Task Types and Vocabulary Growth in as Foreign Language: The Involvement Load Hypothesis on Trial

  • Feng Teng
  • Shu Zhang
Keywords: Graded Readers, task, vocabulary learning,, Involvement Load Hypothesis, vocabulary gain


This study investigated the vocabulary growth of low-proficiency, tertiary-level students who learned English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Graded readers, based on the task-induced Involvement Load Hypothesis (ILH) proposed by Hulstijn & Laufer (2001), were used for these three tasks. Through a preliminary test of the first 1,000 English words (Nation, 1993), 180 students were chosen from different majors. The first group of 60 students read graded readers. The second group of 60 students was given graded readers in addition to having the teacher’s read the material aloud. The third group read the graded readers and wrote compositions that incorporated the target words. Based on the ILH, it was predicted the third group’s vocabulary would improve the most after reading the graded readers and writing compositions. The study lasted for six months, during which all three tasks were conducted two times. A vocabulary test designed to assess the form recall was used as the research instrument. Statistical analysis of the data showed that, in line with the hypothesis, the third group’s vocabulary increased the most immediately after tasks. However, the benefits of repeated tasks did not hold for the participants, and even the task with the highest degree of involvement suffered a significant decrease in recalling the form of target words after a two month period. This study offered rich opportunities for English teachers to experience the graded readers-approach in three different ways to help enlarge EFL students’ vocabularies.