Dr. Patrick Rosenburg, Winner of 2019 Ann S. Ferren Research Fund in Education Award, Published in Frontiers in Communications

Frontiers in Communication has published “The Development and Evaluation of a New ASL Text Comprehension Task,” a new study that examines the reliability of the American Sign Language Text Comprehension Task (ASL-CMP), an assessment tool designed to measure deaf children’s development of higher-order ASL comprehension skills.

The study’s lead author is Patrick Rosenburg, EdD, a recent graduate of BU Wheelock and the inaugural recipient of Ann S. Ferren Research Fund in Education Award. That award, granted in spring 2019, helped provide support for the research efforts that went into this new publication.

Dr. Rosenburg’s co-authors include BU Wheelock faculty members Dr. Amy Lieberman and Dr. Naomi Caselli, and emeritus faculty member Dr. Robert Hoffmeister. In the introduction to their article, the authors note how most presently-available ASL assessment tools focus on mastery of lower-level skills such as syntax, lexicon, and phonology. There is thus a need for reliable assessment tools that measure children’s “ability to use language to construct meaning, draw inferences, and make connections to world knowledge.”

In the article, the authors share that the process for creating ASL-CMP involved a team of deaf native-signing linguists and educators and hearing linguists who are familiar with ASL. That team developed ASL-CMP was developed as a subtest of the ASLAI, a large, comprehensive, norm-referenced ASL assessment which has been used to test receptive ASL skills in Deaf children from ages 4–18 years across the United States. Positioned as a new task within the ASLAI, the ASL-CMP consists of multiple-choice questions presented in ASL administered via computer.

The team first administered the ASL-CMP to a group of deaf children, ages 8-18, with deaf parents. This helped the team evaluate the reliability and validity of the test, and revealed that the ASL-CMP had acceptable levels of internal consistency, difficulty, and discriminability.

Next, the team administered ASL-CMP to an additional group of deaf children, also ages 8-18, with hearing parents. This step revealed that the ASL-CMP’s sensitivity to patterns established by prior research: older children have better ASL text comprehension skills, literal questions are generally easier to answer than inferential questions, and children with early exposure to ASL generally outperform those with delayed exposure.

Dr. Rosenburg and his team conclude, based on their analysis of the administered tests, that the ASL-CMP task is “reliable and valid and can be used to characterize ASL text comprehension skills in deaf children.” They note that the ASL-CMP can be used by clinicians and practitioners in determining whether a child has age-appropriate ASL text comprehension skills, and that teachers may use the test to adapt their instruction to support the development of higher-level thinking skills, and to assess the quality and effectiveness of their ASL instructional approaches.

Reliable ASL text comprehension assessment is an important step toward changing how text comprehension is typically understood. Moving from that traditional conception, which centers around comprehension of a written composition (book, article, essay, or poem), to a broader conception of literacy “makes it possible to see that higher-level thinking skills underlie the ability to consume compositions of a wide range of forms.” The authors point out the importance of considering how ASL text comprehension supports children’s development of other schools, both within and across languages. Thanks to their newly-developed tool for assessing ASL text comprehension, educators and researchers may now begin to empirically test that idea.

Read the full article on the Frontiers website.