Scaffolding for success in dynamic assessment of narratives with Spanish-English bilingual children with and without specific language impairment
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Purpose: Dynamic assessment (DA) is a test-teach-retest procedure that has high identification accuracy in bilingual populations. This research study investigated the type and amount of clinician scaffolding required for student understanding during the “teach” portion, or mediated learning experience (MLE), of a narrative DA task in English for Spanish-English bilinguals with and without language impairment (LI). Method: Four age-, gender-, and language-ability matched Spanish-English bilingual students, two with normal language development (NL) and two with LI, were chosen as a subset from a dynamic assessment study by Peña, Gillam, & Bedore (2014). All of these students participated in two MLEs in which examiners taught them 10 narrative structures: place, time, character information, temporal order, causal relationships, initiating event (problem), internal response, attempt/action, consequence/solution, and reaction. The number and level of examiner questions for each target structure, as well as the participants’ responses to those questions, were compared across the NL and LI matches. Results: Results demonstrated that there was no difference in the number of examiner questions needed for a correct response between the NL and LI participants. However, NL participants reached the highest level of understanding for every target structure, whereas neither of the LI participants reached the highest level of understanding on certain target structures, regardless of the number of scaffolds. There was a significant difference in the levels of scaffolding for Match 1, with the NL requiring lower levels of scaffolding than his LI counterpart. Given the level of scaffolding, children with NL were able to more accurately and completely respond to examiner questions. Discussion: Results provide partial support for the notion that higher levels of clinician scaffolding are needed for children with LI to learn new narrative language structures. An interaction between number and levels of scaffolding may indicate that observing the effect of both of those elements can help clinicians further differentiate between bilingual children with and without LI.