Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to teach synonymous words

 The Distinctive Usages of ‘Examine’, ‘Explore’, ‘Investigate’

English language is known as the abundance of synonyms. As an English teacher, it is required to introduce students on how to treat and learn synonymous words. The grade transition from beginner to advance is much relied on the acquisition of word knnwledge. The beginner students have limited vocabulary either on word recollection or knowledge. Most teachers treat synonymous words as identical words both in meaning and usage. This merely means for practicality. At the first stage, such decision can be accepted, but later it will confine students.

Having knowledge of word usage is more important than word meaning. On the basis of this, treating synonyms by looking into the usage is helpful to discriminate the word usage within the synonymous meaning.  The following is my example on how to discriminate the synonymous verbs (‘examine’, ‘explore’, and ‘investigate’) by using concordance – word string analysis.

The results of my study shows that ‘examine’, which has more various meanings, is frequently used by speakers for whom English is their first language. On the other words, speakers whose English is not their first language but as foreign language rarely use the verb, they prefer using ‘investigate’, which only has 2 senses. This means that words that are very polysemous verbs are considered difficult to understand and even to use.

The difference uses of ‘examine’, ‘explore’, and ‘investigate’ based on my corpus study shows:
-          Here, ‘examine’ implies the meaning of evaluation, as in the following corpus:
1. This article uses quantitative and qualitative data to examine the relationship between aspiration, social class, and attainment. Boudon’s theory of secondary effects is considered together with Bourdieu’s influential ‘value’ theory of social and educational reproduction. (Educational Practice and Theory, 14/2001). àIt finds good/significant relationship.

2. …that one can only examine whether and to what extent cognitive representation is changed when stringent criteria are used to assess the effect of training. (Educational Practice and Theory, 15/1996).

3. We conducted a second investigation to examine learning outcomes on the basis of users' perceptions of CELP utility, CELP satisfaction, affective reaction to CELP and the actual CELP usage (UGE)… The second investigation identified potential factors that contributed to the differences in UGE between two groups of high-INT learners. (British Journal of Education Technology, B/2009)

- ‘explore’ means to find out the best among other components/things being searched, as in:
1. In this paper we explore the relationship between learning gains, measured through pre-assessment and post-assessment, and engagement in scientific argumentation. (International Journal of Science Education, 72/2008). à It finds the best relationships among others.
2. This paper presents two South African case studies designed to explore the influence of subject matter knowledge on pedagogical content knowledge (PCK).(International Journal of Science Education, 72/2008).
3. This study aims to explore these attitudes in secondary education… we found four interpretable clusters representing different groups of students. (International Journal of Science Education, 35/2  2007).

- ‘investigate’ has a meaning of finding something unknown before, as in:
1. The purpose of this study was to investigate Korean children's environmental literacy levels and the variables that affect their environmental literacy…. it was found that gender, parents' school background, and the source from where students obtain environmental information affect all categories of environmental literacy. (International Journal of Science Education, 35/2  2007). à The unknown aspects are gender, parents' school background, and the source.

2. The purpose was to investigate how teaching a year-long curriculum using SSI affects science learning outcomes. (International Journal of Science Education, 63/2009).

3. ... to investigate the relationship between task-types and mother tongue use. (ELT, 61(1-2)/2008).