Dynamic assessment can contrbute to diagnostic decisions about bilinguals

Last June, I gave a keynote on dynamic assessment at SRCLD and presented recently analyzed data using DA with bilingual kindergarteners. We are currently in the process of writing the paper on this and hope to submit it soon for publication. If all goes well with the review and revision process maybe in a year it’ll be accepted and then a few months after that before it is available. Meanwhile however, we’re not the only ones to take on this question. So, here’s a summary of what I’ve found recently.

Kapantzoglou, Restrepo & Thompson (2012) did a study teaching bilingual children nonsense words. The children with language impairment were slower to learn the new words, and observations of modifiability (based on work by Lidz, and by Peña) differentiated the two groups. These results are consistent with previous results by myself and others that children with LI can learn, but may need more repetition, and that observations of how well children are paying attention, using new strategies, aware of what they’re doing, self-correcting, self-monitoring are good indicators of language impairment or typical development.

Patterson, Rodriguez, & Dale (2012) demonstrated that learning trajectories are different for bilingual children with and without language impairment in a graduated prompting approach. They did both semantic, word learning, and phonological awareness tasks in the stronger language of the child. Children improved on semantic and word learning tasks from the first to final items presented. These results show promise for using a very brief dynamic assessment approach to screen children for potential language impairment.

Hasson, Camilleri, Jones, Smith, & Dodd (2013) take a different approach and examine how English language learners acquire English using a dynamic assessment. Their instrument is called the Dynamic Assessment of Preschoolers’ Proficiency in Learning English (DAPPLE—don’t you love it!). The DAPPLE focuses on word, phonological, and sentence structure. They used a test-teach-retest approach and compared ELL children who were identified with risk for language impairment and compared them to children without risk. The children were matched on SES and age. The children with risk demonstrated more difficulty learning during the dynamic assessment. They required more prompting and support in order to learn the target language items.

What’s exciting about these studies is that three pretty different approaches to dynamic assessment and to working with bilingual children converge. Observation of children’s learning language can provide good clinical information that helps us to make accurate diagnostic decisions about children who speak English as a second language.


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  1. #1 by Janet Patterson on February 12, 2013 - 11:14 am

    Thanks for the broad view of the promise of DA. I’m looking forward to your DA and bilingual kindergarten children article.

    We’re pleased that typically developing children with bilingual experience showed a pattern of improvement in their responses to two tasks presented in a graduated prompting framework (Patterson, Rodriguez & Dale). Our next step is to determine if responses to these tasks differentiate typically developing bilingual children from bilingual children with language disorders, but we’re not there yet.

    Thanks for including our work!

  2. #2 by www.viwawa.com on July 24, 2013 - 5:25 pm

    There’s certainly a great deal to know about this topic. I like all of the points you have made.

  3. #3 by 3Ql.Org on September 22, 2014 - 4:32 pm

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  1. Dynamic Assessment of Bilingual Children in English | 2 Languages 2 Worlds

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