Teaching Community College Students Strategies for Learning Unknown Words as They Read Expository Text

  • Leslie Craigo Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York
  • Linnea C. Ehri Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Manijeh Hart Graduate Center, City University of New York
Keywords: Higher Education, Undergraduate Education, Higher Education Practice, Students, Teaching and Learning, Persistence, Completion


An experiment was conducted to investigate methods that enable college students to learn the meaning of unknown words as they read discipline-specific academic text. Forty-one college students read specific passages aloud during three sessions. Participants were randomly assigned to three vocabulary learning interventions or a control condition. The interventions involved applying context, morphemic, and syntactic strategies; applying definitions; or applying both strategies and definitions to determine word meanings. Word learning and comprehension were measured during the interventions and in a transfer task to assess treatment effects on independent text reading. Results revealed that students in all three intervention groups outperformed controls in learning words and comprehending passages. However, the treatment groups did not differ from controls on the transfer task. Teaching both strategies and definitions was especially effective for learning unknown words and comprehending text containing those words.

Author Biographies

Leslie Craigo, Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York
Teacher Education, Assistant Professor
Linnea C. Ehri, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Educational Psychology, Distinguised Professor
Manijeh Hart, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Educational Psychology, Doctoral Candidate, ABD


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