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Integrating Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) into a non-formal learning environment to support migrant women learners’ vocabulary acquisition

Ahmad, Kham Sila (2019) Integrating Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) into a non-formal learning environment to support migrant women learners’ vocabulary acquisition. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Learning to speak English is one of the challenges faced by non-English speaking background migrant women in Australia. It is essential to develop conversational skills to communicate and express opinions, feelings and thoughts to other English speakers. Vocabulary acquisition is necessary, as conversational exchanges become more meaningful when a speaker has increased choices from an accumulated word bank.

Research has shown that Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) is feasible for language learning but little research has been undertaken on its effect on migrant women’s language learning. This study investigated the impact of MALL on migrant women’s vocabulary acquisition in an Australian context. The questions that guided this research were:

1. How is MALL integrated into the non-formal conversational English classroom for second language migrant women learners?

2. What MALL factors affect migrant women’s vocabulary acquisition?

3. What socio-cultural factors affect migrant women’s vocabulary acquisition?

A case study method using semi-structured interviews and observations was used. Fifteen migrant women who attended conversational English sessions in a community centre participated in this study and were grouped into three case studies:

• Case Study 1 - ten migrant women attended the regular conversational sessions (referred to as non-MALL as learning did not include the use of mobile technologies, and it provided a baseline for comparison).

• Case Study 2 - five migrant women from Case Study 1 who had already experienced non-MALL, and then continued their learning in MALL-integrated sessions (referred to as hybrid as learning was assisted by a tablet and a language app).

• Case Study 3 - five new migrant women who attended only MALL-integrated sessions (referred to as MALL where learning was assisted by a tablet and a language app).

Each case study was analysed thematically, followed by analyses across the three case studies. Three key impacts of integrating MALL that affect a learner’s vocabulary acquisition were identified as:

1. The type of vocabulary learning environment (non-MALL, hybrid, or MALL), as each offered different attributes and learning experiences.

2. The learners’ individual characteristics (L1 and English literacy/education background, the learning distractions they encountered, confidence level and pronunciation capabilities).

3. The introduction of technology (the tablet and app) changed the dynamics of learning from teacher-centred to student-centred, created extended scaffolding, and encouraged self-regulated/personalised learning.

The results also indicated that women in all three case studies acquired new vocabulary. In particular, the MALL-integrated environments provided:
(1) a significantly enriched and positive vocabulary learning experience through using the app;
(2) exposure to English and opportunities to use it during practice and interaction with peers and the teacher;
(3) a ‘reusable’, accessible, and rich resource for learning through the use of the app. However, the hybrid learning environment was found to be the most effective learning environment. The features that led to the hybrid’s effectiveness include the learners’ extended exposure and opportunities to use English, more intensive practice and repetition of vocabulary with the app activities and exercises, and the exploration of more varied topics. The findings of this research led to the development of a MALL-enhanced framework for vocabulary acquisition for migrant women learners in a non-formal learning environment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: Information Technology, Mathematics and Statistics
Supervisor(s): Armarego, Jocelyn and Sudweeks, Fay
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