Posts Tagged testing

Analyzing Phonological Skills in Bilinguals: It’s a Buffet, Not a 7-Course Meal

I’ve often maintained that eliciting speech samples for phonological analysis (whether single or word or connected speech) does not take that much longer for bilinguals than it does for monolinguals (it is somewhat longer, for sure).  What does take longer, however, are the analyses of those samples.  Given that there are almost no standardized assessments for phonological skills of bilinguals, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) must complete a set of broad and deep analyses. 

 These analyses consist of both independent and relational analyses.  Independent analyses are those that do not relate the child’s productions to the adult target.  For example, the clinician should note the child’s phonetic inventory (arranged by place and manner or articulation) listing all the sounds that the child produces whether it’s produced correctly or not.  So, even is a child produces [t] instead of /k/, the child’s ability to produce [t] should be indicated.  After all, for this analysis, it’s what the child can/did do.  Other independent analyses might include:

  • syllable types (e.g., CV, CVC, etc.)
  • syllable shapes (how syllable types combine—CV$CV)
  • word length (e.g., number of syllables per word)

 Relational analyses are those that compare the child’s production to the adult target and might include:

  • Overall consonant accuracy
  • Consonant accuracy by sound class
  • Vowel accuracy
  • Error types using a SODA format: Substitutions, Omissions, Distortions, Additions
  • Percentage-of-occurrence of phonological patterns (e.g., final consonant deletion, stopping)
  • Intelligibility
  • Contextual effects (where does the error occur—initial position, final position, both?)
  • Stimulability (can the child produce the target after a model?)

 SLPs are often overwhelmed initially by the number of analyses I suggest, as there are issues of time and efficiency.  I understand and appreciate those issues.  These analyses should be thought of as a buffet.  Choose the ones that are most satisfying to you.  However, I believe that completing this array of analyses leads to more reliable and valid diagnoses and link clearly and specifically to intervention targets.

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What’s really interesting in development (or not) of bilingualism in the U.S. is who should be educated in dual language programs, what purpose they serve, and when should they begin/end. A number of studies demonstrate that children in dual language programs do well in these programs, they don’t fall behind children who are placed in immersion programs, and they even show some advantages on some testing. An added benefit I’ve read about (but, I don’t have data at hand) is that students who were ELLs are less likely to drop out of school if they attended a dual-language program. That’s a great benefit to our society as a whole.

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How proficient is proficient enough?

The Des Moines Register had an article yesterday about a high school senior who refused to take the English language fluency test required for students who learned English as a second language. Her argument was that she was fluent in English and that this was evidenced by the fact that she has nearly a straight A average in courses that are taught exclusively in English. Her parents are immigrants from Laos but she was born in the U.S. While she learned Lao at home, she has likely been exposed to English her entire school career.

So, how long do you need, and when can yearly proficiency testing stop?

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Hanging out at NABE

Okay, I confess I didn’t really attend the National Association for Bilingual Education last week in Austin. Actually, I didn’t even realize it was in Austin till a couple of colleagues e-mailed me to ask if I was going. I’ve been so immersed in my own research, conference travel, and trying to complete a couple of papers I’ve been sitting on that it just didn’t make it on my radar. But, I did hang out in hotel lobbies and hotel bars after sessions to meet up with people who DID attend. In fact, I had a drink with Alba Ortiz (also at UT Austin) whom I hadn’t seen in a while. Why do we not take the time to see the people with whom we have common interests and who are just a few blocks away more regularly?

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Translation Equivalents– are they?

So, I was talking to my sister the other day. She’s a school psychologist and is  interested in this issue of conceptual scoring that I discussed before. We talked about how single language scoring might underestimate what kids know. For this reason conceptual scoring might be a way to go. I think that conceptual scoring can be applied to other domains beyond vocabulary, such as math or science. The focus would be on knowledge rather than on the language that the knowledge is coded in. Read the rest of this entry »

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