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Field-independent and Field-dependent Mobile Learners: Focus on Memrise and Duolingo (Danial Mehdipour Kolour & Walcir Cardoso, Concordia University, Canada)

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9:30 AM, Friday 30 Apr 2021 EDT (30 minutes)
  Virtual session
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Danial Mehdipour Kolour & Walcir Cardoso, Concordia University, Canada

Title: Field-independent and Field-dependent Mobile Learners: Focus on Memrise and Duolingo

Keywords: Mobile learning; learning style; vocabulary


The frequent advancements of language learning applications have been laying fertile grounds for smartphones to emerge as instructional devices (Tortorella & Graf, 2015), which are capable of enhancing semi-structured learning (e.g., forums), and formal and informal instruction (Traxler, 2010). Although language learning applications such as Memrise and Duolingo afford to their users a setting where there is no clear-cut line between text, time, and place (Duxbury et al., 2014), little is known about how these applications cater to students’ learning styles.

Adopting a pretest-posttest design involving 147 intermediate-level ESL students, we investigated how two general learning styles inform the vocabulary retention (short-term recall) of Chinese Malaysian ESL learners using Memrise and Duolingo. Using the Group Embedded Figures Test (GEFT), a validated psychological test designed to measure one’s dependency on the field (Witkin et al., 1971), the participants were stratified into two groups: field-independent (FI; learners who analyze an item in a discrete fashion from its surrounding context); and field-dependent (FD; learners whose perceptions are determined by the structure of the whole field rather than its components).

For four weeks, both groups practiced a set of English vocabulary through a Memrise course, created by the researchers. The target words were selected from the Vocabulary Level Test consisting of four word-frequency levels (2000, 3000, 5000, 10000), each representing an approximate vocabulary range for learners to participate in fundamental or academic communications (Schmitt et al., 2001). Participants were also asked to reinforce their vocabulary acquisition through Duolingo (interactive) Stories. The performance of both groups in vocabulary retention were pre- and post-tested before and after the proposed intervention. Our findings reveal a post-intervention improvement among FD/FI learners, but with FI learners outperforming their counterparts. Contrary to our initial hypotheses (Frank & Keene, 1993), Memrise and Duolingo were deemed equally beneficial to both learning styles.

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