Understanding Young Learners’ Spoken Academic Language Development through Analyzing Oral Proficiency Test Responses

1:30 - 3:00pm

Decatur A

Presented at: LTRC 2019

In this session, we present the design of a research project to analyze the academic spoken language of English Learners (ELs) in the context of U.S. public schools. The project explores the linguistic features of speaking test responses from ELs in grades 1-12 at a variety of English language proficiency levels and across task types. Data from the research study will come from students’ audio recorded responses to a large-scale, computer-based speaking test designed to measure academic English language development. The research will address the following questions:

  • How do the linguistic features of young learners' spoken academic English differ across grade levels? English language proficiency levels?
  • How do the linguistic features of young learners' spoken academic English differ based on task features?

Speaking test responses will be transcribed and analyzed for a variety of linguistic features, including discourse complexity, vocabulary, grammar, and oral fluency measures. The study will feature multiple task types, including recount, explanation, and argumentation tasks that address the language of different academic content areas (language arts, social studies, science, and math). The study builds on previous work analyzing the spoke discourse of young learners (Hsieh & Wang, 2017) and expands limited research about this population. In particular, there is limited data comparing learners spoken language features across age groups. The results of the study promise to provide exploratory descriptive information about the language features of spoken academic language of young learners. The findings of the study will have implications for both task development, to assist in producing tasks that present students equivalent opportunities to demonstrate their academic spoken language proficiency, and how students develop academic spoken language proficiency in different content areas.

The project is in the initial design and conceptualization phase. First, we will present the data collection and analysis plan, including a description of the distribution of language samples across grade, proficiency level, and task type. Next, we will present example data including transcriptions of student speech for a variety of grade levels and tasks in order to provide concrete examples for discussion and feedback. Finally, we will present pilot coding and analysis data in order to gather feedback from participants and generate discussion using examples. During the session we will elicit feedback from participants about all phases of the research design and analyses in order to improve the project.