Considerations for the Assessment of Second-Language Learners at Risk of Dyslexia using MABEL – A Multilingual Literacy Assessment Tool

22nd February 2022 : 13:00 - 14:00

Category: Seminar Webinar

Research Group: Applied Linguistics

Speaker: Dr Marketa Caravolas (Bangor University)

Location: Online- Teams

Convener: Faidra Faitaki

Audience: Public

Click here to join on the day of the event.

Speaker: Dr Marketa Caravolas (Bangor University)

Abstract: With the global rise in migration and immigration, increasing numbers of children speaking diverse home languages are being schooled in a second or additional language. On average, additional language learners (ALLs) lag behind their monolingual peers in literacy skills during the primary school years. Yet, educators often lack the tools and/or the training to assess and support ALLs who may be struggling in the school language, and to differentiate between children with a temporary literacy delay due to insufficient knowledge of the school language from those who have a language-based neurocognitive disorder which places them at particular risk of poor literacy and general educational outcomes (Strand, 2021). Progress in this area awaits research to better understand the multi-causal pathways to literacy development among ALLs, and to alleviate the practical challenges for their assessment in the multilingual context. 

In this presentation, we propose a way forward based on findings from a series of direct cross-linguistic investigations of monolingual school beginners’ literacy skills (the ELDEL project). In tracking and assessing children longitudinally in five countries/languages over the Key Stage 1 years, these studies confirmed several universal cognitive predictors of individual differences in attainments and growth of word reading and spelling. We will summarize the key findings of ELDEL and will showcase the arising non-commercial, free to use assessment tool called Multilanguage Assessment Battery of Early Literacy (MABEL) as a model for reliably assessing ALL pupils’ predictive profiles in various multilingual settings. MABEL comprises the most robust of these measures in a battery of 15 directly comparable tests across six typologically distinct Indo-European languages with differing orthographies (additional language versions in development).  This battery will provide the blueprint for further test adaptations that could easily be integrated into routine school assessments of children’s home and school language proficiency and their potential literacy needs.

Bio: Marketa Caravolas is a Reader in Psychology at Bangor University. Her main research interests are in literacy development in typical populations and in groups with Specific Learning Difficulties, especially dyslexia. Much of her work includes longitudinal and cross-linguistic designs in monolingual and bilingual learners. A number of her research projects have led to the development of standarised test batteries for the assessment of children’s literacy skills in languages including English, Czech, Slovak, Spanish and Welsh. She works with researchers in the UK as well as in a number of countries in Europe and North America, and has headed up a wide variety of externally-funded, international projects pertaining to literacy development and its disorders.