Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Vocabulary Approach for Young Latino Dual Language Learners

Mendez, L.I., Crais, E.R., Castro, D.C. & Kainz. (2015). A culturally and linguistically responsive vocabulary approach for young Latino Dual Language Learners. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 58, 93-106. doi: 10.1044/2014_JSLHR-L-12-0221.

Dual Language Learners (DLLs) know different words in each of their languages; as a result, they know fewer words in any one language than their monolingual peers.

The present study examined the impact of the language of vocabulary instruction in supporting the ability to understand English vocabulary in DLL from low income families attending Latino preschools. Instruction using only English as the language of vocabulary instruction was compared to using both Spanish (first language; L1) and English (second Language; L2).  
Spanish-speaking preschoolers were randomly assigned to either vocabulary instruction group. In each group, DLLs were presented with 30 words using similar shared reading instruction. In the dual language instruction group, the target words were presented first in L1 (Spanish) then in L2 (English), while in the single language group the target words were presented in English only.    

The main finding was that DLLs demonstrated higher vocabulary acquisition in English and Spanish when in the dual than single language instruction group. This result suggests that presenting English target words in L1 first might help DLLs to use the lexical and conceptual knowledge from L1 to facilitate learning in L2. Importantly, using both L1 and L2 as languages of vocabulary instruction supports language development in DLLs.

Blogger: Areej Balilah, PhD Candidate  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Domain-specific knowledge and why teaching generic skills does not work.

Tricot, A., & Sweller, J. (2014). Domain-specific knowledge and why teaching generic skills does not work. Educational Psychology Review, 26, 265-283.

Domain-general skills are skills that can be used to solve any problem in any area. Tricot and Sweller argue that these skills are acquired automatically for biological evolutionary reasons and so are unteachable. Examples of such biologically primary knowledge include learning to listen and speak, learning to recognize faces, engage in social relations, or basic number sense.

Domain-specific knowledge, on the other hand, refers to memorized information that can lead to action permitting specified task completion over indefinite periods of time. Tricot and Sweller argue that acquiring domain-specific knowledge requires learning of specific rules for solving a problem (e.g., an equation), and the moves associated with this state (e.g., when the equation must be applied). The authors consider domain-specific information to be teachable aspects of problem solving skills. The acquisition of this domain-specific or biologically secondary knowledge is viewed as heavily dependent on the prior acquisition of primary knowledge. Tricot and Sweller go on to review several lines of evidence showing that expert knowledge in a specific domain does not yield expertise across domains, but can be applied within the domain to advantage.

The authors provide two examples of instructional strategies that follow from their views on the acquisition of domain-general (biologically primary) and domain-specific (biologically secondary) information. (1) The worked example effect. Novice learners benefit from studying worked example formats. Studying a worked exampled reduces the amount of extraneous (unnecessary) work being done by working memory to generate a large set of potential solutions to a problem. By seeing the solution, working memory resources can be devoted to learning to recognize the problem and its associated moves. (2) The expertise reversal effect. Reviewing worked examples is a disadvantage for expert learners probably because working memory resources are devoted to information the expert learner has already acquired. Instead, expert learners need practice at solving the problems so that they can more automatically recognize the relevant problems and their associated moves.

Blogger: Lisa Archibald

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Consequences of Bilingualism for Cognitive Development

Bialystok, E. (2005). Consequences of bilingualism for cognitive development. In J. F. Kroll and A. M. B. DeGroot (Eds.) Handbook of bilingualism (pp. 417-432). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

            The performance of bilingual and monolingual children on cognitive tasks has been compared for decades in psychology research. Historically, research has suggested a bilingual disadvantage for cognitive tasks, such as IQ measures and mathematics problems. As Bialystok presented in this review chapter, however, many of the measures used require a considerable amount of language processing, and bilingual children may be being tested in a language they are only beginning to learn. Of course, this would offer a clear advantage to monolingual children who are being tested in their native language. In light of this bias, recent testing has focused on creating more balanced tasks for monolingual and bilingual children. And in fact, as Bialystok’s review shows, bilingual children appear to show an advantage on certain kinds of tasks.

            Bilingual children seem to show a considerable advantage in tasks that require controlling attention and inhibiting misleading information. For example, in studies involving a Towers Task, young monolingual and bilingual children were shown two towers: One made of Lego blocks, and one made of Duplo blocks. The Duplo blocks were identical to the Lego blocks, except they were twice the size. The two towers contained the same amount of blocks, and children were required to count the number of blocks in each tower. The height of the Duplo tower was hard to ignore, but it was a misleading cue. Bilingual children performed better than their monolingual peers on counting the number of blocks in each tower, and ignoring the height of the tower. Bilingual children were more able to control their attention in attending to the counting task and ignoring the misleading height cue. Advantages for bilingual children on these skills seem to fit with the idea that they are constantly inhibiting interference between their two (or more) languages when they are using language.

            There does not seem to be a bilingual or a monolingual advantage on some cognitive tasks. However, certain features of the tasks will affect children’s performance. If the task requires a high amount of language skills, such as mathematical word problem, children being tested in their native language may perform better. Or, if the task requires controlling attention and inhibiting misleading information, bilingual children may show an advantage. When testing bilingual children it is important to take into account their verbal skills in the language in which they are being tested. And, it is interesting to consider the areas in which bilingual children may be at an advantage due to their ability to use multiple languages.

Blogger: Nicolette Noonan, PhD student with Drs. Lisa Archibald and Marc Joanisse, and coordinator of the Canadian SLP blog.