The English language abilities of Grade R learners in an English-medium South African classroom : is there a correlation between objective measurements and teacher and parent perceptions?

Grove, Agneta Alison (2019-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: English is the preferred language of learning and teaching in South African schools (Badenhorst & Van der Merwe, 2017). Whilst there are various factors working together to cause this default preference (see Heugh, 2008), in many cases, learners have not been adequately exposed to English by the time they enter the Foundation Phase, which results in academic difficulties for them (Lessing & De Witt, 2005). This thesis stems from my practical experience with the difficulties that English second language (L2) learners in English-medium classes experience. Their inabilities to express themselves easily and adequately and to progress sufficiently academically in a language that is not their mother tongue are difficult to address. They experience problems with listening, speaking, understanding, reading and writing, and require parental and educational support in order to succeed (Dixon & Peake, 2008). In this study, the English language abilities of a group of 87 Grade R learners at two different schools were assessed with standardised child language assessment instruments. Within this group, there were first language (L1) speakers of English (n = 20) and L2 speakers of English (n = 67). Each learner was assessed individually with a test of receptive vocabulary, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (Fourth Edition). Their expressive vocabulary was also assessed, by means of the Renfrew Word Finding Scale. The Renfrew Action Picture Test was used to assess the amount of information provided and grammar used during picture description. The learners’ narrative skills (information conveyed during story-retelling) and sentence length when talking were also assessed, with the Renfrew Bus Story Test. Lastly, their school readiness on verbal levels was assessed, with the Kindergarten Language School Readiness Test (Second Edition). Thereafter, the parents and the teachers were requested to assess the learners on the same language skills. The test results on the objective measures were then correlated with the ratings given by the teachers and the parents. It was found that there were large inter-correlations between the scores obtained on the objective tests. There were, however, discrepancies between the results of these tests and the ratings by the parents and teachers of the language abilities of the participants. Both groups (parents and teachers) rated the participants higher, indicating perceived better skills than what the objective tests indicated. As was found in several other studies (see White, 2018; Lessing & De Witt, 2005), the English L1 learners outperformed the L2 learners on all language measures. There was furthermore a difference in scores between the two schools: The school with more English L1 learners outperformed the school with more L2 learners. Reasons for the lack of correlation between the objective measurement of Grade R learners’ language abilities and the teacher and parent ratings of these abilities should be further investigated. This is particularly important because most referrals of Grade R learners to speech-language therapists are made by teachers or parents, and therefore it is important that these adults have a good basis on which to decide whom to refer for language screening.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Merwe, 2017). Terwyl ‘n kombinasie van verskeie faktore verantwoordelik is vir hierdie voorkeur (sien Heugh, 2008), het leerders in baie gevalle teen die tyd wat hulle die Grondslagfase betree, nog nie voldoende blootstelling aan Engels ontvang nie, wat vir hulle akademiese probleme veroorsaak (Lessing & De Witt, 2005). Hierdie tesis spruit uit my praktiese ondervinding met die probleme wat Engels tweedetaal- (T2) leerders in Engels-medium klasse ondervind. Hulle onvermoë om hulleself maklik en duidelik genoeg uit te druk en om voldoende te vorder in ‘n taal wat nie hulle moedertaal is nie, is moeilik om aan te spreek. Hulle ondervind probleme met luister, praat, verstaan, lees en skryf, en benodig ouer- en opvoedkundige ondersteuning om sukses te behaal (Dixon & Peake, 2008). In hierdie studie is die Engelse taalvaardighede van ‘n groep van 87 Graad R-leerders by twee verskillende skole geassesseer deur middel van gestandardiseerde kindertaalassessering-instrumente. Binne hierdie groep was daar eerstetaal- (T1) sprekers van Engels (n = 20) en T2-sprekers van Engels (n = 67). Elke leerder is individueel geassesseer deur middel van ‘n toets van reseptiewe woordeskat, die Peabody Prentewoordeskattoets (“Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test”) (Vierde Uitgawe). Hulle ekspressiewe woordeskat is ook getoets, met die Renfrew Woordvindingskaal (“Renfrew Word Finding Scale”). Die Renfrew Aksieprentetoets (“Renfrew Action Picture Test”) is gebruik om die hoeveelheid inligting wat voorsien is en die grammatika wat gebruik is tydens prentbeskrywing te assesseer. Die leerders se narratiewe vaardighede (inligting oorgedra tydens storie-oorvertelling) en sinslengte tydens spraak is ook geassesseer met behulp van die Renfrew Busstorietoets (“Renfrew Bus Story Test”). Laastens is hulle skoolgereedheid op verbale vlakke geassesseer met die Kleuterskool-taalskoolgereedheidstoets (“Kindergarten Language School Readiness Test”) (Tweede Uitgawe). Daarna is die ouers en onderwysers versoek om die leerders op dieselfde taalvaardighede te assesseer. Die toetsresultate van die objektiewe toetse is toe gekorreleer met die oordele van die onderwysers en ouers. Daar is groot interkorrelasies gevind tussen die puntetellings op die objektiewe toetse. Daar was egter teenstrydighede tussen die resultate van hierdie toetse en die ouers en onderwysers se oordele van die deelnemers se taalvaardighede. Beide groepe (ouers en onderwysers) het die deelnemers hoër geskat en hulle vaardighede as beter geoordeel as wat die objektiewe metings aangedui het. Soos ook gevind is in verskeie ander studies (kyk White, 2018; Lessing & De Witt, 2005), het die Engelse T1-leerders beter gevaar as die T2-leerders op al die toetse. Verder was daar ‘n verskil tussen die twee skole se puntetellings: Die skool met meer Engelse T1-leerders het beter gevaar as die skool met meer T2-leerders. Redes vir die gebrek aan ‘n korrelasie tussen die objektiewe metings van die Gr R-leerders se taalvaardighede en die ouers en onderwysers se skattings, behoort verder ondersoek te word. Dit is veral belangrik omdat meeste verwysings van Gr R-leerders na spraak-taalterapeute deur ouers en onderwysers gemaak word, en dit daarom belangrik is dat hierdie volwassenes ‘n goeie basis het op grond waarvan hulle kan besluit wie om vir taaltoetsing te verwys.

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