VLI 4(1): Gallacher (2015)

Mastery Sentences: A Window into the Interplay between Word Knowledge Types
Andrew Gallacher
Kysushu Sango University
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7820/vli.v04.1.gallacher
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This study investigates students’ productive knowledge of high-frequency
vocabulary using a word knowledge framework. A sample of more than
300 written ‘‘mastery sentences’’ was analyzed and coded for errors made
at the meaning level of the target word, as well at the usage level. These
sentences were categorized into three groups, based on students’ English
proficiency, which roughly translates to low-to-mid A2, mid-to-high A2,
and low B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference.
Preliminary findings indicate that while word knowledge at the meaning
level improves with proficiency, knowledge at the usage level appears to
plateau once students reach a mid-level of proficiency. Further investigation
as to why this may be the case indicates that although higher level
students tend to make roughly an equal number of grammatical and
collocation-type mistakes compared to their mid-level counterparts, they
do so in attempts to use richer, less frequent vocabulary in their mastery
sentences. These preliminary findings suggest that, in the spirit of mastery,
students may be making more errors as they test the limits of newly acquired
vocabulary. Future research will further investigate this hypothesis.

Gallacher, A. (2015). Mastery sentences: A window into the interplay between word knowledge types. Vocabulary Learning and Instruction, 4 (1), 74-82. doi: 10.7820/vli.v04.1.gallacher