Toward a tool for evaluating corpus-based word list for use in English language teaching contexts


Downloads per month over past year

Alzeer, Sarah N M ORCID: (2022). Toward a tool for evaluating corpus-based word list for use in English language teaching contexts. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

Text - Redacted Version
Available under License All rights reserved.

Download (11MB) | Preview


Corpus linguistics has made possible the construction of lists of words that merit instructional focus based on the frequency of their use (Folse & Youngblood, 2017). As large corpora and more sophisticated corpus-analysis tools have become available, the number of corpus-based word lists targeting different types of vocabulary has rapidly increased during the last 20 years. This wide variety of lists has caused problems for practitioners, for whom it is not always easy to decide which list is most useful for their purpose and context (Schmitt, 2016). Given the paucity of systematic guidance on how to evaluate word lists, this study aimed to construct an evaluation tool that is based on Nation’s (2016) framework of critiquing word lists, but is reformulated for a different purpose and for different target users. The tool is based on a thorough literature review, with data collected from practitioners regarding their views and uses of word lists and from consultations with ELT practitioners and word list experts.

The target users of the tool are ELT practitioners such as teachers, curriculum and assessment coordinators, and materials developers involved in directing vocabulary acquisition. The tool caters to practitioners with different levels of expertise and knowledge—especially those who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of developing corpus-based word lists. Specifically, the tool argues for a systematic procedure of assessing the suitability of a word list by starting with laying out the specification of the examined word list, the intended purpose of use, intended learners and educational context, the particular type of vocabulary targeted and then considering the unit of counting, the corpus, the approach to making word lists, and issues related to implementing word lists.

An initial explorative investigation on practices and views related to word lists was needed before designing the evaluation tool to better understand corpus-based word lists use in ELT. The few publications about how word lists are used were limited to EAP contexts and a specific practice base. Responses collected online from 74 practitioners, learners and researchers from a wide range of domains in ELT revealed how word lists are exploited and perceived in ELT. Findings related to challenges to using word lists and issues related to implementing word lists (as well as other elements) informed the design of the initial version of the evaluation tool.

In its development through various iterations, the tool was revised by two panels of experts in corpus-based word list development and use (14 in total), and it was tested in real-life ELT scenarios by 11 practitioners who have been using word lists. The quantitative and qualitative data collected from the participants in three phases of the study suggested that the tool, and its supplementary materials, could help ELT practitioners assess the suitability of a word list for their purpose in a structured and thorough manner, although some reviewers raised issues regarding the tool’s practicality and level of difficulty for some users. A secondary contribution of the study was to highlight the gap between corpus-based word list research and practice, and to raise awareness of word lists among ELT practitioners. The study aimed to bring the practitioner’s voice in word lists research and evaluation. Finally, this study contributes to research related to the development of pedagogical word lists and improving their implementation.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Language and Linguistics
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year