Extensive research has identified that the deliberate use of learning strategies is beneficial for enhanced learning outcomes, and that many students use few and/or ineffective learning strategies. Furthermore, teachers, while appreciating the role and value of learning strategies for their students’ learning, seldom engage in explicit learning strategy teaching, even for foreign and second language vocabulary learning.

The keyword method (KWM) (Atkinson, 1975), an extensively researched mnemonic strategy for vocabulary learning, has proven to be very effective. Its effectiveness as a method relies on deep processing through association and elaboration. Most extant studies, however, focus on the KWM at the time of encoding new words and their meanings, neglecting to investigate the method's role at the time of recall. KWM studies focussing on recall limit the focus to solely reporting recall outcomes.

This chapter presents a new perspective on the KWM, focussing on the role of problem solving to help learners solve vocabulary recall difficulties. It discusses the nature of the problems learners encounter at the time of both receptive and productive vocabulary recall, posits that connections between the use of mental imagery at the time of encoding and its role at the time of recall provide a foundation for analysing difficulties with vocabulary recall, proposes problem-solving processes to support learners to improve their recall outcomes, and discusses implications for teaching of the KWM.