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Assessing spoken language development in Gaelic Medium Education Morag Donaldson School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences.

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Presentation on theme: "Assessing spoken language development in Gaelic Medium Education Morag Donaldson School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences."— Presentation transcript:

1 Assessing spoken language development in Gaelic Medium Education Morag Donaldson School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences

2 Central role of spoken language

3

4 Spoken language as a multi-purpose tool communication cognitive

5 Children with language impairment (LI) Primary LI = Specific LI (SLI)  Unexplained difficulties with spoken language Secondary LI  Secondary to other, more global difficulties (e.g. autistic spectrum, general learning difficulties, hearing impairment)  OR Biological cause (e.g. brain injury)  OR severe environmental deprivation Speech, language & communication needs (SLCN)

6 Children with LI have varying types of difficulties Expressive difficulties  Producing/using language in role of speaker Receptive + expressive difficulties  Comprehending/understanding language in role of listener Affecting some or all of… …grammatical abilities …vocabulary abilities …pragmatic abilities

7 Why assess spoken language development? Additional Support Needs (ASN)  To identify children with LI  To clarify what type of additional support is needed  To monitor progress & adjust support Assessment for learning – inclusive approach  To set learning goals  To design learning activities & resources  To monitor progress & refine learning goals

8 Language learning ability What can learn If get “typical” opportunities & language exposure In any language Language proficiency What has learned At particular time In a particular language Language proficiency = language learning ability x language experience

9 Identifying LI in bilingual children  Risk of LI = similar for bilingual & monolingual children = c. 7%  Children with LI have impaired language learning ability  If a bilingual child has LI, both languages are affected

10 If a bilingual child has LI, both languages are affected “Normal” language proficiency in either language  LI can usually be ruled out Poor language proficiency in one/both languages  Is this due to LI?  Or is it due to limited language exposure?

11 Spoken language assessment in GME Challenges? 1.Almost no standardised tests for assessing Gaelic spoken language development 2.Almost no research on Gaelic spoken language development 3.Children in GME vary considerably in experience of Gaelic 4.No Gaelic-English bilingual norms for standardised tests of English spoken language development 5.Specialist professionals are often not Gaelic speakers

12 But… …much can be done! – Some things will take time – Other things could be done now

13 Collaboration amongst key players  GME pupils  Parents  GME teachers  Speech & language therapists  Educational psychologists  Academic researchers

14 All pupils in a GME classroom… … are learning Gaelic & English … have teachers who speak Gaelic & English … have parents who have deliberately chosen GME

15 What can be done now (or soon)? Some issues to consider

16 Which language(s) should bilingual children be assessed in?  Depends on purpose of assessment  If purpose is to identify children with LI  Ideally, assess abilities in both languages  If not possible, then in dominant language = English for most GME pupils  Remember that LI will affect both languages

17 Can standardised English tests be used to identify LI in children in GME? Are test results average or above? yes Can probably rule out LI no Is English the child’s dominant language? yes Useful evidence but interpret cautiously no Interpret extremely cautiously

18 Evidence from standardised tests is important but never sufficient Functional criteria Does the child have linguistic difficulties that are significantly impacting on ability to communicate & function effectively in everyday contexts? Evidence from standardised tests needs to be combined with evidence from other forms of assessment.

19 Evidence from other forms of assessment  Observations of spontaneous language use  Parents’ reports on children’s language skills  Structured tasks  to probe particular aspects of language use & understanding  useful for profiling strengths & weaknesses

20 Developing and deploying non- standardised assessment tools for Gaelic  How could assessment techniques that are already being used informally in GME classrooms be adapted?  Are there learning activities and resource materials that could be adapted for use as assessment tools?

21 Translating or adapting assessment tools from English Possible sources  Tasks from research studies on language development  Standardised & non-standardised tests used by practitioners Useful for comparing proficiency in Gaelic & English Guidance available Multilingual Toolkit for adapting New Reynell Developmental Language Scales (Letts & Sinka, 2011)

22 Is it better to translate or adapt tools? Translating not straightforward Especially for grammar, but even for vocabulary Adapting more promising Borrow task formats, e.g. Answering questions about picture sequences Completing or imitating sentences Choosing pictures to match sentences Acting out sentences using toys Develop new items relevant to key features of Gaelic

23 Deciding which aspects of language proficiency to assess ComprehensionProduction Vocabulary Grammatical Pragmatic Assess as many aspects as appropriate to stage of development

24 Which Gaelic vocabulary items? If purpose is to monitor progress & set learning goals  Words that taught or used in class  Words relevant to lessons being planned for near future If adapting English vocabulary comprehension test  Ask children who are fluent Gaelic speakers to name pictures in Gaelic  Use these Gaelic words to test comprehension in broader range of children

25 Which aspects of Gaelic grammar?  Useful to include aspects that likely to be challenging  Systematic evidence lacking re what these are  Some possible sources of clues Grammatical errors made by children -- of various ages & language backgrounds Intuitions of adult Gaelic speakers -- learners & native/fluent speakers

26 Assessing language learning ability rather than products of language learning  Can help to distinguish between LI and limited language exposure  e.g., assess how well children learn new words  Introduce in story or explicit teaching context  Use tasks (e.g. naming pictures, choosing pictures) to assess how much children learn about meaning & pronunciation of new words over period of time  Children with LI tend to learn less than typically developing children (Nash & Donaldson, 2005)

27 Dynamic assessment framework  How do children respond to varying amounts/types of prompting & feedback in language learning tasks?  More prompting & feedback seems to be required for bilingual children with LI than for those with limited experience of particular language (Hasson et al., 2013)

28 Making comparisons between children that take account of language background  How does individual child’s performance on linguistic assessments compare to other children with similar experience of Gaelic & English?  Requires information from parents about children’s language experience to be… collected kept updated used

29 Future directions  Facilitate sharing of expertise, resources & information amongst professionals & stakeholders  Develop standardised tests of spoken Gaelic development & norms for Gaelic-English bilinguals  Build up repertoire of other Gaelic assessment tools  Conduct research on Gaelic language development

30 Collaboration amongst key players  GME pupils  Parents  GME teachers  Speech & language therapists  Educational psychologists  Academic researchers What is typical? What is challenging? What is important?

31 Your ideas on future directions?

32 References Hasson, N., Camilleri, B., Jones, C., Smith, J., and Dodd, B. (2013). Discriminating disorder from difference using dynamic assessment with bilingual children. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 29, Letts, C. & Sinka, I. (2011). Multilingual Toolkit. London: GL Assessment. Nash, M. and Donaldson, M.L. (2005). Word learning in children with vocabulary deficits. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 48,


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