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Linguistic simplification of mathematics items: effects for language minority students in Germany

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Abstract

In large-scale assessment studies, language minority students typically obtain lower test scores in mathematics than native speakers. Although this performance difference was related to the linguistic complexity of test items in some studies, other studies did not find linguistically demanding math items to be disproportionally more difficult for language minority students than for native speakers. Furthermore, previous studies investigating the effectiveness of linguistic simplification of test items have yielded inconsistent results. We tested the impact of linguistic simplifications of mathematics test items in Germany with a specific focus on the role of academic language features included in the items. Specifically, we carried out a large-scale linguistic simplification study to test whether the performance gap between language minority students and German monolinguals is smaller when students are assessed with linguistically simplified items. We additionally determined whether students’ socioeconomic status (SES) or their language proficiency moderate the effect of linguistic simplification. The study uses data from 17,738 fourth graders, 17 % of whom sometimes or always spoke a language other than German at home. Although differences between language minority students and German monolinguals in mathematics achievement were related to differences in their language proficiency and SES, we found no significant main effects of linguistic simplification. Differential effects for language minority students emerged, however, when we took the moderator effects of SES and language proficiency into account, indicating that some language minority students may profit from linguistic simplification in elementary school.

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Notes

  1. We repeated all analyses using a reduced data set of students with complete data (N Persons = 13,083). The results of these analyses were comparable to the results reported in the paper.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

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Correspondence to Nicole Haag.

Additional information

Nicole Haag Institute for Educational Quality Improvement (IQB), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany, nicole.haag@iqb.hu-berlin.de, www.iqb.hu-berlin.de

Current themes of research:

Interplay of mathematics and language, immigration-related disparities in school achievement, item response theory research methods.

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Haag, N., Heppt, B., Stanat, P., Kuhl, P. & Pant, H. A. (2013). Second language learners’ performance in mathematics: Disentangling the effects of academic language features. Learning and Instruction, 28, 24–34. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2013.04.001

Haag, N., Böhme, K. & Stanat, P. (2012). Zuwanderungsbezogene Disparitäten [Disparities related to migration]. In P. Stanat, H. A. Pant, K. Böhme & D. Richter (Eds.), Kompetenzen von Schülerinnen und Schülern am Ende der vierten Jahrgangsstufe in den Fächern Deutsch und Mathematik (pp. 209–236). Münster: Waxmann.

Heppt, B., Haag, N., Böhme, K. & Stanat, P. (2014). The role of academic-language features for reading comprehension of language-minority students and students from low-SES families. Reading Research Quarterly. doi:10.1002/rrq.83

Birgit Heppt. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany, birgit.heppt@hu-berlin.de

Current themes of research:

Assessment of academic language skills, social and immigration-related disparities in the comprehension of academic language.

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Haag, N., Heppt, B., Stanat, P., Kuhl, P., & Pant, H. A. (2013). Second language learners’ performance in mathematics: Disentangling the effects of academic language features. Learning and Instruction, 28, 24–34. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2013.04.001

Heppt, B., Dragon, N., Berendes, K., Stanat, P., & Weinert, S. (2012). Beherrschung von Bildungssprache bei Kindern im Grundschulalter. [Mastery of academic language in elementary school children]. Diskurs Kindheits- und Jugendforschung, 3, 349–356.

Heppt, B., Haag, N., Böhme, K. & Stanat, P. (2014). The role of academic-language features for reading comprehension of language-minority students and students from low-SES families. Reading Research Quarterly. doi:10.1002/rrq.83

Heppt, B., Stanat, P., Dragon, N., Berendes, K., & Weinert, S. (2014). Bildungssprachliche Anforderungen und Hörverstehen bei Kindern mit deutscher und nicht-deutscher Familiensprache. [Academic language demands and listening comprehension in children with German and non-German home language]. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 28, 139–149.

Alexander Roppelt. Institute for Educational Quality Improvement (IQB), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany, alexander.roppelt@iqb.hu-berlin.de, www.iqb.hu-berlin.de

Current themes of research:

Development of mathematical abilities, interplay of mathematics and language, test-taking motivation in large-scale assessments

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Penk, C., Pöhlmann, C., Roppelt, A. (2014). The role of test-taking motivation for students’ performance in low-stakes assessments: An investigation of school-track-specific differences. Large-scale Assessments in Education, 2:5.

Pöhlmann, C., Pant, H. A., Frenzel, J., Roppelt, A., & Köller, O. (2014). Auswirkungen einer Intervention auf die Auseinandersetzung und Arbeit mit Bildungsstandards bei Mathematik-Lehrkräften [Effects of an intervention programme on the appreciation and use of educational standards by mathematics teachers]. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, 17, 113–133. doi:10.1007/s11618-014-0488-3

Roppelt, A. & Köller, O. (2011). School achievement beyond secondary education: Factors influencing the development of mathematical ability. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans.

Petra Stanat. Institute for Educational Quality Improvement (IQB), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany, petra.stanat@iqb.hu-berlin.de, www.iqb.hu-berlin.de

Current themes of research:

Equity issues in education, conditions of immigrant students’ educational success, second-language teaching and learning, determinants and promotion of reading profiency, assessment and monitoring of student achievement.

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Haag, N., Heppt, B., Stanat, P., Kuhl, P. & Pant, H. A. (2013). Second language learners’ performance in mathematics: Disentangling the effects of academic language features. Learning and Instruction, 28, 24–34.

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Haag, N., Heppt, B., Roppelt, A. et al. Linguistic simplification of mathematics items: effects for language minority students in Germany. Eur J Psychol Educ 30, 145–167 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-014-0233-6

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