Raymond Stubbe, Kousuke Nakashima

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Mastery sentences, in which students compose a sentence demonstrating their understanding of a given English word, are recognized as an effective means of promoting vocabulary learning (Masson, 2012). As explained in Gallacher (2015, p.76) a “successful mastery sentence thus becomes one in which the target word, if removed, could only be replaced by a direct synonym.” Early in the spring 2017 semester, students were advised that their vocabulary midterm test would be a Mastery Sentence test of 10 items. An explanation of Mastery Sentences was provided, as were successful and poor examples. High-beginner first year students, enrolled in a mandatory English class at a university in southern Japan (n = 209), took a Mastery Sentence midterm test of 10 items selected from their assigned vocabulary word list of 40 words. This test was given at the beginning of one class in June 2017. Towards the end of that same 90 minute class, students took an English to Japanese translation test of those same 10 individual items. Unfortunately, 81 students had perfect scores on the translation test, leading to a ceiling effect. These 81 were deleted from the data pool, leaving 128. Overall, mastery sentence test scores were higher than translation test scores. Results found that for 19% of the possible pairings, the mastery sentences did not match the translation; neither both were correct or both were incorrect. Also for half of the tested items more than 21% showed the same mismatch. It was concluded that mastery sentences did not consistently reflect actual word meaning knowledge.


mastery sentences, L2 to L1 translation test, vocabulary

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