BiSpra-Transfer: Development and validation of a standardized test instrument

(funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research)

Project direction: Prof. Dr. Sabine Weinert

Research assistant:

Dr. Anna Volodina

Cooperation Partners:

Prof. Dr. Petra Stanat, Dr. Birgit Heppt, IQB, HU-Berlin

Time span:

1. January 2017 - 30. June 2019


In recent years, the concept of academic language or language of schooling has received increasing attention in educational research and practice. One explanation of this phenomenon is that an advanced command of academic language may enable children to participate in academic discourses and facilitate learning in most school subjects (Bailey, 2007; Schuth, Köhne, & Weinert, 2017; Uccelli, Galloway, Barr, Meneses, & Dobbs, 2015). Furthermore, there is evidence that an advanced command of academic language is even more important for school success than everyday language competencies (e.g, Heppt, Henschel & Haag, 2016; Schuth et al., 2017). The school-specific register of academic language is considered to be particularly challenging for language minority students (e.g., Bailey, Butler, LaFramenta, & Ong, 2004). Yet, current studies based on cross-sectional data found that both, German native speakers and language minority students, obtained comparably poorer results when processing academic language compared to everyday language (Heppt et al., 2016; Schuth et al., 2017). Disproportionate disadvantages for language minority students do not typically emerge (e.g., Heppt, Stanat, Dragon, Berendes & Weinert, 2014). However, to date, little is known about the development and prognostic validity of academic language for school success. Furthermore, there are no standardized diagnostic instruments for assessing academic language in primary school children available yet.

The project aims to generate practically relevant findings and instruments based on the development and analytical work accomplished in the projects BiSpra I and BiSpra II („Academic Language Competencies: Affordances, Language Processing, and Diagnostics”, funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research, BMBF). Therefore, the BiSpra-Transfer Project has the following goals:

  1. To analyze in depth the data available from a validation study conducted in BiSpra II in order to evaluate the prognostic validity of academic language competencies for school achievement (operationalized through achievement tests and school grades);

  2. To provide group-specific norms for the measurement of academic language competencies (i.e., functional-integrative text comprehension, general academic vocabulary comprehension, comprehension of clause connectors). To this aim, a study with primary school children in Grades 2 to 4 (sample size around 3000) was conducted in year 2017. In this study, tasks aimed to measure academic language competencies, developed within the framework of the BiSpra I Project, have been used;

  3. To investigate the sensitivity of the test instrument to intervention and language support. This will be done by analyzing data from the “ProSach” project (”A professionalization training for language promotion based on focus on meaning in primary school science instruction”, funded by the BMBF; project lead by Prof. Dr. Petra Stanat and Dr. Sofie Henschel, Humboldt-University of Berlin and Prof. Dr. Ilonca Hardy, Goethe University Frankfurt). Within this project scales from the BiSpra-project have been administered to the students involved in the intervention.

The test instrument will allow for a reliable and valid diagnostic of school-related language competencies of children in elementary school age and thus build an important basis for uncovering their special needs and timely initiate specific activities with the aim to remediate them.

The analyses as well as the development of the test manual will be jointly accomplished by both project groups; thereby the Bamberg group will focus on the tasks related to language components (general academic vocabulary; comprehension of clause connectors) and the Berlin group on tasks measuring functional-integrative listening comprehension.

Selected publications and literature

Bailey, A. L. (Hrsg.). (2007). The language demands of school. Putting academic English to the test.New Haven: Yale University Press.

Bailey, A. L., Butler, F. A., LaFramenta, C., & Ong, C. (2001). Towards the characterization of academic language. CSE report 621. LA: National center for research on evaluation, standards, and student testing. University of California. Retrieved from files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED483387.pdf

Heppt, B. (2016). Verständnis von Bildungssprache bei Kindern mit deutscher und nicht-deutscher Familiensprache. Dissertation, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Verfügbar unter: http://edoc.hu-berlin.de/dissertationen/heppt-birgit-2016-05-23/PDF/heppt.pdf.*

Heppt, B., Stanat, P., Dragon, N., Berendes, K., & Weinert, S. (2014). Bildungssprachliche Anforderungen und Hörverstehen bei Kindern mit deutscher und nicht-deutscher Familiensprache. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 28(3), 139-149.*

Schuth, E., Köhne, J., & Weinert, S. (2017). The influence of academic vocabulary knowledge on school performance. Learning and Instruction, 49, 157-165. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2017.01.005*

Uccelli, P., Galloway, E. P., Barr, C. D., Meneses, A., & Dobbs, C. L. (2015). Beyond vocabulary: Exploring cross-disciplinary academic language proficiency and its association with reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 50(3), 337-356. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.104

Weinert, S. (2017). Sprachliche Bildung – Sprache in der Bildung. In A. Krause, G. Lehmann, W. Thielmann & C. Trautmann (Hrsg.), Form und Funktion. Festschrift für Angelika Redder zum 65. Geburtstag (S. 595-608). Tübingen: Stauffenburg.

Note. Publications/studies marked with * were conducted within the framework of the BiSpra Project.