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IES Grant

Title: What Does It Take to Develop Writing Skills for Spanish-speaking English Learners? A Longitudinal Examination of Co-development of Language, Cognitive, and Writing Skills
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Kim, Young-Suk Awardee: University of California, Irvine
Program: English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2018–06/30/2022) Award Amount: $1,400,000
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A180055

Co-Principal Investigator: Petscher, Yaacov

Purpose: Writing remains a challenging and understudied skill for all students, and particularly for English learners (ELs). Although research has produced considerable information about literacy and reading for ELs, less is known about the component skills of writing for these students. The purpose of this study is to identify linguistic, cognitive, and transcription factors that contribute to writing development for Spanish-speaking ELs by following them longitudinally from Grades 1 to 3.

Project Activities: The researchers will investigate how three types of skills are related to writing in English: (1) language skills, such as vocabulary, grammatical knowledge, discourse-level oral language; (2) cognitive skills, such as inference and perspective taking; and (3) transcription skills, such as spelling and handwriting fluency. To fully understand the process and structure of ELs' writing development, the researchers will study the effects of all these skills both in students' first language (Spanish), and in their second language (English). During the first project year, the researchers will adapt and validate measures of higher-order cognitive skills from English to Spanish. Once validated, these measures will be used, along with Spanish and English measures of language and transcription skills, to collect information and explore relationships about students' writing development from Grades 1 through 3. The researchers also will explore whether there are reliable subgroups of children with different skill profiles.

Products: Researchers will produce information about which factors in which languages contribute to writing development in English for Spanish-speaking ELs. They will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This research will take place in several urban school districts in the state of California.

Sample: In Year 1, the sample will include 10 children in each of Grades 1 through 3 for a pilot study, plus an additional 300 children each in Grades 1 and 3 across two rounds of measurement validation studies. In Years 2-4, the longitudinal sample will consist of 300 students, who will be followed from Grade 1 through Grade 3. All children are Spanish-speaking English learners (as designated by the school districts) of Hispanic ethnicity; about 81% are expected to be eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Children with severe intellectual and emotional disabilities and behavior issues identified by school records will be excluded.

Malleable Factors: The malleable factors for this project are:

  1. language skills, such as vocabulary, grammatical knowledge, and discourse-level oral language;
  2. cognitive skills, such as inference and perspective taking; and
  3. transcription skills, such as spelling and handwriting fluency.

By studying the relationships among these factors and writing, the researchers will develop a model for how second language (English) writing develops among Spanish-speaking ELs. This model may form the basis for the future development of writing interventions for this population.

Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, the researchers will conduct a pilot study and two cross-sectional validation studies to adapt and validate their Spanish-language measures of higher-order cognitive skills. In Years 2 through 4, the researchers will employ a longitudinal design and follow children for three years from Grades 1 to 3 to investigate developmental trajectories and co-development of language, cognitive, and writing skills.

Control Condition: Due to the exploratory nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: The research team will assess children in four domains: writing, transcription, oral language, and higher-order cognitive skills. Researchers will assess writing in English using two narrative genre tasks and two opinion tasks. They will assess each genre by one normed task and one previously used experimental task. They will evaluate writing in terms of quality, productivity, and fluency. They will assess transcription skills in English using handwriting fluency and spelling tasks. They will assess oral language in both Spanish and English using the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-4 (CELF-4). Researchers will assess higher-order cognitive skills in both Spanish and English using one normed task and one previously used experimental task for each language. In the longitudinal part of the study, the researchers will gather student assessment data on these skills once per year in Grades 1 through 3, for a total of three waves of data.

Data Analytic Strategy: In Year 1, the researchers will use exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis to study the dimensionality of their Spanish-language measures of higher-order cognitive skills. In Years 2 through 4, they will use structural equation modeling to examine the unique and shared relation of first and second language skills to second language writing. They will also use a multiple indicator growth model to describe the growth trajectories of oral language, cognitive, transcription, and writing skills from Grades 1 to 3. The research team will also use the growth model to investigate how the various skills are related to writing. Researchers will use finite mixture modeling to examine the existence of skill profiles and subgroups.

Related IES Projects:

Academic Language and Writing for Children in Kindergarten to Fourth Grade—A Longitudinal Study (R305A130131)

Developing Theory- and Evidence-based Oral Language Intervention: Integrated Multi-Component Oral Development for Literacy (iMODEL) (R305A200312)


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Cho, M.-K., Kim, Y.-S., & Olson, C. (2021). Does perspective taking matter for writing? Perspective taking in source-based analytical writing of secondary students. Reading and Writing.
ERIC ID: ED611384
ERIC Link:

Cao, Y., & Kim, Y.-S. G. (2021). Is retell a valid measure of reading comprehension? Educational Research Review.
ERIC ID: ED609876
ERIC Link:

Wolters, A., Kim, Y.-S. G., & Szura, J. (2020). Is reading prosody related to reading comprehension? A meta-analysis. Scientific Studies of Reading.
ERIC ID: ED609220
ERIC Link:

Kim, Y.-S. G., Petscher, Y., Treiman, R., & Kelcey, B. (in press). Letter features as predictors of letter-name acquisition in four languages with three scripts. Scientific Studies of Reading.
ERIC ID: ED609249
ERIC Link:

Kim, Y.-S. G., Petscher, Y., & Vorstius, C. (2020). The relations of online reading processes (eye movements) with working memory, emergent literacy skills, and reading proficiency. Scientific Studies of Reading.
ERIC ID: ED609244
ERIC Link:

Kim, Y.-S. G., & Petscher, Y. (2020). Influences of person, text, and assessment factors on text/discourse comprehension in oral language (listening comprehension). Annals of Dyslexia.
ERIC ID: ED609255
ERIC Link:

Kim, Y.-S. G., Quinn, J., & Petscher, Y. (2020). Reading prosody unpacked: A longitudinal investigation of its dimensionality and the relation with word reading and listening comprehension for children in primary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology.
ERIC ID: ED604225
ERIC Link:

Kim, Y.-S. G. (2020). Toward integrative reading science: The direct and indirect effects model of reading (DIER). Journal of Learning Disabilities.
ERIC ID: ED603977
ERIC Link:

Kim, Y.-S. G. (2020). Theory of mind mediates the relations of language and domain-general cognitions to discourse comprehension. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
ERIC ID: ED604007
ERIC Link:

Kim, Y.-S. G. (2019). Structural relations of language, cognitive skills, and topic knowledge to written composition: A test of the direct and indirect effects model of writing (DIEW). British Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 910–932. doi:10.1111/bjep.12330
ERIC ID: ED602708
ERIC Link: