Effects of Gamified Learning Activities in Enhancing Junior High School Students’ English Vocabulary Retention
1Far Eastern University
Name: Mina Samortin
Address of Affiliation: Institute of Education, Far Eastern University, Nicanor Reyes St., Sampaloc, Manila 1008, Metro Manila
The Gamified Learning Activities (GLA) is a modification of different word games adherence to the theories of second language acquisition, second language learning, cooperative learning, and collaborative learning. The purpose of this experimental study is to assess the effects of gamified learning activities in enhancing the English vocabulary retention of 126 randomly selected heterogeneous Filipino students in junior high school at a private school in northern Cagayan. The test performances of students were analyzed using the T-test. The vocabulary pre-test results of both groups obtained a poor performance, wherein, the test result of the control group was higher than the experimental group. Furthermore, the vocabulary post-test results of both groups obtained an average performance, wherein, the experimental group obtained an above-average, while the control group obtained a below-average. Moreover, the difference among the pre-test performances of both groups shows that the null hypothesis is accepted. Then, the difference between the post-test performances of both groups shows that the null hypothesis is rejected. The findings implied that the objectives of the intervention program were successfully attained. Therefore, the GLA approach is highly recommended.
Keywords: Gamified Learning Activities, Junior High School, vocabulary, vocabulary retention
English is one of the international languages; it is used for daily communication around the world. In the Philippines, the English language is taught in basic education starting from the third-grade level up to grade twelve. English is also one of the major subjects in junior high school wherein students start to engage in a deeper understanding of vocabulary and grammar to understand ideas through English. Students at this level start to learn more complex vocabulary. First language (L1) helps learners to understand second language (L2) for the reason that code-switching was employed to make the learning easier. However, using the L1 in teaching English in the classroom must be reduced in junior high school because it is used for basic education. Even so, code-switching is still a useful option to facilitate learning (Gaerlan, 2016).
The language will not exist without vocabulary; one of the most important factors (Akdogan, 2017) and foundation in learning English as a second language (Nie & Zhou (2017). L1 has created an implication on learning the target language especially on the stage of acquisition (BaSheed, 2013). Mostly, the students prefer to use the mother tongue rather than the English language; because the Philippines is a multilingual country (Sumalinog, 2019). Vocabulary is the problem of a second language learner to understand (Akdogan, 2017; Nie & Zhou, 2017; Umasugi, Bugis, & Handayani, 2018) the major components of languages such as phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics (Yule, 2010). The results of PISA 2018 National Report of the Philippines revealed that Filipino students obtained an average score, and it was found out that one out of five Filipino students achieved at least the minimum proficiency level in overall reading literacy. It was implied in the results that students have poor vocabulary skills (PISA 2018, 2019).
Having a wide range of vocabulary knowledge helps the learners understand the meaning of new words and analyze the set of ideas that they may encounter (Keshta & Al-Faleet, 2013; Kusrini, 2012). Likewise, it leads them to construct and express ideas based on their understanding. Moreover, vocabulary described by Darfidal (2015) as the most important part, but the most challenging skill in language learning. This implies that vocabulary is needed to consider in the second language acquisition to develop proficiency, express oneself, and comprehend the meaning of ideas (Kavvadia, 2016). Long-term retrieval of words is important; hence, creative techniques on vocabulary learning are helpful to retain new words on students’ memory (Akdogan, 2017). What might be the best way to help students learn the language in which they can experience a different learning environment without feeling pressure?
Game is one of the creative techniques to introduce new vocabulary in learning activities to the students (Al Masri & Al Najar, 2014) and often used in the English classes (Sevi-Biloon, 2017). When teachers would like to have long-term learning for the students about the meaning of words, the context should be learned, practiced, and applied constantly to retain the vocabulary (Sultanova, 2011). Teachers should seek some creative strategies, such as vocabulary games to engage the learners in the English language (Derakhshan & Khatir, 2015). In teaching the English language especially vocabulary, it should cover the four basic skills such as “listening, speaking, reading, and writing” (Kusrini, 2012, p. 2).
Taheri (2014) confirmed that language games are effective and suitable techniques in helping the students’ vocabulary retention to have a long-term memory in English vocabulary. Keshta and Al-Faleet (2013) and Njoroge, Ndung’u, and Gathigia (2013) studies which show that the puzzle can develop the vocabulary achievement and retention of students, and effective teaching strategy of vocabulary instruction compared to the traditional one. Furthermore, Shabaneh and Farrah (2019) study claimed that the efficiency of utilizing games can help the students retain unfamiliar vocabulary, associate new information with their surroundings, and help them develop their language and communicative skills. Communicative language teaching engages students in various tasks using the target language. Using games in the communicative language teaching approach help the students to develop social behavior with their peers. They can do a certain task and develop communicative skills by groups or by pairs (Wang, 2010).
Games can improve communicative skills and other basic skills in the English language of the students. Raybourn and Waern (2004) believed that playing games is an important factor in the cycle of socialization, wherein the social behavior learned through games. Researchers recommended that teachers should employ a game-based approach and other strategies for the vocabulary learning process; however, teachers should plan and choose some appropriate teaching strategies suited to the level of the students, and the availability of the materials as well. Further, using games with or without digital technology have been proven its effectiveness in different aspects of the English language.
The current study aims to improve the vocabulary retention of the students and to find out whether there is a significant effect of using gamified learning activities in enhancing students’ English vocabulary retention. The gamified learning is a term that usually described as teaching approach when games are integrated into teaching. Gamification can be applied in many ways with or without using digital technology; because the main purpose of games is to motivate the students to learn and solve problems using their creative thinking (Ketola, 2019).
In the Philippines, the play-based approach was used specifically in basic education; however, there are no studies on enhancing vocabulary skills using games categorically. With that, the researcher would like to use Gamified Learning Activities (GLA) in enhancing students’ English vocabulary retention using the three categories of games such as puzzleology, fun games, and memory games. On the other hand, the conventional teaching style has been used by the English teachers in northern Cagayan for the past years. Although games have been used to introduce new words such as charades, crossword puzzles, word search, and word relay; however, they were used irregularly. The researcher believes that using GLA in enhancing junior high school students’ English vocabulary retention will improve through the task-based language instruction and communicative language teaching approach.
GLA is modified from various educational word games. The researcher categorized the games into three. The Puzzleology (crossword puzzle, anagram, word search) games reinforce the students’ vocabulary using puzzles. In crossword puzzle, the students can answer the vocabulary games by filling out the squares provided with clues. Then in anagram, the students are rearranging the letters of the word to produce a new word. While in the word search, the students are finding the hidden words in the template aided with statements or questions. The Fun games (charades, pictionary, hot potatoes/taboo game) and the Memory games (word association, scramble word, parrot game) engage the students using bodily-kinesthetic through task-based learning instruction. The students can be able to help each other in learning new vocabulary and experience a sense of fun and belonging, and experience new learning environment without anxiety feelings.
Further, this study immersed with the theories of second language acquisition (SLA), second language learning (SLL), cooperative learning, and collaborative learning. SLA is a process of learning any language after the first language, whether it is the second, third, or fourth language (Stefánson, 2013). There are three characteristics of language which a person is able to use, such as monolingual, bilingual, and multilingual. Monolingual is the ability to speak and understand only one language. Bilingual is the ability to speak and understand two languages. Then, multilingual is the ability to speak and understand two or more languages (Saville-Troike, 2006). The acquisition of language requires meaningful interaction using the target language in acquiring the second language, and understanding the meaning of the message (Krashen, 1981). This implies that second language acquisition occurs “in which the language to be learned is the language of the community” (De Bot, Lowie, & Vespoor, 2005, p. 7) addition to a persons’ first language acquired through his or her environment or in the classroom (Wang & Yang, 2013).
On the other hand, the idea of theorizing SLL theorized in the 1950s and early 1960s. Later, the language teaching experts considered and recommended it as one of the learning theories in the year 1964 to 1968. It has been documented that this perspective constantly developed on Chomsky’s Universal Grammar by several language philosophers and continuously contributing to SLL’s view, and other mechanics and aspects of language (Mitchell & Myles, 2004). SLL refers to “the learning of any languages, to any level, provided that the learning of the second language takes place sometime later than the acquisition of the first language” (Mitchell & Myles, 2004, p. 5). It means that the second language is the language other than the first language or mother tongue of the students, and the community or region to communicate with other people.
Concerning the present study, junior high school students have already acquired the English language since it was introduced in the fourth-grade level. Nel and Müller’s 2010 study stated that one of the essential ingredients for Krashen’s second language acquisition is a comprehensive explanation of teachers. It means that the teacher should talk according to the level of students for them to understand what he or she wanted to say. Besides, the main task of SLA theory is to aid the second language learners in acquiring vocabulary to develop their basic skills in language (Umasugi et al., 2018). Further, the SLL perspective emphasizes the interaction between and among learners to achieve the learning goals not only for grammar but also in vocabulary. Tuan and Minh Doan (2010) explained that SLL encourages learners to exercise and use the language more frequently. Specifically, communication activities such as vocabulary learning using various games can change the conventional way of teaching from the teacher-centered approach to a student-centered approach.
Moreover, the cooperative learning theory came from the perspectives of the philosophers and psychologists such as Dewey, Lewin, and Deutch. They believed that the students become actively participate in the discussion of certain ideas to build one’s knowledge. The students engage into learning activities and establish a strong relationship between group members. In Johnson and Johnson’s 2008 study posited five elements of cooperative learning theory such as positive interdependence, face to face interaction, individual accountability, interpersonal and social skills, and group processing to facilitate cooperative learning. In this case, the teacher is not only imparting knowledge to the students but also facilitate them into group activities (Saha & Singh, 2016).
Additionally, collaborative learning theory originates in Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory acknowledging that the social interaction among and between students and teachers are the product of learning. The students can easily solve the problem through collaboration with the supervision and guidance of teachers. Sharing knowledge and authenticity among students and teachers through heterogeneous groupings of students are the general characteristics of collaborative classroom. It also emphasized that game-based language learning where learners can work in group with each other to develop social skills as well as the four language skills (Saha & Singh, 2016). Teaching techniques and approaches of the teachers may need variation to sustain the vocabulary knowledge and its retention among students.
There are three objectives of the study such as to improve the vocabulary retention of the students using GLA; to find out if there is a significant effect of using GLA in enhancing students’ English vocabulary retention; and to determine the significant differences among and between the pre-test and post-test scores of the students. Specifically, it sought to answer the following questions: What are the learning gains before and after implementing the vocabulary intervention using GLA of the students in control group and students in experimental group? Is there a significant difference among the pre-test and post test results in vocabulary test of the students in control group and students in experimental group? Is there a significant difference between the pre-test and post test results in the vocabulary test of the students in control group and students in experimental group?
The study aimed to investigate how GLA can promote students’ vocabulary retention using games, utilized the quantitative experimental design. The researcher used the experimental research method to find out the possible effects of the independent variable, which is the GLA to the dependent variable, which is the students’ vocabulary retention. Thus, true experimentation with the pre-test-post-test control-group design was adopted (Christensen, Johnson, & Turner; 2014; Creswell, 2008; 2014; Nunan & Bailey, 2009). The randomization of participants into two groups are equated before the experiment thus ruling out selection as a problem. After collecting the data, the means of determining the difference between the groups is z – test or t – test.
Respondents of the Study
The study was conducted in a private catholic institution in Northern Cagayan. The institution had a small population in junior high school which consist of one section in each grade level. The total population of junior high school students from grade seven up to grade 10 is 133 with the age range from 12 to 16 years old enrolled for the academic year 2019-2020. The respondents were selected heterogeneously in a cluster random sampling technique.
There were three research instruments: pre-test, post-test, and vocabulary games. Each vocabulary test contained of 50 items which composed of different types of test such as multiple-choices, sentence completion test (fill-in-the-blank), matching type test, scrambled words test, and crossword puzzle test. On the other hand, the vocabulary games have three categories of games, such as puzzleology (crossword puzzle, anagram, word search); fun games (charades, pictionary, hot potatoes/taboo game); and memory games (word association, scramble word, parrot game).
Data Gathering Procedure
The researcher had chosen the target location and respondents of the study, then wrote communication letters and let them be signed by the authorized person. After the validation of instruments, the vocabulary test was piloted in a public school, and the results were analyzed using the Pearson R Moment of Correlation and Split-Half method aided with the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) (Nunan & Bailey, 2009) for the reliability of the instrument. Upon returning the respondents’ consent form, the research instruments immediately administered to the students wherein the results of vocabulary tests were analyzed using t-test through SPSS.
After collection of the data, the responses were quantified and the data were tabulated through the use of Microsoft Excel, and Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences (SPSS) (Nunan & Bailey, 2009). Hence the following statistical tools were used for data analysis. Mean for learning gain and Standard Deviation for the disparity of scores. T – Test of Dependent Means to determine if there is a significant difference between two groups of correlated scores (within groups). T – Test of Independent Means used to determine if there is a significant difference between two different or independent groups in terms of means.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
Pre-test performance of the groups
Figure 1. The histogram of pre-test of the control group
Figure 2. The histogram of pre-test of the experimental group
The two figures present the comparison of histogram in the frequency distribution of students and the range score of test during the pre-test of control and experimental groups. The minimum score of the students is two and the maximum score is 32 with the range score of five. Each group has 63 respondents which the control has 12 students higher than the experimental which has nine students with range score of two to seven. However, there are 17 students in control lower than the 20 students in experimental with the range score of seven to 12. Likewise, there are 13 students in control lower than the 17 students in experimental with the range score of 12 to 17. On the other hand, there are 14 students in control higher than the 11 students in experimental with the range score of 17 to 22. Meanwhile, there are five students in both groups whose range score of 22 to 27, and there are two students in control while one student in experimental with the range score of 27 to 32.
Based on the histograms of pre-test performances of both groups, the frequency distribution of students in control group is higher compared to experimental group according to the range of scores. It implies that control group show a higher performance over the experimental group in the pre-test. Thus, the verbal interpretations of the pretest scores of both groups revealed in the succeeding tables through the mean and standard deviation.
Table 1. Mean, Standard Deviation, and Verbal Interpretation of the Pre-test of the Groups
The table shows the performances of the control and experimental group in the pre-test. The data imply that both groups of control and experimental obtain a poor performance (X̄ = 13.83, SD = 6.579) in the vocabulary test. Furthermore, the control group obtained poor performance (X̄ = 13.89, SD = 6.865) higher than the poor performance of the experimental group (X̄ = 13.76, SD = 6.293). This implies that the purpose of the pre-test has been obtained, and the initial assessment of students’ prior knowledge on vocabulary has been presented.
The pre-test measures student growth over time through a comprehensive assessment. It can show a student’s level of understanding before and after instruction, even while instruction is still happening (Kelly 2019). This means that the assessment of students’ level of understanding should be done frequently to monitor its improvement.
Usually, the initial knowledge of the students in vocabulary was determined through the pre-tests. At this point, the vocabulary words used for the pre-assessment were quite familiar and served as guide and motivation for the students to improve their vocabulary skills (Berry, 2018). These statements explained that some of the vocabulary words in pre-test are unfamiliar to the students; however, it motivates them to activate their minds to think critically.
Post-test performance of the groups
Figure 3. The histogram of post-test of the students in control group
The figure presents the minimum score of the students which is three and the maximum score is 39 with the range score of six during the post-test of control group. There are 17 students with the range score of nine to 15 as the highest frequency distribution, while two students with the range score of 33 to 39 as the lowest frequency distribution. Furthermore, there are five students with the range score of three to nine; 11 students with the range score of 15 to 21; and both 14 students in the frequency distribution with the range scores of 21 to 27 and 27 to 33. Moreover, it implies that the vocabulary skills of the control group have a small improvement from the pre-test to the post-test provided that they undergone a conventional approach in learning new vocabulary.
Figure 4. The histogram of post-test of the students in experimental group
The figure above presents the minimum score of the students which is 23 and the maximum score is 53 with the range score of five during the post-test of experimental group. There are 19 students with the range score of 38 to 43 as the highest frequency, and both six students with the range scores of 23 to 28 and 48 to 53 have equal distribution as the lowest frequency. Further, there are 12 students with the range sore of 28 to 33; seven students with the range score of 33 to 38; and 13 students with the range score of 43 to 48. Moreover, the figure implies that the experimental group obtained a higher scores and number of students in the frequency distribution compared to the control group. It reflects that the vocabulary intervention enhances the vocabulary skills of the students in experimental group.
Table 2. Mean, Standard Deviation, and Verbal Interpretation of the Post-test of the Groups
The table two shows the performances of the control and experimental groups in the post-test. The data imply that most of the respondents obtain an average performance (X̄ = 29.62, SD = 7.978) in the vocabulary test. On the other hand, the experimental group obtains above-average performance (X̄ = 39.03, SD = 7.457) in the vocabulary test compared to the below-average performance of the control group (X̄ = 20.21, SD = 8.499). It shows that the performance of the experimental group in the vocabulary test has been improved after the intervention program compared to the control group. This also implies that the post-test has measured the amount of learning and the required skills (Kuehn, 2019). Moreover, the objectives of the intervention program are successful and effective.
The findings and results addressed the first question of the study which is about the learning gains of students before and after the vocabulary intervention. It was implied that the vocabulary skills of students increased using vocabulary intervention. The learning gains of the students have seen vividly before and after implementing the intervention using the t-test as reflected in Hanafia (2015). Hence, the gained score of the experimental group is higher than the gained score of the control group.
Test of difference among the performances of control and experimental groups
Table 3. The T – value, T – critical, df, P – value, and Verbal Interpretation of the test of difference among the test performances of control and experimental groups
The table shows the difference among the pre-tests and the post-tests of both groups. The data shows that there is a significant difference between the pre-test and post-test performance of the control group, with a T value = 8.156 higher than the T critical = 1.67, df = 62 at 0.00 level of significance. Therefore, the null hypothesis is rejected. This implies that there is a small improvement in the vocabulary skills of the students belonging to the control group.
On the other hand, the data also show that there is a significant difference between the pre-test and post-test performance of the experimental group, with a T value = 32.673 higher than the T critical = 1.67, df = 62 at 0.00 level of significance. Therefore, the null hypothesis is rejected. This shows that there is a great improvement in the vocabulary skills of the students belonging to the experimental group. This also implies that the intervention program is highly effective. The vocabulary intervention using games brought the students into a higher level of knowledge in recalling vocabulary words. As a result, the vocabulary retention of experimental group is enhanced.
Moreover, comparing the results of the vocabulary test performances of the students in the control and experimental groups, the performances of both groups have a big difference. This implies that the vocabulary intervention program used in the experimental group is highly affected the vocabulary skills of the experimental group compared to the control group. Additionally, it is also emphasized that if the results of the pre-test and the post-test were high, it reveals the strength of the approaches used in delivering the instructions (Kuehn, 2019). This means that the vocabulary treatment for the experimental group was effective. Also, the memory of the students was activated using the different vocabulary games.
Furthermore, the results addressed the second research question. It was shown that the vocabulary skills of the students in control group has improve somehow through the conventional approach. It also implied that there is a significant difference among the pre-test and post-test results of the control group, thus the null hypothesis is rejected. Additionally, the findings also revealed that the pre-test and post-test results of the experimental group has also a significant difference, thus the null hypothesis is also rejected. It was shown that the intervention program is highly effective in enhancing the students’ vocabulary retention.
Test of difference between the test performances of control and experimental groups
Table 4. The T – value, T – critical, df, P – value, and Verbal Interpretation of the test of difference between the test performances of control and experimental groups
The table above shows the difference between the pre-test and the post-test of the groups. The data shows that there is no significant difference between the pre-tests of the control and experimental group with a T value = .108 less than the T critical = 1.66, df = 124 at 0.914 level of significance, therefore the null hypothesis is accepted. Previously, the first table revealed that the pre-test performances of both groups was poor. The existing vocabulary pedagogy that being employed reflected as ineffective and might not motivate the students learning interest. Probably, this is the reason why the pre-test results have no significant difference between the two groups.
Furthermore, there is a significant difference between the post-tests of both groups with a T value = 13.215 higher than the T critical = 1.66, df = 124 at 0.00 level of significance, thus the null hypothesis is rejected. This implies that the experimental group has excelled in the vocabulary test after receiving the intervention program. Hence, it also implies that the intervention program is said to be effective.
Discussions, Conclusion, Future Research
Based on the results, the GLA is more effective compared to the conventional approach in introducing new words. The students in experimental group enjoyed the vocabulary learning activities in creative techniques while the students in control group immersed individually in learning of new vocabulary. Furthermore, the results addressed the third question and revealed that there is no significant difference between the pre-test results of both groups, thus the null hypothesis is accepted. It emphasized that the vocabulary knowledge of the students in the pre-test revealed that they have poor vocabulary skills. It was reflected in 2018 PISA National Report of the Philippines that the reading proficiency level of Filipino students categorized as level 1a and 1b. This means that the students can only evaluate the literal meaning of simple sentences, understand the literal meaning and the main idea of short passages, and connect simple information through their own ideas (PISA, 2018, 2019). With these findings, it indicated that the existing pedagogical practices are less effective, and need to find a creative teaching strategy that might be helpful to address the problem. As Filipino learners, they can improve their vocabulary skills in collaborative learning process by means of communicative learning strategies. Teachers should be incorporated communicative learning in the teaching process to train the students’ communicative skills and enhance their vocabulary knowledge.
On the other hand, there is a significant difference between the post-test results of both groups; therefore, the alternative hypothesis is accepted. The post-test result of the experimental group revealed that learning new words through games is set to be effective, and the learning interest of the students motivated with the new employed teaching technique. Hence, the third objective of the study was attained. At this juncture, the Filipino learners achieved successful vocabulary learning aided with GLA approach. The findings reflected in the study of Shen (2003), that learning of new vocabulary should be in the form of the communicative process, in which the students acquired, learned, and developed the second language. Additionally, motivation is one of the essential factors to hook the interest of the students in learning vocabulary. It reflected that motivation can manipulate the behavior of the students in learning new words which the students have a goal and desire to win in every vocabulary game and learn as well (Deci et., al, 1991; Deckers, 2014; Orujlou & Vahedi, 2011). In the cooperative and collaborative learning strategies, the Filipino learners encouraged and motivated to participate in the vocabulary learning activities because they have a chance to communicate as a group, to share their own knowledge, and to develop a positive social behavior.
Furthermore, the first objective reflected in the study of Keshta and Al-Faleet (2013) and Taheri (2014) that vocabulary and language games applied to the students were successful and effective in improving vocabulary retention. On the other hand, Kusrini (2012) and Perveen et al. (2016) studies reflected in the second objective to find out if the vocabulary games (GLA) are really effective. Both studies have found out that the vocabulary intervention that have been used was effective and useful in helping teachers to become creative in teaching. However, other teaching techniques should be considered such as conventional and traditional methods. With these claims, every Filipino learner has his/her own learning style to expand the basic language skills. Teachers should be resourceful enough to support and facilitate the learning styles of the students. Teachers must see to it that all students participate in the learning process to build a positive social behavior among and between them. Moreover, the findings manifested that the theories support the assumption of the researcher. Cooperative learning and collaborative learning were emphasized in the implementation of GLA to motivate and enhance the vocabulary skills of the students. Also, the social behavior of the students developed as perceived in the findings and results of the study.
The result of initial assessment of the students was poor caused by limited exposure to vocabulary learning activities. There are alternative ways to deliver a lesson and impart knowledge to the students such as modular and online classes that could help both the students and the teachers to accomplish the target objectives of the lesson. As such, the GLA approach is one of the options to help develop the vocabulary skills of the students even at home. This pedagogical approach serves as an alternative vocabulary learning technique in this new normal situation, wherein the students exercise their mind to memorize, recall, and analyze the meaning of words in different context. Also, communicative strategy should employ using the target language. Furthermore, the family members are able to participate in the vocabulary games, in which they can able to enjoy the learning activities. The findings made the researcher to conclude that GLA is effective and successful, and it is highly recommended to use because it is manageable and doable. Moreover, parents should help monitor the performances of their children using a simple yet creative technique in enhancing the vocabulary knowledge of the students. Additionally, future researchers are encouraged to conduct a similar study or in a qualitative and mixed method studies in a bigger size of population using GLA for further development of the vocabulary learning approach.
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ASIAN JOURNAL ON PERSPECTIVES IN EDUCATION
Far Eastern University
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