assessment

Research Journal Articles

Beyond the red pen: A functional grammar approach to evaluating the written language of deaf students

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Deaf students often differ from their hearing peers in written language development.  Providing developmentally appropriate instruction is ideal, yet current methods of writing assessment do not provide teachers with sufficient information regarding the written language (i.e., syntactic) development of deaf students.  In this research, we use a Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) approach to language analysis to provide teachers a way to evaluate deaf students’ writing. This project consisted of two studies.  The first study focused on whether SFG analysis could be helpful for teachers of the deaf.  The second study focused on mapping a trajectory of the written language development of deaf students and the development of written language inventory for teachers of the deaf. This inventory, along with additional evaluation tools, has the potential to impact both objective setting and instruction.
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Dissertations

Developing a Written Language Inventory for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: A Systemic Functional Grammar Approach

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Deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh) students are extremely diverse in language development due to vast differences in residual hearing, response to hearing technologies, and exposure to American Sign Language. Writing is a struggle for these students who have delayed and limited access to English. Studies have found that d/hh students continue to lag behind their hearing peers in syntactic development. Unfortunately, current methods of writing assessment do not provide teachers with sufficient information regarding the syntactic development of d/hh students. This dissertation responds to the need for an assessment that is able to provide this information that is necessary for setting sentence-level objectives and planning developmentally-appropriate instruction.

This project began when I conducted a small pilot study to determine how Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) analysis could impact teachers ability to set instructional objectives. I conducted a SFG analysis to identify the syntactic structures used by a small group (N=26) of d/hh and hearing 3rd-5th graders. The students were divided into low, mid, and high language proficiency groups and a hearing peer group (N=9) was added. I used the findings of the analysis to construct syntactic structure progression charts to guide teachers in SFG analysis, and four teachers field-tested these charts. The study findings indicated that while SFG analysis can provide teachers with insight into their students’ present level of syntactic development and assist them in setting individual objectives, the time requirements associated with SFG analysis make it an unlikely choice for written language assessment.

The purpose of the current study was to construct a written language inventory that could allow teachers to benefit from the advantages of SFG analysis, without requiring extensive time for training and analysis of samples. Using the pilot study findings, I constructed a draft of the written language inventory. The draft was field tested by 8 teachers of d/hh students in a variety of settings, and a second SFG analysis was conducted to examine the syntactic structures used by a larger, more diverse group of students (N=98). Findings were used to make revisions to the structure and content of the written language inventory.

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Research Journal Articles

The assessment of written phrasal constructs and grammar of deaf and hard of hearing students with varying expressive language abilities

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The purpose of this study was to examine the written phrasal constructs and grammar usage of deaf and hard of hearing students with varying expressive language skills. Twenty-nine d/hh middle school students attending a residential school for the deaf were divided into three language groups: students using spoken English, ASL/English bilinguals, and language delayed learners. Personal narrative writing samples were collected at the beginning, middle, and end of the academic year. The samples were divided into T-units and coded for language variables, including word efficiency ratio (WER) scores according to the Structural Analysis of Written Language (SAWL) and phrasal errors. The repeated measures ANOVA for WER III showed a statistically significant main effect with no between-subjects factor, demonstrating that students from all three language groups made positive gains in their written outcomes over one academic year. There was a reduction in phrasal errors over the course of the year for all language groups. Differences in word efficiency ratio scores by language groups are discussed. Findings from this study suggest that SAWL is an effective tool in assessing the grammatically of written compositions for d/hh students with varying language abilities over time. Instructional implications are discussed.

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