Mitigating the Effect of Language in the Assessment of Science:A study of English-language learners in primary classrooms in the United Kingdom

Afitska, Oksana and Heaton, Timothy (2019) Mitigating the Effect of Language in the Assessment of Science:A study of English-language learners in primary classrooms in the United Kingdom. Science Education, 103 (6). pp. 1396-1422. ISSN 1098-237X

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Abstract

Children coming from homes where English is not the primary language constitute a significant and increasing proportion of classrooms worldwide. Providing these English language learners (ELLs) with equitable assessment opportunities is a challenge. We analyse the performance of 485 students, both English native speakers and ELLs, across 5 schools within the UK in the 7-11 year age group on standardized Science assessment tasks. Logistic regression with random effects assesses the impact of English language proficiency, and its interactions with question traits, on performance. Traits investigated were: question focus; need for active language production; presence/absence of visuals; and question difficulty. Results demonstrated that, while ELLs persistently performed more poorly, the gap to their native speaking peers depended significantly upon assessment traits. ELLs were particularly disadvantaged when responses required active language production and/or when assessed on specific scientific vocabulary. Visual prompts did not help ELL performance. There was no evidence of an interaction between topic difficulty and language ability suggesting lower ELL performance is not related to capacity to understand advanced topics. We propose assessment should permit flexibility in language choice for ELLs with low English language proficiency; while simultaneously recommend subject-specific teaching of scientific language begins at lower stages of schooling.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Science Education
Additional Information:
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Afitska, O, Heaton, TJ. Mitigating the effect of language in the assessment of science: A study of English‐language learners in primary classrooms in the United Kingdom. Science Education. 2019; 1– 27. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21545 which has been published in final form at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/sce.21545 This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving. 30/08/2019
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1200/1207
Subjects:
ID Code:
136504
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
03 Sep 2019 13:00
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2020 05:44