little as no target words and on average 10, while the average text length
was 639 words. In terms of the frequency level of the target vocabulary,
although the textbooks claimed to be at an intermediate level or above,
the frequency level of the target vocabulary was very inconsistent, with as
many as 60% of target words coming from the first 1000 words or as
many as 100% of target words being low frequency ‘offlist’ words.
Furthermore, it was found that integrated skills textbooks had significantly
fewer target words and significantly shorter reading texts than
reading textbooks, while they also had a significantly higher percentage of
words from the 1000 word list and a significantly lower percentage from
the Academic Word List (AWL).

Ruegg, R., & Brown, C. (2014). Analyzing the effectiveness of textbooks for vocabulary retention. Vocabulary Learning and Instruction, 3 (2), 11-18. doi: 10.7820/vli.v03.2.ruegg.brown