Credit points


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Unit rationale, description and aim

Vocabulary is identified as a critical target for literacy instruction in every Australian curriculum, and the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) accreditation requirements mandate that teacher education programs include evidence-based instruction of vocabulary. Strong vocabulary is essential for all school learning, and academic vocabulary lays the foundation for success in secondary and postsecondary studies. It is critical that teachers working with developing readers understand how different tiers of vocabulary are conceptualised in reading research, can analyse and assess research on effective vocabulary instruction for diverse students (including EAL/D students), can design evidence-based differentiated instruction for their students, and know how to assess their students’ vocabulary skills and evaluate the effectiveness of their vocabulary instruction. 

In this unit, students examine the reciprocal relationship between (1) oral language and vocabulary knowledge and (2) literacy and academic outcomes. Students will examine different ways vocabulary is understood in reading research and what the research has to say about effective, evidence-based approaches to teaching vocabulary to diverse students, including students with language-based learning problems and EAL/D students. Finally, the students will analyse different assessment practices, including progress monitoring, and create a plan for vocabulary instruction and assessment for their classrooms. 

The aim of this unit is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to lead their colleagues in developing effective vocabulary instruction and assessments for students with diverse needs. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome Description
LO1Compare different theories and conceptualisations of vocabulary and vocabulary instruction (APST Lead 2.1)
LO2Locate and evaluate existing research of vocabulary instruction (APST Lead 1.2, 2.5)
LO3Design evidence-based vocabulary instruction for diverse groups of students (APST HA 1.6, 2.3, 3.2, 4.1, Lead 1.1, 1.3, 2.1, 3.3 )
LO4Assess which practices and instructional approaches are best suited for different students and purposes (APST HA 1.5, 3.2, Lead 1.1, 5.2)
LO5Assess vocabulary development and monitor the progress of their students (APST HA 5.1, 5.2)
LO6Evaluate the effectiveness of their vocabulary instruction (APST HA 5.4, Lead 1.2, 1.5, 3.6 )


On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards

1.3 Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds

Support colleagues to develop effective teaching strategies that address the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities 

Evaluate learning and teaching programs, using student assessment data, that are differentiated for the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

2.3 Curriculum, assessment and reporting

Support colleagues to plan and implement learning and teaching programs using contemporary knowledge and understanding of curriculum, assessment and reporting requirements.

2.5 Literacy and numeracy strategies

Support colleagues to implement effective teaching strategies to improve students’ literacy and numeracy achievement.

3.2 Plan, structure and sequence learning programs

Work with colleagues to plan, evaluate and modify learning and teaching programs to create productive learning environments that engage all students.

4.1 Support student participation

Model effective practice and support colleagues to implement inclusive strategies that engage and support all students.

5.1 Assess student learning

Develop and apply a comprehensive range of assessment strategies to diagnose learning needs, comply with curriculum requirements and support colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of their approaches to assessment.

5.2 Provide feedback to students on their learning  

Select from an effective range of strategies to provide targeted feedback based on informed and timely judgements of each student’s current needs in order to progress learning.

5.4 Interpret student data

Work with colleagues to use data from internal and external student assessments for evaluating learning and teaching, identifying interventions and modifying teaching practice.


On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards

1.1 Physical, Social and intellectual development and characteristics of students

Lead colleagues to select and develop teaching strategies to improve student learning using knowledge of the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.

1.2 Understand how students learn

Lead processes to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching programs using research and workplace knowledge about how students learn.

2.1 Content and teaching strategies of the teaching area

Lead initiatives within the school to evaluate and improve knowledge of content and teaching strategies and demonstrate exemplary teaching of subjects using effective, research-based learning and teaching programs.

3.3 Use teaching strategies

Work with colleagues to review, modify and expand their repertoire of teaching strategies to enable students to use knowledge, skills, problem solving and critical and creative thinking

3.6 Evaluate and improve teaching programs 

Conduct regular reviews of teaching and learning programs using multiple sources of evidence including: student assessment data, curriculum documents, teaching practices and feedback from parents/carers, students and colleagues.

5.2 Provide feedback to students on their learning

Model exemplary practice and initiate programs to support colleagues in applying a range of timely, effective and appropriate feedback strategies.


Topics will include:

  • Vocabulary theories and components
  • Overview of the role of vocabulary in learning to read and write
  • Vocabulary: expressive and receptive; oral vs written; breadth and depth; tiers of vocabulary; basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) 
  • Morphology and etymology


  • Evidence-based vocabulary instruction for diverse learners
  • Identifying, developing and applying strategies to teach vocabulary
  • Teaching the language features and vocabulary associated with specific fields/topics
  • Explicit vocabulary teaching
  • Strategies to enrich vocabulary
  • Teaching morphology
  • Use of high-quality texts to improve vocabulary
  • Use of ICT in vocabulary teaching 
  • Adaptive teaching of vocabulary instruction

  • Vocabulary assessment and progress monitoring
  • Identifying and designing effective vocabulary assessments
  • Progress monitoring and program effectiveness 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The vocabulary unit is offered in multi-mode format and supported by a unit Learning Management System (LMS) site. In all modes, students are required to use the online learning platform that provides asynchronous access to lectures, readings, and quizzes. In a weekly attendance mode, students are required also to attend tutorials, presentations, and discussions in person in specific physical location/s whereas in an intensive mode the required in-person sessions take place during weekends or other blocks of time determined by the school. In online mode, students are required to participate in a series of interactive online workshops in addition to the regular online learning.

Engagement for learning is the key driver in the delivery of this unit. The unit will facilitate active participation in pedagogical approaches that demonstrate alignment of teaching, learning and assessment and incorporate: 

  • Online digital resources, including reference readings, database and document searches, and recorded lectures from experts
  • Online or face-to-face small group collaborative learning to foster reflective practice following the personal analysis, evaluation and synthesis of relevant literature and instructional and assessment practices in different schools
  • Online forum and chat tools to build a community of learners
  • Problem-based learning sessions to develop necessary skills and analyse and apply learning to school case studies. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester.

Mode of delivery: This unit will be offered in one or more of modes of delivery described below, chosen with the aim of providing flexible delivery of academic content.

  •  On Campus: Most learning activities or classes are delivered at a scheduled time, on campus, to enable in-person interactions. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.
  • Intensive: In an intensive mode, students require face-to-face attendance on weekends or any block of time determined by the school. Students will have face-to-face interactions with lecturer(s) to further their achievement of the learning outcomes. This unit is structured with required upfront preparation before workshops. The online learning platforms used in this unit provide multiple forms of preparatory and practice opportunities for you students to prepare and revise. 
  • Multi-mode: Learning activities are delivered through a planned mix of online and in-person classes, which may include full-day sessions and/or placements, to enable interaction. Activities that require attendance will appear in a student’s timetable.
  • Online unscheduled: Learning activities are accessible anytime, anywhere. These units are normally delivered fully online and will not appear in a student’s timetable. 
  • Online scheduled: All learning activities are held online, at scheduled times, and will require some attendance to enable online interaction. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, the students need to complete and pass all three assessment tasks. The first two tasks offer students opportunities to demonstrate knowledge of vocabulary theories, research, instruction and assessments, and the third allows them to show their skills in designing effective practices for their students and schools. 

The first task (20%) consists of weekly quizzes that assess understanding of the core content of lectures and readings and provides students an opportunity to continuously monitor their own learning. The second task (30%) requires students to demonstrate their understanding of issues associated with vocabulary theory and research by explicating their own instructional theory. The third task (50%) is related to knowledge of evidence-based instruction and assessments, and requires the students to apply their knowledge and skills to designing evidence-based vocabulary instruction and assessment for their current or future students.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment Task 1 – Weekly Quizzes

Weekly quiz assessing comprehension of the content presented in lectures and readings.


LO1, LO2, LO3

Assessment Task 2 – Written assignment

Analysis of current theories of vocabulary instruction and construction of instructional theory that (1) is supported by existing theories and evidence, and (2) can guide differentiated instruction and assessment of students. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Assessment Task 3 – Written assignment

Compose a plan for an evidence-based vocabulary instruction and assessment for one school year for current or future students.


LO1, LO5, LO6

Representative texts and references

Beck, I., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2013). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.   

Colenbrander, D., Miles, K. P., & Ricketts, J. To see or not to see: How does seeing spelling support vocabulary learning? Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 50, 609-628.

Cummins J. (2008). BICS and CALP: Empirical and theoretical status of the distinction. In: M. Martin-Jones and N. H. Hornberger (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Language and Education. Boston: Springer.

Elleman, A. M., Lindo, E. J., Morphy, P., & Compton, D. L. (2009). The impact of vocabulary instruction on passage-level comprehension in school-age children: A meta-analysis. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2, 1-44. doi: 10.1080/19345740802539200

Foorman, B. (2022). Improving comprehension through vocab: effective instructional strategies in grades 4-8. Literacy Today, Oct/Nov/Dec 2022, 39-42. Available at:

Kirby, J. & Bowers, P. (2017). Morphological instruction and literacy. In K. Cain, D. Compton, & R. Parrila (Eds.), Theories of reading development (pp. 437-461; doi: 10.1075/swll.15.24kir). John Benjamins.

Pearson, P. D., Hiebert, E. H., & Kamil, M. L. (2007). Vocabulary assessment: What we know and what we need to learn. Reading Research Quarterly, 42, 282-296. doi: 10.1598/RRQ.42.2.4

Pearson, P. D., Hiebert, E. H., & Kamil. M. L. (2012). Vocabulary Assessment: Making do with what we have while we create the tools we need. in J. Baumann and E. Kame’enui (Eds.) (2012), Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice (2nd Ed.). Guilford Press. (PDF copy available here:

Wegener, S., & Castles, A. (2018). How does oral vocabulary knowledge help children learn to read? Teacher Magazine. Retrieved from

Wegener, S., Beyersmann, E., Wang, H.C., & Castles, A. (2022). Oral vocabulary knowledge and learning to read new words: A theoretical review. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 27, 253-278.

Wright, T. S., & Cervetti, G. N. (2017). A systematic review of the research on vocabulary instruction that impacts text comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 52(2), 203-226. Doi: 10.1002/rrq.163

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