Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Constructing clinical judgments about preschool pragmatic language skills: An action research study
by Boje, Noreen Susan, Ed.D., University of Rochester, 2009, 214; 3367262
Abstract (Summary)

The literature suggests that children who struggle with communication during social interactions, called pragmatic language in the field of speech language pathology, have fewer opportunities to engage in social practices that promote learning because of inadequate skills in interacting with others. Children with even subtle difficulties in pragmatic language tend to have fewer friends, and more difficulties with aspects of behavior, mental health and learning. The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association recommends that pragmatic language assessment be part of complete communication assessment; however, research indicates this area is not assessed in a majority of children. Furthermore, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) do not always share the same definition of pragmatic language nor consistent ways to assess it. There are at least three distinctly different theoretical frameworks available to inform speech-language pathologists (SLPs) about the nature of pragmatic language, each suggesting different units of analysis and assessment tools. This, in turn, can result in an educational problem as, depending on the theoretical framework of the SLP evaluating them, children with the same pragmatic language problems may or may not be appropriately identified and, thus, served.

Assuming a socio-constructivist framework and an action research paradigm, this study was designed with the ultimate goal of improving the pragmatic language assessment practices of the SLPs working in my clinic, as well as to contribute local knowledge about SLPs' understanding and practices with respect to pragmatic language At the core of the study is an intervention that engaged a group of SLPs from my clinic in a study group around pragmatic language. This led to two concrete products for the clinic: (1) a co-constructed operational definition of pragmatic language that melded five theoretical frameworks from the fields of cognitive psychology, education, sociology and linguistics and (2) a statement of best practices for assessment of pragmatic language. This statement included a critique of assessment methodologies and additional factors to consider in assessment. Participants in the study group were active collaborators and engaged in a plan-act-observe-reflect research spiral. Analysis of individual's responses through the course of the study revealed a transformation in how participants defined and assessed pragmatic language because of the action research process.

As a practitioner, this study deepened my personal knowledge of the practices of local speech language pathologists in understanding and assessing pragmatic language. It reinforced the importance of a community of learners in continuing professional education programs and highlighted the value of reflective practices. Contributions to the agency included (a) development of a collective understanding of pragmatic language by the participating SLPs, (b) creation of an operational definition to guide clinical judgment in assessing and describing children with pragmatic language needs, (c) improvement in the quality of assessment and interventions on the part of the participating SLPs and (d) implementation of the action research paradigm as a model for continuous self reflection, exploration of a social issue and as an intervention to promote change. On a broader scale, the findings of this study serve to inform the research community of local practices and beliefs about pragmatic language assessment.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Borasi, Raffaella, Mock, Martha
School: University of Rochester
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Early childhood education, Educational psychology, Special education
Keywords: Action research, Clinical judgment, Pragmatic language, Preschool, Preschool children, Social constructionism, Social language
Publication Number: 3367262
ISBN: 9781109268393
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