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Dynamic Assessment and Informed Intervention for Children with Language Impairment

Hasson, N. (2011). Dynamic Assessment and Informed Intervention for Children with Language Impairment. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Although speech and language therapy practitioners commonly place great weight on standardised, static assessment, the procedures may not be fully representative, and reveal little about the child’s learning potential or the direction that intervention should take. Vygotsky’s theories, particularly his notion of the Zone of Proximal Development, underpin a range of approaches within the complementary assessment paradigm known as Dynamic Assessment (DA) (Vygotsky 1986). The term is used for assessments consisting of ‘active intervention by the examiners and assessment of examinees’ response to intervention” (Haywood and Lidz 2007 P1)

The current project investigated the application of Dynamic Assessment to a population of children with previously identified Language Impairments. As in parallel studies of intelligence, both manifest skills of language, and underlying processes used in manipulating and constructing language as a tool, were elucidated. The contribution that such an assessment can make to extending the understanding of language impairment, and in devising intervention programmes was investigated.

This thesis describes the development of a Dynamic Assessment task requiring implicit knowledge of syntactic structure. The construction of the procedure was a novel adaptation and combination of established DA methodologies that are described and evaluated in Chapter 1. The task, which is essentially a sentence anagram, comprised 12 items specifically selected to assess particular grammatical structures reported in Chapter 2 to be problematic in children with Specific Language Impairments (SLI). The details of the task construction are reported in Chapter 3. The measure was employed on 24 children aged 8-10, with identified language impairment, and the results are reported in Chapter 4. Inter-rater reliability of the test measure was 88%, and the sensitivity of the test to change over time was demonstrated. Information about participants’ ability to transfer learning between items, their ability to use less directive prompts, their strategy use, and their metalinguistic and metacognitive awareness was extracted, and reported to the speech and language therapists working with the children. Evaluation of the test is discussed in Chapter 5.

The thesis also reports on an investigation of the role of the information derived from the DA in informing intervention programmes (Chapter 6). The same cohort of 24 children with SLI was randomly allocated to two groups. Reports from the DA were used to inform the ongoing language intervention of one of the groups of children. In Chapter 7 the outcomes of therapy from that group were compared to the outcomes of the group receiving regular intervention. Differences between groups were nonsignificant although the gains achieved by subgroups of children were predicted, and in particular children making little progress in their ongoing therapy were shown to derive most benefit from the modified intervention. The information was rated as useful by participating SLTs who altered the nature of their intervention strategies. Discussion of the results and identification of factors such as emotional and behavioural issues that affect progress in intervention are discussed in Chapter 8. Implications for further development of the DA paradigm are discussed, and conclusions are summarized in Chapter 9.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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