The study was designed to investigate the effect of games on Junior Secondary School Students’ achievement and motivation in English language vocabulary. Five research questions and five null hypotheses guided the study. The study employed a pre-test post test quasi-experimental design. A sample of 203 JSSII students, drawn by both purposive and simple random sampling techniques from two co-educational schools in Enugu Education Zone was used for the study. The two schools were assigned to treatment and control groups respectively. Two intact classes in each school – (one as experimental and the other as control group) were randomly selected. The experimental group was taught the topics- antonyms, synonyms, words associated with banking and words associated with animals using games which include fly swatter, Go fishing, Animal Riddle and Hot Seat while the control group was taught the same topics using the direct/explicit method of vocabulary instruction. Three instruments- Pre-VAT, Post-VAT and the Motivation for English Vocabulary learning Questionnaire(MELVQ) were developed, dully validated and the reliability established as 0.87 and 0.84 for the pre-VAT and the Post-VAT respectively and 0.87 for the MELVQ. The research questions were answered using mean and standard deviation while the hypotheses were tested at (P< 0.05) using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). The result of the analysis showed that the students taught with games performed better than those taught with the conventional method, the students taught with games were also found to be more motivated than those taught without games. On gender, no significant difference was found in the achievement of male and female students taught with games but the male students taught with games were found to be more motivated than their female counterparts. Also, no interaction effect was found between method and gender. Consequently, it was recommended that the use of games as an instructional technique should be included in the special method curriculum of English language in teacher training institutions, workshops and seminars should be organized to train teachers in the use of games in teaching English. Also, curriculum planners and textbook writers are encouraged to give games a strategic place in the planning and design of the curriculum and textbooks.
Background of the Study.
Language is at the heart of human activities. Any activity carried out by human employs the use of language. One of the most encompassing definition of language is Sapir’s (cited in Ngonebu,2008) which states that language is a purely human and nOon-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols. Language in any society serves diverse functions such as a tool for socialization, a means of cultural identity a means of preservation of culture and a whole lot of other functions. But the most important of these functions is the role of language as a medium of communication (Pelt, 2005), and this role is given such a central place as a result of the natural inclination of humans to pass information. This natural desire to share feelings, ideas and thoughts in a highly multilingual nation like Nigeria creates a dire need for a language of inter ethnic and cross cultural communication, a language of unification and a language of national and inter ethnic communication.
As a result of the role of English as a language of international communication and the multilingual nature of the Nigerian society, English language was voluntarily adopted for official and inter-ethnic communication in the country (Akabogu, 2006). English Language since then has come to serve various vital functions in the life of the nation. For instance, it is the language of education, commerce and industry, government, international communication, the media, of law and legal drafting, science and technology and the language of social interaction. Of all these functions however, it’s role as the language of education is paramount since education gives life and essence to all other spheres of human endeavour (Obanya, 2002) .This function is given greater vigour as a result of the position given to it by the National Policy on Education (2004) which makes English language mandatory in secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria. It is also the language of evaluation in schools as it is used for assessing students after primary school for the First School Leaving Certificates, Junior Secondary School Certificate Examinations, Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSCE), Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and other professional examinations. The importance of English as a school subject can further be illustrated by the fact that a candidate must obtain a credit pass in it for admission into any Nigerian University to study any course (JAMB, 2005).
English language is a school subject and like every other school subject requires formal instruction. Instruction in English language involves instruction on the four basic language skills; listening, speaking, reading and writing. This is because acquiring a new language necessarily involves developing these four modalities in varying degrees and combinations (Tankersly, 2003). Tankersly also explains that these four skills include associated skills, such as knowledge of vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, syntax, meaning, and usage. Of all these sub skills however, vocabulary occupies a central position in any language learning endeavour.
There is no single acceptable definition of vocabulary but Lehr, Osborn and Hiester (2006) broadly define vocabulary as knowledge of words and word meanings. Vocabulary consists of words that a student can attach appropriate meaning to, or define. In learning a language, vocabulary plays an important role. In the areas of reading and the language arts, vocabulary instruction is critical to the improvement of comprehension and written expression. It is an element that links the four skills of language; that is listening, speaking, reading and writing together. Without a sizable vocabulary, one cannot communicate effectively. This is well captured in the words of Hunt and Beglar (2005:2), who opine that, “The heart of language comprehension and use is the lexicon”. Other authors like Lewis (2000:8), have gone even further in arguing that, “The single most important task facing language learners is acquiring a sufficient large vocabulary”. So, a vital step in learning English is learning its vocabulary. This is because of the close relationship that exists between vocabulary development and the other aspects of language. In the content areas, including Mathematics and the Sciences, vocabulary instruction is central to the development of new concepts and understanding of increasingly more sophisticated ideas. In short, vocabulary is directly related to knowledge acquisition.
The symbiotic relationship between reading comprehension in particular and vocabulary development has however long been recognized. For instance, Carver (2003) argues that the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension is so strong that they can produce perfect correlations. Vocabulary is much more associated with reading than any other language skill. This is mainly because while words are regarded as tools for comprehending text, it is equally clear that reading with comprehension also assists in developing one’s vocabulary. And in addition to affecting reading performance, vocabulary knowledge affects a student’s ability to participate fully in both social and academic classroom routines and most importantly in the world outside the classroom. Therefore, all students can benefit from vocabulary instruction especially if the instruction is tailored to meet individual strengths and needs. In the context of this study, vocabulary is defined as the amount of words which a person can understand and use correctly and meaningfully in communicative situations. Vocabulary instruction is used to refer to the teaching aimed at the development of students’ understanding of word meanings.
In the teaching and learning of vocabulary in the classrooms today, the main method used is the direct/intentional/ explicit method. Explicit vocabulary instruction is characterized by the teachers’ identification of the words to be learnt, copying out its meaning, making few sentences with the words. These are copied to the board and the students are expected to copy and memorise words. This method according to Nation (2001) is saddled with many limitations such as its being teacher-centered, constrained by time and school syllabus and its inability to provide a variety of activities for vocabulary instruction. The continuous use of this method over the years has shown no improvement in performance in English Language or in general proficiency in the language and its vocabulary in particular. This is evident in the WAEC Chief Examiners’ report on English language, which has persistently reported poor performance in English language as shown in reports on performance in English language from 2004 to 2010 as summarized in the WAEC Chief Examiners’ report for 2010. The report further identified candidates’ inability to read and comprehend questions correctly, poor understanding and usage of English and lack of understanding of the demands of the question as the cause of students’ low grades. This inability to comprehend questions correctly may be as a result of a very limited vocabulary power by the students such that certain terms, expressions and texts are not well understood and as a result of this lack of understanding, the questions are not properly answered. Also, other researchers such as Basturk and Yavuz (2010) and Olunloye (2010) in describing the causes of poor performance have listed lack of motivation on the part of the student towards English language and its vocabulary as one of the causes of poor achievement.
Motivation is defined by Chauhan (1998) as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. It involves the biological, emotional, social and cognitive forces that activate behavior. In everyday usage, the term motivation is frequently used to describe why a person does something. As with every activity in life, motivation is one of the essential factors in language learning. Ngonebu (2008) posits that learners who are not sufficiently motivated do not perform well in language learning tasks because the propelling force is absent. Also Otagburuagu (2002) explains that motivation which provides the impetus to create and sustain intentions and goal-seeking acts, is important in the teaching-learning context; this is because it determines the extent of learners’ active involvement in and attitude to learning which in turn affect achievement.
A number of linguists have stressed the importance of motivation to language learning. For instance, Dornyei (2003:13) posits that, “No matter what the underlying drive to study a second language, what cannot be disputed is the fact that motivation is an important variable when examining successful second language acquisition”. It therefore follows that motivated learners will have a better chance of learning vocabulary successfully while unmotivated ones may have a lesser chance of success. This strong relationship established between achievement and motivation in language learning suggests that the poor achievement in English language may be as a result of lack of motivation in learning English Language and its vocabulary. There is need therefore to investigate into methods which are capable of raising the learners’ motivation towards learning English language and its vocabulary.
In solving the students’ problem of poor achievement and low motivation in vocabulary, there is need to investigate into ways of making the teaching and learning of vocabulary less abstract, as is evident in the traditional methods which are teacher centered, boring and ineffective (Amuseghan, 2007). This can be done by creating practical ways in which students not only learn new words but see and learn words in relaxed and playful atmosphere. Where students are free to learn their own pace and above all are given opportunity to encounter words in actual use in real sentences and also practice using it themselves. In view of this, several approaches such as encouraging students to read wide and keep personal word logs and even the introduction of computers for vocabulary instruction have been suggested by other researchers such as Lehr, Osborn and Hiester (2006) and the National reading Panel (2000). But little or no improvement has been seen in achievement and motivation based on the adoption of these and other related suggestions as reported by Amusegan (2007). Very little work has however been done on how achievement in English language can be improved by tapping from the social interests, needs and activities around the learner which engage and interest the learner, modifying the needs to have educational goals and relating it to vocabulary instruction. One of such areas of focus which has received limited research attention in Nigeria is the use of games in teaching English vocabulary.
Games have been subject to various definitions depending on the context, from which it is viewed. Schell (2008:37) is of the view that “a game is a problem-solving activity, approached with a playful attitude”. Games can simply be defined as structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements. However, the distinction is not clear-cut, and many games are also considered to be work (such as professional players of spectator sports/games) or art (such as jigsaw puzzles or games involving an artistic layout such as Mahjong, solitaire, or some video games. Games can be broadly characterized into two: manual games and electronic games. Manual games are basically games which can be played with ordinary objects around, such as boards, papers and cards. Electronic games however, are games that involve human interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device. Games, whether electronic or manual are characterized by rules, goals & objectives, outcomes & feedback, conflict, competition, challenge/opposition, interaction, and representation of story, (Prenksy, 2001). They are distinguished by two key elements: an interactive playing environment, and the struggle of the player against some kind of opposition.
Games in learning can be generally defined as an activity which has play, relaxation and fun as its technique but learning as its ultimate goal. Games have a lot of advantages in the classroom some of which are explained by Freiermuth (2002) as having a high motivational value and can be played by small groups and thereby encourage co-operation. They impose discipline through rules, encourage discussion through tactics and introduce new ideas for exploration. Games can increase concentration, games can encourage creativity, flexibility and relevance, receptiveness, sharpen problem-solving skills and provide realistic socio-cultural context for language learning. Freiermuth also added that games are learner-centred since they give students the opportunity to resolve problems without the intervention of a teacher. Schwienhorst (2002) also notes that games create an environment where education is mostly learner-centred and also provide realistic socio cultural context for language learning.
Although these advantages have been credited to games, the use of games in Nigerian classrooms has been described by Ndububa and Ajibade(2008) as very peripheral. They explain teachers still resort to the traditional lecture method and when games are used at all, the games are usually the old, normal and monotonous ones. Also, Munrad (2009) in explaining the strategies of vocabulary instruction in school laments that the classes are all dominated by the teacher with little or no opportunity for students’ input and when games are used at all, it is done very briefly and hapharzardly and without the much needed variety. In teaching and learning of vocabulary in Nigerian schools, the explicit method of vocabulary instruction still predominates In teaching and learning of vocabulary in Nigerian schools, the explicit method of vocabulary instruction still predominates, this is evident in the finding of studies such as Basturk and Yusuf (2010) and Adeniyi and Lawal (2012) who have found out that despite the demands to vary vocabulary instruction to accommodate needs and interest of learners, teachers still cling to the explicit methods of vocabulary instruction. This traditional method has been criticized by Schell (2008: 39) who explains that “today’s “Net Generation,” or “digital natives,” have become disengaged with traditional instruction. According to him, they require multiple streams of information, prefer inductive reasoning, want frequent and quick interactions with content, and have exceptional visual literacy skills”. These needs of the ‘modern’ learners can be satisfied with the use games in the classroom. Games, if properly designed and matched to the syllabus, can be used to present new vocabulary items to be learnt in varied forms such as through flash cards or board games, games can be use to generate new words from a root or a given part of a word, games can be used to consolidate words which have been learnt in previous classes. Games can be used to create a spirit of inquiry or search for new words in the students, games can engage the students actively throughout the period for vocabulary instruction. A variety of games will transform the monotony associated with word learning into pleasure and in so doing increase motivation, games have the potential for continuous word knowledge for the students’ even when they go out of the womb of the classrooms and games can be used as a medium for multiple exposure to words which otherwise cannot be taught within the limited time frame for classroom instructions.
Games in the classroom can generally foster the interaction between the learner and other learners and between the learner and the content of instruction. The absence of this much needed meaningful interaction in the classroom therefore creates a gap between what is taught in the classroom and the experiences and activities the learners meet outside the classroom. It is critical that language teaching not only seek to bridge this gap in order to make these two “worlds” closer, but of course also to harness the power of these games for instructional gain. It is for these reasons that a research on the effect of games on achievement in vocabulary is not only imperative but also timely.
Also, the place of gender in English language learning is yet to be exactly stated. According to Neboh (2009) one related factor that is confronting the use of learner centered approach is the ability to have some impact on both male and female students equally. Gender according to Ozofor (2001) are culturally/socially constructed characteristics or roles which are associated with males and females in any society . The place of gender in language teaching and learning is yet to be exactly defined. While some studies have found out that females perform better than males, a few others have discovered that males outperform females. Yet another group of researchers have recorded no significant differences in the performance of males and females in English language. Also, gender differences have been reported(Prensky, 2001; Klawe, et al., 2002) in attraction to games in favour of males, such that males are reported to like games and play more games than females. It is important therefore that this study includes gender in order to ascertain if this fondness for games by males will mean higher achievement in English language vocabulary. The issue of gender therefore needs to be investigated in the study in order to contribute to the clarification of the gender debate in English language learning.
Statement of Problem
A persistent feature of the WAEC Chief Examiners reports on English language over the years and several research findings is the declining performance of students in English language. The problem can be largely attributed to the continuous use of traditional, teacher centered methods for vocabulary instruction in which the learners’ needs, ideas and expectations are relegated to the background.
This situation calls for a reconsideration of issues in the teaching and learning of all aspects of English language and especially its vocabulary. There is need to improve the teaching and English language in general and its vocabulary in particular by exploring a more innovative learner centred teaching learning approach which will bridge the gap between social activities, learners’ desire for involvement and the methods of vocabulary instruction. Such an approach is games for vocabulary instruction. The viability of games for instruction in other subjects has been proven. However, the use of games which have the potential of raising motivation, making vocabulary instruction less abstract and giving students multiple exposures to words has not been adequately attended to, particularly in teaching and learning the English vocabulary. This necessity demands an investigation into games which attracts the patronage of many people especially youths to be formulated or modified and used in the classroom in teaching vocabulary. This study therefore seeks to find out the effect of games on Junior Secondary School Students’ motivation and achievement in English vocabulary.
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study was to determine the effect of the use of games on students’ achievement in vocabulary. Specifically, the study sought to:
- Determine the effect of games on students’ achievement in English vocabulary.
- Determine the effect of games on students’ motivation in learning English vocabulary.
- Determine the effect of gender on the achievement of students’ taught English vocabulary using games.
- Determine the effect of gender on the motivation of male and female students taught vocabulary with games.
- Determine the interaction effect of gender and method on achievement of students in English language vocabulary.
Significance of the Study
The result of this study will have both theoretical and practical significance. This study will be used to explore the validity of some major tenets of the constructivist theory. This is based on the fact that the constructivist theory posits that active construction of new knowledge takes place based on the learners’ recall of prior knowledge; knowledge is presented in a social experience and through multiple perspectives. This means that the learner will benefit immensely as he is not treated as a passive object of instruction but has his needs, experiences and ideas adequately catered for in the teaching learning process. The constructivism learning theory of Piaget and Vygotsky (in Cameron 2002) maintains that the learner should play a central role in mediating and controlling learning. Activities, opportunities, tools and environments are provided to encourage meta cognition, self-analysis –regulation, -reflection and awareness. This has a close relationship with games in teaching which is student centered. The result of this study will therefore help in authenticating or debunking the tenets of the constructivists’ theory.
The findings of this study will also have immense benefits to individuals, professional bodies, the government and the society at large. Specifically, the researcher hopes that teachers, students, authors, curriculum planners, government and the society at large would derive some benefits from the study.
One of the major problems in the teaching of vocabulary has been the teacher centered nature of vocabulary instruction and inadequate connection between the activities of play or leisure activities and school work. If the result of this study shows that the use of games in teaching vocabulary can enhance achievement and increase in students’ motivation, curriculum planners will see the need to include games into the school curriculum for vast improvement in the teaching and learning of vocabulary.
The findings of this study will also provide a guide to English language teachers. It will reveal the efficacy of games to vocabulary instruction on the basis of which they will see games as a more effective aid to vocabulary instruction. In line with this, the teaching and learning of vocabulary will become more interesting, less tedious, effective and meaningful to students and teachers.
Based on the findings, workshops and seminars on how to use games in teaching different aspects of English Language will then be organized and sponsored.
The findings of the study will also equip English Language learners with better and adequate knowledge of other uses their games can be put to. From the findings of the study, the students will learn that they can make use of their leisure time to learn new words and as such encourage them to get and play more of vocabulary games than ordinary leisure games.
To the society, the study will generally create an awareness that games are not just for fun or a mere waste of time but can be used for meaningful educational activities and since vocabulary acquisition never ends, every individual can engage in vocabulary games as leisure activities and make avenues for learning and relaxation at the same time. Also, the findings of the research will enlighten parents to provide word games for their children instead of ordinary games or watching television.
Other benefits of the study include the fact that the study would serve as an empirical basis for future research evidence and citations as there is paucity of research evidence on the use of game for instruction in Nigeria.
Scope of the Study
The study is delimited to the investigation of the effect of manual games on Secondary School Students’ achievement in English Language vocabulary. Four games were used for the study. The games include Go Fishing, Hot Seat, Fly Swatter and Animal Riddles.
The study was conducted only in Enugu Educational Zone in Enugu state, Nigeria. The zone is made up of four local governments.
The study was specifically be concerned with:
- Words associated with animals.
- Words associated with banking.
This is because these are the only vocabulary topics in the JSS2 syllabus for the third term.
The following research questions were formulated to guide the study;
- What are the mean achievement scores of students taught English language vocabulary using games and those taught with the conventional method?
- What are the mean motivation scores of students taught English language vocabulary with games?
- What is the difference in the mean achievement scores of male and female students taught English language vocabulary with games?
- What is the influence of gender on the mean motivation scores of students in English language vocabulary when taught with games?
- What is the interaction effect between method and gender on the mean achievement of students in English language vocabulary?
The following null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. The hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance.
HO1: There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students taught vocabulary using games and those taught with the conventional method.
HO2: There is no significant difference in the mean motivation ratings of students taught vocabulary with games and those taught with the conventional method.
HO3: There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of male and female students taught vocabulary with games.
HO4: There is no significant difference in the mean motivation rating of male and female students taught vocabulary using games.
HO5: There is no interaction effect of method and gender on the mean achievement of students in English language vocabulary.