A research trial into a SHINE-funded online literacy-boosting platform has yielded “very encouraging results”.
The year-long study led by academics at the University of Oxford indicated an “upward trend in pupils’ ability to recognise and use new vocabulary” at schools using Vocabulous.
- One primary school saw an average 32% increase in vocabulary test scores by the end of the trial.
- At another primary, spelling scores following the trial are the highest on record.
- Teachers report that Vocabulous is particularly effective in improving the vocabulary of disadvantaged children.
Vocabulous was launched in 2021 after its creator, Lucy Huelin, won funding from Let Teachers SHINE.
Lucy, a former Latin and Classics teacher, had found that students often struggled when trying to decipher the meaning of new English words. Her solution was to build an engaging online resource, which trains students to work out unfamiliar vocabulary using their pre-existing knowledge of word parts such as prefixes and roots.
Vocabulous, which received further funding from SHINE following a successful pilot, is predominantly used by 9- to 14-year-olds to learn 26 word roots and more than 1,000 English words.
But does the innovative tool help improve literacy? That was the question researchers from Christ Church College sought to answer.
Professor Arlene Holmes-Henderson and Research Assistant Katrina Kelly worked with 11 participating primary and secondary schools in the North of England over the 2022/23 academic year. The schools were approached based on their geographical location – with a focus on engaging schools in areas of socio-economic deprivation – and their percentage of children qualifying for Pupil Premium. The 11 schools had an average of 39% pupil premium students.
The comprehensive study incorporated both quantitative data (survey responses, school contextual information, test results) and qualitative information (collected from text responses, school observations and feedback sessions with learners and teachers).
Trial schools were not advised to use Vocabulous in any particular way since a key part of the platform is its versatility for student/teacher use and each school context varied. Students therefore used Vocabulous differently across the trial schools.
Students at the participating schools were asked to complete two tests – a baseline, at the beginning of the study and a final test, at its conclusion.
For those pupils who took both tests, there was a clear improvement in students’ recognition of word roots and ability to apply this knowledge to understand and use a range of new English vocabulary.