Measuring Vocabulary Growth

After reading Measuring Vocabulary Growth Part 1, we are now speaking the same language that vocabulary learning is not an “all or nothing” concept. Now we can focus on ensuring that our interventions are truly moving the needle along the vocabulary knowledge continuum. 


Current Offerings

Since norm-referenced tests used for measuring vocabulary growth that are quick to administer generally measure breadth of vocabulary knowledge (i.e., surface level knowledge where the student has heard it and may have a sense for what it means, but only in a single context), rather than depth of knowledge (Duff, 2019). Therefore, these tests are not likely to provide the most helpful student data for us as educators. 


A Review in History

A fundamentally different approach is required to fully gauge the many facets of our students’ vocabulary knowledge.  The idea of rating along a continuum was proposed by Edgar Dale in 1965 and he was likely not alone in this thinking.  For those who enjoy a little history, I have adapted a cataloged list from Theresa Christ (2011) showing a variety of rating scale examples from some of the more prominent researchers:


Finding Patterns in the Research

When contrasting each of these systems for ranking word knowledge, it is clear that the researchers’ requirements ranged in terms of size, scale, and ultimate student expectations. However, in comparing them for similarities, there are patterns of vocabulary skills that emerged, which are the ones I have found most useful in determining how well my students know a word.  I have specifically used the rubric outlined in Dawna Duff’s 2019 article, Has Vocabulary Intervention Had an Effect? A Valid, Reliable, and (Fairly) Quick Outcome Measure for Semantic Knowledge, as well as some of my own variations.


Looking ahead, our third post in this series will share a skills checklist that has been created to help streamline your progress monitoring process.  


Sources & Present Research on Measuring Vocabulary Growth : 

Christ, T. (2011). Moving Past “Right” or “Wrong” Toward A Continuum Of Young Children’s Semantic Knowledge. Journal of Literacy Research, 43(2), pp. 130-158.


Dale, Edgar. (1965). Vocabulary Measurement: Techniques and Major Findings. Elementary English, vol. 42, no. 8, 1965, pp. 895–948. 


Duff, Dawna. (2019).  Has Vocabulary Intervention Had an Effect? A Valid, Reliable, and (Fairly) Quick Outcome Measure for Semantic Knowledge. Language, Speech, & Hearing Services in Schools, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 506 – 517. 


Author: Jen Knapp; MS, CCC-SLP