You are on page 1of 15




ETL212 SEMESTER 2, 2012

Assessment of a learner
This case study documents a comprehensive assessment of the literacy levels of a year 9 boy, with recommended strategies to help further develop all areas of literacy. Defined by the Queensland School Curriculum Council (1997, cited by The Pyjama Foundation, 2012), literacy is "the ability to communicate by reading, speaking, listening and viewing". This is expanded by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2003), as; "... the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society." The goal of the Australian Curriculum (2012) is for students to become literate through development of knowledge, abilities and practices which allow them to confidently use language for learning and communication. The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians ( Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2008) highlights the significance of literacy as a fundamental skill necessary for students to become successful learners. Literacy is viewed as an essential foundation for learning in all areas. The student, NM, was chosen from the student cohort because he has historically performed significantly below the national average in National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing in aspects of literacy. The student has recently been diagnosed with and begun treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Since this point, NM appears to have made a significant improvement and has been achieving notably higher results in his assignments.

Learner Background
NM Year 9 student
NM is a 14 year old boy, in Grade 9 at a newly established state high school. In compulsory subjects, classes are ability streamed and NM is placed in Core English and Mathematics. His teachers believe this reflects the ability currently demonstrated in his work.

I have known the student for a period of 3 years, in a non-school environment. I have found him warm and kind; I was therefore expecting a friendly reception at school. However, he appeared unwilling to acknowledge me in front of his peers and I respected him in this. On rare occasions when we crossed paths, he spoke to me briefly, in monosyllables and did not maintain eye contact. The student appears to interact with peers primarily in a non verbal manner. His main interactions are physical, including play fighting, copying behavior (mainly off task) or observation. He has a few close key friends and at times appears withdrawn from the wider school community. According to the students mother, NM has had a turbulent education history, consistently achieving below benchmark standards and struggling in the education setting. This is supported his NAPLAN results:

These were consistent with his report; In writing, NM needs to check his work for mistakes in grammar and punctuation (Allery, 2008)

These results show a dramatic improvement in reading and a sharp decline in writing, consistent with his teachers report; Proof reading and editing skills are not developed nor practiced therefore cannot be used to make effective improvements to writing. Punctuation applied is variable and poor quality. Comprehension of a variety of text types is sound. (Raison, 2010)

In 2011, NM was assessed for and diagnosed with ADHD. He is under the care of a Paediatrician and a Clinical Psychiatrist, and is being treated with the drug, Ritalin. NMs mother feels that since NM has been on the medication his attention span, concentration levels and in-school achievement have improved. This is consistent with anecdotal evidence from teachers and academic results. In addition to behavioral issues, ADHD includes impairment in one or more processes related to perceiving, thinking, remembering, or learning. (Tannock, 2007). Students with ADHD are often slower at processing information and have problems with executive functions such as working memory. Over 50% of students with ADHD have difficulty with writing, including difficulty choosing topics, locating resources, retaining and processing information and correctly organizing or sequencing information (ADDitude, 2011). These issues could be contributing the students difficulties with written work. Interviews with parents and teachers raised concerns regarding NMs response to constructive criticism and guided instruction. The student struggles to start or maintain focus on tasks. Once NM believes he has completed a task, he is resistant to requests to edit or make alterations. This behavior is significantly impacting his writing and language conventions particularly grammar and punctuation. According to his Mathematics teacher, the students understanding of written instructions is satisfactory and is not affecting his performance. However, problems are evident in all subject areas relating to the execution and completion of written tasks.

Overview of data collection

Details & limitations
The raw data was collected over 2 sessions, outside of school hours. The limited period of data collection means that the results represent a snapshot of the students abilities. Historical data and recent assessment tasks were included to give a more comprehensive evaluation. Due to proximity to NAPLAN testing, and in order to minimise test fatigue, the following tests were chosen not only because they cover a broad range of literacy skills, but because they differ in style from the typical NAPLAN approach. For this reason, Cloze and Torch tests were avoided. The selected tests required short bursts of concentration and could be completed succinctly to allow for attention deficit.

Session One (Sunday 10am, minimal distractions)

The student was relaxed and calm, having recently taken his medication. Burt Word Test A successful measure of single word recognition; while reading words in isolation has limited value, this is a useful tool in diagnosing reading ability when used in conjunction with other assessments (Gilmore, Croft, and Reid, 1981).

Handy Resources, Reading Comprehension Level 7

These narrative texts target reading skills particular to this genre, measuring reading accuracy, retelling, and comprehension. The levels and the Noun Frequency Readability Scale are comparable to the Progressive Achievement Test (Handy Resources, 2001).

South Australian Spelling Test

A standardized test, which begins with phonologically regular examples and increases in complexity. A pattern of errors can indicate children's grasp of regular grapho-phonic relationships and their awareness of less predictable letter sequences the nature of their errors provides some evidence of the stage of development they have reached and the strategies they use when attempting to spell words that are beyond their current level of competence. (Bissaker & Westwood, 2006)

Session Two (Friday 4:30pm, many distractions)

Conditions were far from ideal, the student was obliging but his concentration levels were significantly below session one. This was reflected in his hurried approach to the test. Tests completed

Handy Resources, Reading Comprehension Level 8 Speaking & Listening Skills Partner Activity
A test in listening ability the student was required to follow verbal direction in order to recreate a complex shape pattern.

Grammar and Sentence Correction Test

A multiple choice test, targeting key aspects of grammar which appear problematic for this student, based on a review of his class work.

Literacy Profile
Listening and Speaking
Lundsteen (1979, cited in Jung, Osterwalder and Wipf, 2000) asserts that listening skills provide the foundation for the development of all areas of literacy. Evidence indicates that explicit development of listening skills can improve related abilities, such as reading. Whilst it is important that students learn the grammar and vocabulary of Standard English, effective speaking and listening develops across all dialects (Wyse & Jones, 2001). For this reason the student was not marked down where regional pronunciation was used. NMs speech was assessed reading aloud two reading comprehension pieces and through casual conversation. Whilst speaking can be evaluated through observing a students communication in an everyday setting (Derewianka, 1992, cited in Downer-Parker & Prescott, 2011), as previously mentioned, NM appears to communicate with his peers primarily through non verbal methods. In a one to one situation, NMs responses to direct questions were brief and non-committal. Anecdotal reports suggest teenagers can be poor verbal communicators, although no evidence to support this is offered here, it is possible that this behaviour is not atypical for a student of his age. NM reported that he disliked presenting work orally in class and he could be encouraged to develop confidence through strategies such as creating video presentation, voicing voki or other animations which would enable him to practice his presenting skills without being placed on the spot. Jung, Osterwalder and Wipf (2000) developed a range of activities for evaluating speaking and listening in the middle years classroom. To assess the students listening and processing ability, a partner activity was completed. The student had to draw a variety of shapes and colour them, based upon oral directions. In a one on one situation, completing a fun activity, the student demonstrated a good ability to follow directions and remain on task. During classroom observations it was evident that the student needs guidance to maintain focused on the activity in hand. While not intended to excuse the students off task behaviour, in one class, the student was off task primarily because the teacher did not address the class during the lesson, either to introduce or guide the activity, nor were other instructions provided. Bandura (1997, cited in Learning Theories, 2012) asserts that behaviour is learned through observation, highlighting the importance of strong role modelling. The concept of reciprocal determinism suggests that the presence of one behaviour; clear speech, in the form of verbal instructions, from the teacher, would result in effective listening from the student. When teachers model good speech behaviours, students learn what to expect, as well as what is expected, and are better prepared to listen. I was unable to observe his oral presentation. Based on teacher feedback and a review of his written speech, NM appears to be achieving at level 4.5 of the Oral Language Development Continuum.

The student can identify the intended audience and purpose for a task. He is able to incorporate a range of strategies including humour, imagery and emotive language. He is able to produce work competently using graphic organisers to summarise and identify key information (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2010).

The students speech was loud enough to be audible and clear enough to be heard. He spoke quickly and confidently with little pause or hesitation. NM had good reading fluency, but raced through the text at a fast pace. It was apparent that wanting to get it over with was a significant factor. The students self correction ratio is high; he paused only occasionally and made few mistakes. Overall his reading accuracy was greater than 97%. His miscues were all visual and most could be attributed to the pace of reading. Where the errors included semantic miscues, these did not alter the meaning of the passage. They did however highlight grammatical issues, such as the use of me for my and was for were. After reading aloud, the student declined to review the level 8 text further and commenced immediately with the retell. The more challenging content proved problematic; however, despite having spent little time reading the text, NM achieved the retell pass rate of 50% and 89% for comprehension. This demonstrates that the student is not just focusing on the act of reading, but is able to interpret and understand the content. The goal of reading is to understand and create meaning in order to use the information purposefully (Robbins, 2012). To this extent, NM is reading successfully and at a level which is appropriate for his age. He demonstrates good use of the five essential components of effective reading (The National Reading Panel, 2000); phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. In contrast, the Burt word reading test awarded the student a reading age ability of 12.3 years. NM appears able to use context and knowledge of language features to create meaning. The complexity of vocabulary used in the Burt word reading test far exceeded that of the reading comprehension. NM failed to apply knowledge of an existing word to an unfamiliar word, mispronouncing luncheon (/lntin/) but being able to pronounce truncheon (/trntn/). Using the example of y, this was correctly pronounced in both encyclopaedia (/nsaklpidi/) and physician (/fzn/) but not in glycerine (/glasrn/). This shows that NM is aware of the different pronunciations of spelling patterns, but not always certain which is correct in new words. Ehri and Rosenthral (2007) assert that students; retain the spellings of words bonded to their pronunciations and meanings in memory, spellings of words are retained in memory and influence phonemic and syllabic segmentation of words. There are clear similarities between the students problems with both spelling and pronunciation, suggesting a weakness in orthographic knowledge. Strategies to improve this include demonstrating the spelling and pronunciation of new words, when their meanings are discussed. Students should stop and attempt to pronounce unfamiliar words which they come across in their reading; this could be aided by an audio dictionary.

The students reading comprehension ability is strong and many errors appear to be linked to the pace at which the task was attempted. NM should be encouraged to slow down and enunciate his words which will in turn enhance his pronunciation and spelling. Exposure to a wide range of quality literature and the continuation of explicit teaching of reading comprehension strategies should be embedded within regular classroom content. NM is able decipher meaning from multi modal texts and this should be extended through the use of diverse texts.

According to Harris (2003) reading, writing, speaking and listening are inherently connected in a variety of complex ways. Writing involves the integration of semantic, syntactic and graphophonic strategies to create meaning in a written text. It is evident from all sources of data that writing, punctuation and grammar, are significant areas of weakness for this student. The students was evaluated through his assessment tasks;

1. Persuasive speech
The student is able to write to purpose and for an audience; Hello, ladies and Gents of the jury. The student makes deliberate language choices to suit his intent (persuasion); the choice you make. He enhances his argument with persuasive elements; the southern cross should be, and supporting evidence; because it is apart of our country. Despite limited variety in sentence structure, the student demonstrates some sophisticated elements, like the inclusion of a metaphor we are kings and complex vocabulary, representation and icons.

2. Written Task
NM interprets visual and inferred meaning from multimodal texts and successfully identifies the intended purpose and audience for his writing, choosing an appropriate style and tone. The initial planning document was handwritten and the final task was created using a word processor. The student is not using the auto correct, spell check or synonym features of his software. These tools would help the student to recognise common errors in both spelling and punctuation. Using the synonym feature would expand his vocabulary and help to vary his sentences. Overall the student is working at a Proficient Level as identified against the Writing Continuum. Due to the variation between his abilities in each particular area, specific teaching strategies have been included throughout the text.

As demonstrated in the multiple choice test and written work samples, the student rarely uses full stops and this requires explicit teaching. The student uses subordinating conjunctions (like and because) as simple cohesive devices, and is used repeatedly, often in place of a full stop and new sentence.

His capitalisation is inconsistent, particularly in the case of i, which is regularly capitalised incorrectly; I(s)lands and Icons. Capitalisation for proper nouns is used in learnt examples; Australians, not applied in new situations; union jack and british. Engaging activities for practicing these skills include online games (here), or iPod apps (Punctuate!). The student has poor sentence construction and needs to develop an understanding of the four types of sentence structure. Strategies for teaching include using familiar concepts -

Real world examples and visual learning methods are useful for students with ADHD.

Handwriting is an important literacy skill, which includes visual-perceptual, orthographic coding, motor planning and execution, kinesthetic feedback and visual-motor coordination (Centre for Child Development, 2007). When handwriting skills lack fluency, the whole writing process is impacted. Furthermore, research suggests that poor handwriting negatively influences the perception of the reader and dilutes the strength of the message (Education Week, 2012).

NMs handwriting was assessed:

While his handwriting is generally legible and his letter formation is consistent, NM makes no attempt to write in cursive. Experts appear conflicted regarding the importance of cursive writing, however Berniger (2012, cited in Education Week, 2012) maintains that there is no intrinsic benefit to either writing style. The aim of education is develop our children to be able to successfully participate in the wider community. At this stage in his education, and considering his inclination towards school work and the likelihood he will begin vocational studies next year, focusing on improving his print is recommended. The student needs practice to ensure letters are formed in the correct relative size and position on the line. Using 9 lined handwriting paper will provide structure to support formation of letters at the correct relative height.

The South Australian Spelling Test gave a spelling age of 10.7 years. When evaluated alongside handwriting samples, it is evident that the student is still working at emerging Phase 4 of the Spelling Developmental Continuum Transitional Spelling. The student is aware of spelling rules but has difficulty identifying whether they have been applied correctly. NM is able to successfully spell a range of high frequency words. He has difficulty with many more complex spelling patterns. He knows that some words end in ly and some in lly but does not appear to know why. A lack of grammatical knowledge is influencing his spelling. For example, understanding that adding ly to a word makes it an adverb, when the word ends in l this gives the lly ending. A limited knowledge of etymology is also evident being able to link an understanding of the meaning of the word subterranean, the student should be able to apply knowledge of the prefix sub under and the word terra for earth. Other commonly repeated mistakes include ei as in veiw for which the simple rhyme strategy i before e except after c can be taught. Strategies to improve this students spelling include using grammar as a basis for explaining spelling rules, focusing on word groups and identifying common patterns, using etymological understanding to support spelling and asking the student to attempt a range of spellings for a word to try to identify the correct one.

Literacy represents a complex range of interdependent skills which require explicit teaching strategies. Literacy teaching and learning must be integrated within all aspects of teaching and build connections with the students out of school literacy practices. While it is true that stages of learning can be represented as a continuum, different students progress at different rates. Consistent evaluation of student progress enables effective literacy teachers to differentiate tasks to suit a range of student abilities, providing scaffolded support and allowing for extension as the students capabilities develop (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2010). As demonstrated in the marked criteria in the appendix Literacy continuum across stages of schooling (Australian Curriculum, 2012), NM shows a broad spectrum of ability across the literacy indicators. The student needs immediate and explicit teaching to develop his basic writing abilities and writing strategies including editing, which will better showcase his evident skill demonstrated in areas of comprehension and reading.


ADDitude. (2011). Essay and paper writing help for children with ADHD. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum. (2012). English: Rationale/aims. Retrieved from Bissaker, K. & Westwood, P. (2006). Diagnostic uses of the South Australian spelling test. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 11 (1), 25-33. Retrieved from Centre for Child Development. (2007). Handwriting skills. Retrieved from Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2010). Speaking and listening English developmental continuum P-10. State Government Victoria. Retrieved from sten/default.htm Downer-Parker, S. & Prescott, D. (2011). ETL212: Assignment 2 Case study of a learner. Darwin, Northern Territory: Charles Darwin University. Education Week. (2012). Summit to make a case for teaching handwriting. Retrieved from AjSVBjW8JDczcsw8GzJ&cmp=clp-sb-ascd Gilmore, A., Croft, C. & Reid, N. (1981) Burt reading test (Revised: New Zealand). Retrieved from Handy Resources. (2001). Reading programs for the classroom. Retrieved from Harris, P. (2003). Approaches to writing (Chapter 2). Language assessment in the primary school years. Retrieved from Jung, T., Osterwalder, H. and Wipf, D. (2000). Teaching and assessing middle-years students speaking and listening skills. Retrieved from Learning Theories. (2012). Social learning theory Bandura. Retrieved from Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (2008) National declaration on the educational goals for young Australians. Retrieved from Young_Australians.pdf


Robbins, D. (2012). Module Two: Learning literacy, Week 8: The writing continuum . Darwin, Northern Territory: Charles Darwin University. Robbins, D. (2012). Week 4: The reading process . Retrieved from kboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_16727_1%26url%3D Tannock, R. (2007). The educational implications of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved from The Pyjama Foundation. (2012). Creating a brighter future for Australian children in care. Retrieved from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2003). UIS-AIMS and Literacy Assessment. Retrieved from Wyse, D. and Jones, R. (2001). Teaching English, language and literacy. Retrieved from s+indicators+of+literacy&source=bl&ots=wEozAqUJS0&sig=BOKDpkmOlKuWa4eHQSbmTDt32Qc&hl=en&sa= X&ei=0Q_ET5zGJcWaiAfUZSHCg&ved=0CGYQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=speaking%20and%20listening%20as%20indicators%20of%20liter acy&f=false


Raw data