Talk: Construction of an instrument for the assessment of children's narrative discourse
We propose the construction of an instrument to asses narrative discourse abilities in 3 to 5 year-old children. Previous studies have shown the relevance of narrative discourse for cognitive development, socialization and schooling. The few instruments designed for its evaluation contemplate the comprehension and production of fictional narratives in English-speaking population. However, the narratives produced by Spanish-speaking children do not have the same features. Although some instruments were designed to evaluate the comprehension of fictional narratives in Spanish-speaking children, the development of the structural complexity of personal narratives takes place earlier; that is why it is important to construct an instrument for its assessment.
Specific purposes: to analyze and describe the macro and microstructural characteristics of the narratives of personal experiences produced by 3, 4 and 5 year-old children from different sociocultural groups; to build an empirical scale; to analyze the validity, reliability and internal consistency of the instrument; to document the performance of 150 children.
Method. The project adopts a quasi-experimental, transversal design. The corpus includes narratives of past experiences produced by 60 children of 3, 4 and 5 years old from different social groups. We will administrate the PLS5 test (Zimmerman et al., 2012) that assess language comprehension and production skills. Data also includes 300 personal narratives produced by 3, 4 and 5 year-old children. The narratives will be audio-recorded and transcribed according to the CHAT format. The analysis will consider their macro- structural and microstructural features. The reliability and validity of the instrument will be analyzed.
The present project aims to build an instrument to assess the narrative discourse abilities of 3 to 5 year-old children from a dynamic perspective, which contemplates both, the real as well as potential development of the child. This instrument will contribute to the knowledge of Spanish-speaking children's discursive development and is expected to be a useful tool to be used in educational environments.
An important set of research has highlighted the relevance of this form of discourse for cognitive development (Bruner, 1986; Fivush & Nelson, 2006; Nelson, 1996), literacy (Beck, 2008), socialization (Aukrust & Snow, 1998; Carmiol & Sparks; 2014; Miller, 1994; Wortham, 2001) and the process of schooling.
Despite the importance of narrative skills for child development, there are few instruments specially designed for their assessment. Most of them involve assessing the comprehension and production of fictional narratives in English-speaking population (Cowley & Glasgow, 1997; Gillam et al., 1999; Strong et al., 1998). Instruments developed in Spanish-speaking children evaluate young children's comprehension and production of fictional narratives (Kibrik et al., 2007; Pavez et al., 2008; Signorini, Borzone & Rosemberg, 1989; Strasser et al., 2010). However, the development of the structural complexity of personal narratives takes place before fictional narratives (Nelson, 1996; Schick & Melzi, 2010). In addition, recent research with Spanish-speaking children (Stein, 2015; 2016; Uccelli, 2008) revealed that narratives produced by these populations present macro-structural characteristics that differ from those produced by English-speaking children. This is the reason why other instruments are required that are appropriate for its evaluation in the former population.
Furthermore, available instruments provide static measures of children's performance that consider only their current level of development. Although these measures provide valuable diagnostic information related to children's narrative skills, they do not allow the monitoring of the eventual progress that takes place over the course of a child's development. In order to overcome such limitations, the dynamic assessment strategy has been proposed (Gillam, Peña & Miller, 1999; Tavernal & Peralta, 2009).
This evaluation procedure, based on Vygotsky's (1964) approach to socio-cultural psychology -in particular, the concept of the zone of proximal development- provides both diagnostic information and the type of assistance that the child requires for narrative development. It has been pointed out that this type of assessment is especially valuable because it extends the focus to the levels of potential or proximate development (Tavernal & Peralta, 2009).
The existing instruments designed for the assessment of fictional narrative production and comprehension, together with the results of the studies that have analysed the features of children’s personal narratives and their development (especially in Spanish-speaking populations), as well as previous research focused in the use of the dynamic assessment strategy can serve as input for the construction of an instrument for the assessment of personal narratives in Spanish-speaking children.
Purposes. In order to account for the general aim of the study, the following specific objectives are proposed:
1. To analyse and describe the macrostructural and microstructural features of the narratives of personal experience produced by 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children from different socio-cultural groups (middle-class, urban-marginalised populations) from Argentina.
2. To build a multidimensional and empirical scale based on the analysis of the narratives produced by the participating children.
3. To analyse the validity, reliability and internal consistency of the instrument.
4. To document the performance of 150 children in the test.
Method. The quasi-experimental, cross-sectional design contemplates two phases: 1) the construction of the empirical assessment scale and 2) the validation of the instrument and the documentation of the performance of a group of children in the test. The corpus includes personal narratives - spontaneous and induced - produced by 60 children of 3, 4 and 5 years old. Children will be administered the PLS5 test (Zimmerman et al., 2012) which assesses language comprehension and production (comprehensive and expressive vocabulary, conceptual development, narrative skills, among other skills). Participating children do not present language disorders. For the construction of the empirical scale, it will be considered an additional corpus of 300 personal narratives produced by 3, 4, and 5 year old children from the province of Buenos Aires.
Since the support for narrative elaboration that children receive at school differs from and may complement the one received at home (Schick & Melzi, 2010), data collection will take place half at the child's home and half in kindergarten. To elicit the narrative, the child will be asked to narrate a recent personal past experience (e.g. in which he or she was injured), which will be recorded by audio and transcribed according to the CHAT (Codes for the Human Analysis of Transcripts) format developed within the CHILDES (Child Language Data Exchange System) programme that allows data processing with CLAN software (Computerized Language Analysis; MacWhinney, 2000). Given that the dynamic evaluation measures extend the focus to the level of potential development of the individual, the role of the researcher as a mediator of the child's activity will be analysed as well (Taverna & Peralta, 2009).
The analysis of the narratives will consider their macrostructural and microstructural features: temporal organization, structural components, syntactic complexity, length, use of causal and temporal makers and evaluative resources, among others.
The reliability and validity of the instrument will be analysed. Validation will include the analysis of content validity, construct validity and concurrent validity (Mikulic, 2018). For the analysis of content validity, an evaluation of judges will be carried out. For the analysis of construct validity, a factorial analysis will be performed. Finally, for the assessment of concurrent validity, the correlation with child performance in the narrative skills assessed using the PLS5 test will be considered (Zimmerman et al., 2012). The reliability of the instrument will also be analysed through test-retest procedures, internal consistency and between evaluators.
Keywords: narrative discourse - children - evaluation