Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Using a Design-Based Research Approach to Develop and Study a Web-Based Tool to Support Collaborative Learning

Lyons, K. M., Lobczowski, N. G., Greene, J. A., Whitley, J., & McLaughlin, J. E. (2020). Using a design-based research approach to develop and study a web-based tool to support collaborative learning. Computers & Education, 104064.

Engaging in collaborative learning is beneficial for students as it creates supportive learning environments. Difficulties in collaborative learning can arise when conflicts in the group are not dealt with in productive ways. Theories of social regulation of learning suggest that successful collaborative learning includes students monitoring and regulating their own and their groups’ cognition, motivation and emotions. To support students in successful collaborative learning, researchers have developed and implemented web-based tools focusing on 3 principles for group regulation (promoting metacognitive awareness of the learning process, supporting externalization of the learning process and promoting the acquisition and activation of regulation process). 


The current article identified the need for a comprehensive web-based tool that included all 3 principles and additionally addressed the need to scaffold students’ metacognitive knowledge of how to use these principles. A design-based research approach was used to develop a comprehensive tool to foster social regulation of learning. Design-based research is an approach to research that takes an iterative and systematic approach to investigate the design and implementation of a tool in a specific learning environment. 


In this study, authors developed and implemented the tool, Collabucate, over two design-based cycles. Each cycle included the following phases: focus on the problem, understand the problem, determine existing solutions, define the current goal, conceive the solution, build the solution, test the solution, and understand results. Cycle 1 involved 29 participants who completed the tool twice a week for six weeks. Results included data from their weekly submissions and qualitative data from a survey and focus group. Students identified advantages (e.g., increased metacognitive awareness) and disadvantages (e.g., the need for a group discussion surrounding strategy implementation) of the tool that were considered in cycle 2. In the second iteration, disadvantages of the tool were addressed by creating a new section in the web-based tool and making the tool visually appealing. Cycle 2 involved 83 participants and results revealed that students indicated previously seen disadvantages were now advantages for the tool. 


These results support the use of a web-based tool that aids in social regulation of learning within collaborative learning environments. Additionally, this study demonstrates the iterative nature of design-based research and describes the different phases involved in developing a tool suited to a specific learning environment. This project reveals both the complexity and success that can come from design-research.


Blogger: Meghan Vollebregt is a student in the combined SLP MClSc/PhD program working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Lexical Diversity Versus Lexical Error in the Language Transcripts of Children With Developmental Language Disorder: Different Conclusions About Lexical Ability

Charest, M., & Skoczylas, M. J. (2019). Lexical Diversity Versus Lexical Error in the Language Transcripts of Children With Developmental Language Disorder: Different Conclusions About Lexical Ability. American journal of speech-language pathology28(3), 1275-1282.


It is well documented that the profiles of children with development language disorder (DLD) prominently feature grammatical challenges. However, evidence shows that children with DLD also struggle with word learning and use. Studies have shown that compared to children with typical language development (TLD), children with DLD frequently forget newly learned words, make more confrontation naming errors, have less robust understanding of word meanings, and need more exposures to new words in order to learn them. These results suggest that children with DLD have limited lexical knowledge when compared to children with typical language development (TLD). 


Previous studies have used lexical diversity as a measure of lexical ability in children with DLD and TLD, and have shown mixed results. The authors of the current work posit that these mixed findings do not necessarily indicate that lexical ability is unreliable in distinguishing children with DLD from those with TLD. Alternatively, it may be the case that clinical measures that more accurately capture the lexical-semantic challenges noted in children with DLD are needed. The authors hypothesize that rate and type of lexical errors may be more indicative of differences in lexical ability between children with DLD and those with TLD. 


In this study, 7 children with DLD and 7 children with TLD ranging from 5-7 years of age  completed the Edmonton Narrative Norms Instrument (ENNI). The resulting transcripts were coded and analyzed both in terms of lexical diversity and lexical errors. Similar to previous work, various measures of lexical diversity were not found to discriminate between DLD and TLD in the current study. Lexical errors were identified by three separate coders. In total, 198 lexical-semantic errors were identified, with a significantly higher number of errors observed in the DLD group. The authors noted, however, that coding lexical errors was a highly subjective process. Only 38% of all errors in the DLD group were initially flagged by all three coders. Therefore, although focusing on lexical errors has potential for characterizing the lexical-semantic abilities of children with DLD, a detailed framework for describing these errors is needed for it to prove clinically useful. 

Blogger: Taylor Bardell is a combined MClSc/PhD student in Speech-Language Pathology, supervised by Dr. Lisa Archibald

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Evaluating Part V of the German version of the Token Test as a screening of specific language impairment in preschoolers.

Schmoeger, M., Deckert, M., Eisenwort, B., Loader, B., Hofmair, A., Auff, E., & Willinger, U. (2019). Evaluating Part V of the German version of the Token Test as a screening of specific language impairment in preschoolers. Applied Psycholinguistics, 41(1), 237–258.

Children with Developmental Language Disorders (DLD) have a persistent problem learning language despite normal development. DLD is also associated with weak verbal working memory, which is the ability to store and process some aspect of language in mind, and other impairments related to cognition and attention. A valid and efficient screening tool for DLD is therefore critical.

One tool that may be well suited to screen for DLD is Part 5 of the Token Test (De Renzi & Vignolo, 1962). The Token Test is a simple and easy tool used to assess language. In the Token Test, the child listens to the command and then points to the sequence of shapes, with commands increasing in length and complexity each time. Commands in Parts 1 to 4 involve pointing to shapes by colour and size and increase in length (e.g., Part 1: Point to the circle; Part 4: Point to the small, red circle and the large, blue square). Part 5, on the other hand, draws on different skills because it requires understanding long and linguistically complex commands (“Instead of touching the white square, touch the yellow circle”). The authors were interested in whether the Token Test may be a reliable tool for screening language and cognitive difficulties in DLD.

In this study, 4-6 year old children with DLD and typically developing children completed the Token Test and a test of intelligence. Not surprising, children with DLD made more mistakes than typically developing children on all parts of the Token Test, including the easiest and hardest parts. When looking at the whole sample, Part 5 was not shown to be an effective screening tool, but results were more promising for 4- and 5-year-olds. Part 5 was able to correctly classify children between ages 4-5. Further, Part 5 may also be a good indicator for general cognitive abilities. Children with DLD who were correctly classified by Part 5 showed worse performance on the verbal and non-verbal scales of the intelligence test than incorrectly classified children with DLD, whereas only the verbal scale correlated with Part 5 for typically developing children. 

The authors suggest that there are several advantages to the use of Part 5 of the Token Test as a clinical tool. But more research is needed to determine whether Part 5 and the Token Test more generally can be seen as a valid and efficient tool for screening DLD and intellectual skills.

De Renzi, A., & Vignolo, L. A. (1962). Token test: A sensitive test to detect receptive disturbances in aphasics. Brain, 85,665–678.

Blogger: Theresa Pham is a student in the combined SLP MClSc/PhD program, supervised by Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Lessons learned about the effective operationalization of champions as an implementation strategy: Results from a qualitative process evaluation of a pragmatic trial.

Bunce, A. E., Gruß, I., Davis, J. V., Cowburn, S., Cohen, D., Oakley, J., & Gold, R. (2020). Lessons learned about the effective operationalization of champions as an implementation strategy: Results from a qualitative process evaluation of a pragmatic trial. Implementation Science15(1), 1-12.


The field of implementation science focuses on identifying barriers to practice change and introducing implementation strategies to address such barriers. The current authors previously completed a project where they utilized 5 implementation strategies to integrate a new guideline into clinical practice. Clinics involved received varying level of implementation intensity, and they hypothesized that the greater number of intensive implementation supports received the greater the improvement in guideline integration. Results from this study revealed that greater supports did not lead to greater integration. This result led the authors to look further at specific implementation strategies and the success of specific strategies in individual community clinics. This also demonstrated the importance of operationalizing implementation strategies to better aid in the selection of strategies. 


In this study, the authors re-analyzed quantitative and qualitative data from the previous project. Results revealed that for the clinic sites demonstrating a significant pre-post difference in guideline integration, the two factors associated with this change were the influence of the “implementers” or “champions” and their impact on the organizational context. Implementers were defined as a champion for promoting guideline related activity and acting as a liaison between the health centre and the researchers.  In an analysis of the factors associated with change, the 4 key implementer characteristics were engagement in promoting intervention, influence to foster trust, credibility, and capacity. 


These results add to the literature supporting the use of implementers/champions and organizational support in efforts to change practice. Further these results open the discussion surrounding how to support these individuals and better operationalize what factors are associated with a successful implementer. Broadly, this research highlights the complexity of identifying what implementation strategies will support change in a clinical context.


Blogger: Meghan Vollebregt is a student in the combined SLP                                                                                                       MClSc/PhD program working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Individual Differences in Learning the Regularities Between Orthography, Phonology and Semantics Predict Early Reading Skills

Siegelman, N., Rueckl, J.G., Steacy, L.M., Frost, S.J., van den Bunt, M., Zevin, J.D., Seidenberg, M.S., Pugh, K.R., Compton, D.L., & Morris, R.D. (2020). Individual differences in learning the regularities between orthography, phonology and semantics predict early reading skills. Journal of Memory and Language, 114, 104145. 

Written language is made of many repeating patterns, or ‘regularities’. There are different types of regularities. Some are related to the connections between sounds (phonology) and letters (orthography), referred to in this study as orthographic-phonological consistency. Others are related to the connection between a word’s meaning (semantics) and written form. This orthographic-semantic consistency might be related to how easily a word can be pictured in your mind, that is, a word’s imageability. When reading words, orthographic-phonological regularities tend to be relatively systematic cues, whereas imageability is a relatively arbitrary cue. The authors of this study hypothesized that better readers were likely to display greater sensitivity to orthographic-phonological regularities while performing a word naming task (i.e., word reading), and rely less on other regularities such as imageability. 

In the first part of the study, the participants were 123 children aged 7-11 years old recruited from a larger study of children reading disability. As a result, 101 of these participants had been identified with reading disability. Children completed standardized measures of single word reading, nonword reading, reading fluency, and reading comprehension, as well as a word naming task in which children read single monosyllabic words aloud. The stimuli on the word naming task varied in their imageability, orthographic-phonological consistency, and frequency of occurrence in written language. The authors used logistic regression models to examine how orthographic-phonological regularity and imageability impacted each child’s accuracy on the word naming task, and how this relationship was related to individual differences in reading ability. They found that better reading abilities were associated with greater sensitivity to orthographic-phonological regularity and lower sensitivity to imageability, suggesting that better readers tend to rely more on orthographic-phonological regularities than imageability during word naming tasks. The authors also replicated these findings in a second sample of 282 children who represented a more normal distribution of reading ability, as well as in a third set of analyses in which they aggregated data from the two samples. 

Overall, these findings suggest better readers tend to be more sensitive to associations between print and speech during word naming, whereas poor readers tend to rely more on associations between print and meaning. Importantly, the authors note that this does not represent sensitivity to these regularities in general, rather, this is specific to the particular task being measured. In line with this, the authors suggest that early reading success relies on developing an efficient division of labour to different types of regularities based on which regularities are most useful to the task at hand. 

Blogger: Alex Cross is an M.Cl.Sc. and Ph.D. Candidate in Speech-Language Pathology, supervised by Dr. Lisa Archibald and Dr. Marc Joanisse.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

“Tell Me About Your Child”: A Grounded Theory Study of Mothers' Understanding of Language Disorder

Ash, A. C., Christopulos, T. T., & Redmond, S. M. (2020). “Tell me about your child”: A grounded theory study of mothers' understanding of language disorder. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology29(2), 819-840.

A mother who is concerned about her child’s language development and consults a speech-language pathologist (SLP) might expect to find out if the child has a language disorder, the name of the language disorder, and gain a better understanding of language disorders. “Disclosure” refers to the first instance that a diagnosis is communicated to parents. Previous work with children with a variety of development disabilities indicates that parents are typically unhappy with disclosure conversations. The disclosure process for language disorder in particular, however, has yet to be studied. 

In this study, twelve mothers of children receiving SLP services for the study were engaged in a semi-structured interview about the diagnostic process. Interview transcripts were coded and checked, and saturation was reached. Data analysis revealed four main themes relating to (1) confusion regarding diagnosis, related to the use of unclear or irrelevant labels for language disorder, (2) maternal distress regarding the language problem, (3) lack of trust or understanding of SLP and (4) general satisfaction with SLP services received. 

There are a number of important clinical applications of this work, although more research is undoubtedly needed. These results add to the growing body of evidence to suggest that one widely used label for language disorder, such as “Developmental Language Disorder” as proposed by the CATALISE consortium, would prove helpful to parents in understanding their child’s diagnosis and seeking resources accordingly. This may also alleviate some of the mistrust and misunderstanding participants’ reference in regards to working with an SLP. Additionally, the distress described by mother’s in regards to their child’s language difficulties long after therapy was initially recommended suggests more research is needed to understand the factors that contribute to this distress and how SLPs could help to mitigate it.   

Blogger: Taylor Bardell is a combined MClSc/PhD student in Speech-Language Pathology, supervised by Dr. Lisa Archibald

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Verbal Working Memory as Emergent from Language Comprehension and Production

Steven C. Schwering, & Maryellen C. Macdonald. (2020). Verbal Working Memory as Emergent from Language Comprehension and Production. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14, 68.
This review paper discusses current models of verbal working memory. Verbal working memory is the ability to temporarily hold aspects of language in mind (speech sounds, meaning-based information, grammar). Traditionally, verbal working memory is considered to be separate from long-term memory, that is, the information or knowledge stored in the brain over an extended period. The key issue considered in this paper is how long-term knowledge of the language influences verbal working memory.
There are two ways that long-term language knowledge might impact verbal working memory:
1.   Redintegration. Imagine you are asked to remember 3 words: ant, chair, birthday. A short time later you’re asked to recall the words and you realize you’ve forgotten the first word. You kind of remember that it was a short word for an insect, maybe starting with the “a” sound. After searching your long-term memory, you remember that the word was ant. In this way, you have used knowledge held in long-term memory to fill in the gaps in your verbal working memory. This is called redintegration.
2.   Integrated Language Model. According to more integrated accounts, verbal working memory is the temporary activation of long-term memory (rather than a separate memory store). It might be that when a word is encountered, full knowledge of the word is activated and available in working memory. This full activation is the rich emergent view. It could also be that only some of the information is activated from long-term memory whereas other information is held in working memory. This more restrictive view is the limited emergentaccount. 
There is growing evidence in favour of integrated language models. For instance, it is easier to repeat nonwords containing familiar sound sequences or familiar parts of words (e.g., -ing). Consider also the nature of language. In most sentences we say and hear, living things occur earlier than non-living things. This experience impacts the accuracy of word list recall both in terms of the likelihood of remembering a word and the order it appeared in the list. In line with the rich emergent account, memory for an item in a list and its order cannot be easily separated. Instead, it is important to understand how different aspects of a linguistic representation influence each other and are integrated during language processing.  
Viewing verbal working memory from an integrated perspective has implications for clinical tools and research moving forward. For instance, tools used to measure verbal working memory may be tapping higher language skills (encoding, maintenance, and ordering) beyond memory span or capacity. Language use (turn-taking) may draw on domain-general resources (attention, cognitive control), in addition to more language-based knowledge (understanding and planning speech). Finally, knowing that language production and comprehension involves interactions of all aspects of a linguistic representation will inform future research questions such as how interference among similar words affects verbal output or how language experience influences comprehension difficulty.

Blogger: Theresa Pham is a student in the combined SLP MClSc/PhD program, supervised by Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Efficacy of a Knowledge Translation Approach in Changing Allied Health Practitioner Use of Evidence-Based Practice with Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Before and After Longitudinal Study

Imms, C., Kerr, C., Bowe, S. J., Karlsson, P., Novak, I., Shields, N., Reddihough, D., & Best Service Best Time Author Group. (2020). Efficacy of a knowledge translation approach in changing allied health practitioner use of evidence-based practices with children with cerebral palsy: A before and after longitudinal study. Disability and Rehabilitation, 1-14.

Early intervention programs provide on-going evidence-based assessment and intervention to support children who born with developmental delays and disabilities, and their families. During the time of this research an early intervention assessment program was being implemented in Australia for children with cerebral palsy. The program involved on-going and comprehensive assessment and monitoring of musculoskeletal functioning, pain, sleep, and communication of children with cerebral palsy. The introduction of a new early intervention requires change in clinician and organizational behaviours which can be difficult to accomplish without the use of behaviour changing strategies. Knowledge translation (KT) approaches can be used to support the implementation of the early intervention and facilitate behaviour change. KT approaches incorporate activities that support the movement of research into practice.

The present study reported outcomes related to the KT strategies that were adopted to increase the use of evidence-based assessment behaviours by clinicians. Four KT strategies were implemented into 4 hospitals (commencing group) and outcomes were compared to a 5th hospital (comparison group) where the KT strategies and early intervention had already been implemented for 2 years. The strategies included: the introduction of knowledge brokers to identify barriers to implementation, targeted education to increase clinician knowledge, an online library to provide easy access to scholarly evidence, and an online database for clinicians to record assessment results. Researchers were interested in (1) whether these tailored KT strategies increased the number of children receiving routine assessments, (2) if clinicians’ knowledge of evidence-based interventions would increase, and (3) how the outcomes from the commencing group were related to the comparison group. Data were collected from knowledge quizzes and the online database of assessments. Results revealed that there was not a significant increase in the number of assessments completed over time for the commencing group. However, more assessments were completed as a result of the intervention, which narrowed the gap between the commencing group and the comparison group. Knowledge scores did not change over time for either group, however, the clinicians reported an increase in the frequency that they communicated evidence-based expectations.

These results underscore the challenge of changing clinical practice. Nevertheless, even without knowledge change, the use of KT strategies increased evidenced-based assessment behaviours among clinicians in a hospital setting. This research demonstrates the complexity of a KT intervention and suggests the need for a multicomponent KT intervention in supporting clinician and organizational behaviour change.

Blogger: Meghan Vollebregt is a student in the combined SLP MClSc/PhD program working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Classwide Extensions of Vocabulary Intervention Improve Learning of Academic Vocabulary by Preschoolers

Seven, Y., Hull, K., Madsen, K., Ferron, J., Peters-Sanders, L., Soto, X., Kelley, E. A. & Goldstein, H. (2020). Classwide extensions of vocabulary intervention improve learning of academic vocabulary by preschoolers. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 63(1), 173-189.

Recent research has demonstrated that explicit teaching about words is an important part of effective vocabulary intervention. One example of explicit vocabulary teaching comes from the Story Friends curriculum designed by Goldstein and colleagues (2016). In the Story Friends program, children listen to pre-recorded audio storybooks in which target vocabulary words are introduced. The introduction of a target word is immediately followed by explicit teaching of that word. Children are exposed to that word in different contexts and over one-week children hear the story book three times. The intervention is 11 weeks long, includes 8 story books and 4 target vocabulary words per book. This program has been shown to support vocabulary development in preschool children. The current research wanted to extend the use of this program and combine it with Classwide Vocabulary Review Strategies (CVRS). CVRS are strategies for teachers to use with their whole class to increase vocabulary learning in children who are receiving the small group, Story Friends intervention. CVRS strategies include repeating the word, restating the definition and engaging in activities that involve using the word.

The present study examined the influence and implementation of CVRS in a preschool classroom. Researchers were interested in (1) whether the CVRS benefitted vocabulary development above and beyond the traditional Story Friends program and (2) teachers’ opinion of implementing CVRS in their classrooms. Prior to the intervention, children completed measures of expressive and receptive language, and during the intervention children completed weekly probes which assessed if a child had understood and remembered the vocabulary words introduced in the stories. Results revealed that for children who participated in the Story Friends program with CVRS, their vocabulary gain was twice that of children who only received the Story Friends intervention. When examining a group of children who only received the CVRS from the classroom teachers, these children demonstrated significantly more vocabulary gains than children who did not receive the CVRS. Finally, teachers were motivated to implement the CRVS, felt that they could use the target vocabulary words in their classroom, and thought that the strategies could be implemented in a reasonable amount of time.

These results suggest that the classwide extension of the Story Friends program supports a child’s vocabulary development above and beyond the Story Friends program. These findings provide further evidence that children learn new vocabulary better when the words are explicitly taught, they hear the words multiple times in different contexts, and they can engage in activities using the words.

Blogger: Meghan Vollebregt is a student in the combined SLP MClSc/PhD program working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Predicting Dyslexia in Children with Developmental Language Disorder

Alonzo, McIlraith, Catts, & Hogan (2019). Predicting dyslexia in children with developmental language disorder. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 63, 151-162.

This paper examines early predictors of reading ability in children with developmental language disorder (DLD) and children with typical language. Measures of phonological processing, including phonological awareness, are often used as predictors of later reading ability and dyslexia. However, children with DLD are known to have poor phonological processing in early school aged years, but not all children with DLD go on to have reading problems. Another early skill known to predict reading ability is letter identification. The aim of the present study was to examine how Grade 2 reading abilities in children with DLD and children with typical language are predicted by kindergarten phonological awareness and letter identification.

The study used a subset of data from 473 children, from a previous longitudinal study of 7218 children (cite). In kindergarten, the participants completed measures of expressive and receptive language, phonological awareness, and letter identification. In grade 2, children completed a measure of single word reading abilities. Participants were categorized into a DLD group and TD group based on their performance on the expressive and receptive language measures. Additionally, participants were categorized as having dyslexia if they scored below the 16th percentile on the reading task administered in grade 2. The authors used a number of regression analyses to examine how phonological awareness and letter identification predict dyslexia and reading ability in the DLD and typical language groups. In general, results for the DLD group showed that letter word identification was a strong predictor of grade 2 word reading and phonological awareness did not contribute to predicting unique variance. For the TD group, on the other hand, phonological awareness and letter identification predicted grade 2 reading, with the latter being a stronger predictor in poorer readers.

Overall, these findings suggest that letter identification is an early predictor in both children with DLD and children with typical language, however, the role of phonological awareness varies between the two groups. Although phonological awareness is a strong predictor of reading in children with typical language, it may not have the specificity or sensitivity to be used to predict reading and dyslexia in children with DLD, given their poor phonological processing abilities. Currently, most dyslexia screeners are focused on measures of phonological processing, which is likely to result in false positives in children with DLD. The authors suggest that screeners should include both phonological awareness and letter identification measures, as well as measures of early language skills such as sentence imitation, grammatical awareness, or comprehension for better early identification of DLD.

Blogger: Alex Cross is a M.Cl.Sc. and Ph.D. Candidate in Speech-Language Pathology, supervised by Dr. Lisa Archibald and Dr. Marc Joanisse.