Becoming a Nation of Word Learners: How Do We Get There?


Wednesday, October 21, Becoming a Nation of Word Learners: How Do We Get There?

Vocabulary knowledge is vital for academic achievement, but the way that vocabulary is most commonly taught does not support most students in their attempt to achieve high levels of reading comprehension. The most common method for teaching vocabulary - asking students to memorize lists of words and definitions - works best for higher-achieving students who already have a well-developed vocabulary. These students are able to integrate the new words with those they already know. But this method fails less advantaged students who typically end up with a vague and nearly useless sense of the new words. The assessment of vocabulary in schools focuses on the size of the vocabulary, rather than on the quality of vocabulary knowledge and on the ability to learn new words efficiently. This sends the wrong message.

In the end, the real problem for educators is that they cannot teach students all the words they need to know. What educators need to do instead is teach students to become word learners. During this ETS Research Forum, Margaret McKeown and Paul Deane will discuss how selecting words for instruction must be strategic and focused on key content. But even more important, instruction must expose students to rich language, must teach them to be aware of words, and must help them build up their ability to infer the meanings of words and establish connections to words they already know. The presenters will also describe recent work in psychology and linguistics that should inform our thinking about vocabulary assessment.

Their presentations are based on "A Collaborative Conference to Expand and Reimagine the Nature of Vocabulary Assessment," which recently brought together prominent scientists across various disciplines to discuss these issues. The conference was supported by a grant from the Education Research Conference Program of the American Educational Research Association.

To be held at ETS DC Office, 1800 K Street, 9th Floor from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM (lunch served)
To attend register at:

For questions about the event, please contact Elizabeth Kingsley at 1-202-659-0616. 


Elizabeth Kingsley at 1-202-659-0616.
Washington D.C.
Event Time: 
October 2015