The Effects of Vocabulary Intervention on Young Children’s Word Learning: A Meta-Analysis

Sep. 10, 2010

Source: Review of Educational Research, 80(3): 300-335. (September 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This meta-analysis examines the effects of vocabulary interventions on pre-K and kindergarten children’s oral language development.

This meta-analysis addresses the following questions:
1. Are vocabulary interventions an effective method for teaching words to young children?
2. What methodological characteristics of vocabulary interventions are associated with effect size?
3. Is there evidence that vocabulary interventions narrow the achievement gap?

The authors quantitatively reviewed 67 studies and 216 effect sizes to better understand the impact of training on word learning.

Results indicated that children’s oral language development benefited strongly from these interventions. The overall effect size of .88, demonstrating, on average, a gain of nearly one standard deviation on vocabulary measures.

Furthermore, moderator analyses reported greater effects for trained adults in providing the treatment, combined pedagogical strategies that included explicit and implicit instruction, and author-created measures compared to standardized measures.

Middle- and upper-income at-risk children were significantly more likely to benefit from vocabulary intervention than those students also at risk and poor.

These results indicate that although they might improve oral language skills, vocabulary interventions are not sufficiently powerful to close the gap—even in the preschool and kindergarten years.

Updated: Feb. 21, 2011