Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

First Advisor

Michael M. Grant

Abstract

Text- and document-dependent courses like high school U.S. History require students to have strong content literacy and vocabulary skills. Traditionally, content-area courses neglect vocabulary skills and those that do address vocabulary often teach words in isolation without context. Students needing more content comprehension skills frequently need more motivation and higher self-efficacy.

Three research questions were used to evaluate the impact of digital flashcards on learning content-specific vocabulary and student perceptions in an eleventh-grade U.S. History course: (a) How and to what extent do digital flashcards affect eleventh-grade U.S. History students’ learning content-specific vocabulary knowledge?; (b) How and to what extent do digital flashcards affect eleventh-grade U.S. History students’ perception of their motivation to learn content-specific vocabulary?; and (c) How and to what extent do digital flashcards affect eleventh-grade U.S. History students’ perception of their self-efficacy to learn content-specific vocabulary?

Participants were eight students (n = 8) in a small suburban alternative school. This mixed methods study followed an action research model and used quantitative and qualitative data collection. Quantitative data collection included a 70-item pre- and posttest on vocabulary knowledge and Likert-type classroom exit tickets; data were analyzed with descriptive statistics. Qualitative data were collected from semi-structured interviews and analyzed through inductive analysis. Data were analyzed separately and then integrated.

Descriptive findings indicated that using digital flashcards increased vocabulary learning from pre- to posttest for the participants. Exit ticket data examined three subscales (i.e., vocabulary knowledge, motivation, self-efficacy), and all three subscales showed positive student perceptions (M > 3.00). Two themes were identified from participant interviews: (a) digital flashcards aided student learning; and (b) digital flashcards supported students’ motivation and confidence. From the students’ perceptions, there was less emphasis on the grades signaling success and more on learning and confidence. The findings suggest that eleventh-grade U.S. History students can successfully use digital flashcards to learn content-specific vocabulary while positively affecting their motivation and self-efficacy. Limitations of this study include the small sample size and the specific setting for the research, so readers should not generalize these findings beyond the current context. Implications for practice and further research are also presented.

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