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  1. Foreign Language and WAIS III Scores Jack Trammell, Ph.D.

  2. General outline of challenge • At R-MC MATH and FOREIGN LANGUAGE are the two content areas where students struggle the most consistently (high failure rates, self-reported difficulty, advisors) • By some estimates, up to 20% of the general population struggles with learning a second language in the traditional FL classroom setting • Generally, language-related learning disorders are diagnosed in 3 to 5% of the population • Research shows FL difficulty rates of as high as 35% within certain families

  3. Factoids and Factors

  4. Areas of the WAIS III

  5. (Cynthia A. Riccio, George W. Hynd)

  6. Verbal scales: Information: Similar to "Trivial Pursuit," this subtest measures fund of factual information. It is strongly influenced by culture. An American education and intact long-term memory will contribute to a higher score. Sample question (not really on the tests): "What is the capital of France?" Comprehension: This subtest measures understanding of social conventions and common sense. It is also culturally loaded. Sample question: "What is the thing to do if you find an injured person laying on the sidewalk?" Digit Span: Requires the repetition of number strings forward and backwards. Measures concentration, attention, and immediate memory. Lower scores are obtained by persons with an attention deficit or anxiety. Similarities: This subtest measures verbal abstract reasoning and conceptualization abilities. The individual is asked how two things are alike. Sample question: "How are a snake and an alligator alike?" Vocabulary: This test measures receptive and expressive vocabulary. It is the best overall measure of general intelligence (assuming the test-taker's native language is English). Sample question: "What is the meaning of the word 'articulate'?" Arithmetic: Consists of mathematical word problems which are performed mentally. Measures attention, concentration, and numeric reasoning. Sample question: "John bought three books for five dollars each, and paid ten percent sales tax. How much did he pay all together?“ (From

  7. Performance Scales: Object Assembly: Consists of jigsaw puzzles. Measures visual-spatial abilities and ability to see how parts make up a whole (this subtest is optional on the revised Wechsler tests). Block Design: One of the strongest measures of nonverbal intelligence and reasoning. Consists of colored blocks which are put together to make designs. Digit Symbol/Coding/Animal House: Symbols are matched with numbers or shapes according to a key. Measures visual-motor speed and short-term visual memory. Picture Arrangement: Requires that pictures be arranged in order to tell a story. Measures nonverbal understanding of social interaction and ability to reason sequentially. Picture Completion: Requires recognition of the missing part in pictures. Measures visual perception, long-term visual memory, and the ability to differentiate essential from inessential details. Matrix Reasoning: (WAIS-III only) Modeled after Raven's Progressive Matrices, this is an untimed test which measures abstract nonverbal reasoning ability. It consists of a sequence or group of designs, and the individual is required to fill in a missing design from a number of choices. (From

  8. What I found (N = 112) Table 1 Participants by Primary Disability Type Reported (31.3% freshmen, 48% female) ____________________________________________________________ Disability Category Frequency Percent ____________________________________________________________ Processing-Related 34 30.4% Reading 29 25.9% Math 19 17.0% Auditory/CAPD 19 17.0% Writing 7 6.3% Visual/Spatial 4 3.6% ____________________________________________________________

  9. Data 2 Table 2 Initial Foreign Language Pathways and Success (N = 112) ________________________________________________________________________ Language Number of Students FL GPA (4 point) ________________________________________________________________________ Spanish 29 1.68 French 6 2.62 German 5 2.67 Latin 7 1.05 Chinese 6 3.37 Greek 2 2.34 No attempt/Withdrew 57N/A ________________________________________________________________________ OVERALL FOREIGN LANGUAGE GPA 2.13

  10. Data 3 Table 3 Mean WAIS (III) scores (N = 112) all students with LD ______________________________________________________________________________ Sub Test n (All) Score ______________________________________________________________________________ Vocabulary 111 11.95 Similarities 111 11.77 Arithmetic 107 9.91 Digit Span 111 9.29 Information 110 11.26 Letter-Number Sequencing 389.21 Comprehension 83 11.84 Picture Completion 94 10.49 Digit-Symbol Coding 110 9.08 Block Design 110 10.81 Matrix Reasoning 107 11.68 Picture Arrangement 91 10.86 Symbol Search 1019.84 Object Assembly 0 N/A ______________________________________________________________________________

  11. A key finding… • No significant WAIS differences between those who pursued a FLS and those who didn’t… (and this is a double edged sword) • Confirmation perhaps of LD constructs, but not necessarily FLS

  12. Significant Correlations 43.6% of the students successfully were granted a foreign language substitution • Foreign language GPAs went up on average at each level EVIDENCE FLS WORKS • Matrix reasoning and 111GPA p = .028 (positive) SKATE BY EFFECT • Information and 212GPA p = .025 (negative) PROCESSING CATCHING UP • Symbols Search and all levels of GPA except 212 p < .05 (negative) PREDICTS FOREIGN LANGUAGE FAILURE

  13. Graduation Rates over five years Students without disabilities 56% Students with disabilities 62% Students with foreign lang. subst. 84%

  14. Implications for learning centers and learning support • Why don’t we have SI models for foreign language interventions? • Why are FL placement tests so notoriously inaccurate? • Should DSS offices be proactive in “herding” at risk LD students to resources (including substitution)? What implications are there for volition, independence, and the value of foreign language in the curriculum? • If no FLS is available, what can learning centers offer?

  15. Implications for learning centers and learning support • How can tutoring be geared toward this cognitive profile? It likely should be visual, repetitive, chunked, and utilize as many English analogs as possible (ex. Tense). • Spelling and grammar seem to be significantly more difficult with this cohort. Perhaps specific tutoring strategies can be developed that play to visual and reasoning strengths.

  16. Advising threads to follow: • Strong math and/or music skills • Strong visual processing skills • Obvious struggles in Spanish • Diagnosis of a math oriented LD • Latin • Chinese • No French or German! • Often FLS eligible

  17. References and Resources Silva, Mark A. (2008). Development of the WAIS-III: A brief overview, history, and description, Graduate Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1(1), pp. 116-135. Meschyan, G., & Hernandez, A. (2002). Is native-language decoding skill related to second-language learning? Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(1), pp. 14-22.

  18. Contact Information Jack Trammell, Ph.D. Randolph-Macon College P. O. Box 5005 Ashland, VA 23005 (804) 752-7343