6. The construction and evaluation of an English Exam Skills test for primary school students with dyslexia

Edmen Leong1*,Hu Guangwei2

  1. Dyslexia Association of Singapore
  2. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

 

Abstract

In this article, the construction of a test previously used successfully with dyslexic children and low achievers to assess performance is formally evaluated. An English Exam Skills Programme (EESP) was developed and implemented in 2013 with the goal of helping primary school students with dyslexia develop their English Language skills and achieve in their school and national examinations. The design of the EESP adhered to the Orton Gillingham principles and aimed to ensure that the pedagogy would allow students to transfer skills and concepts learnt to their examination performance. Leong (2015) reports a study conducted to evaluate the progress of students in the EESP using a pre-test and a post-test design. Results from the study suggested that the EESP was effective in addressing the English Language development and examination needs of primary school learners with dyslexia. The study however was based on tests that were designed by the curriculum developers of the EESP and were not subjected to a full validation process. To accurately establish the effectiveness of the EESP, it is also important to ensure that the testing procedures used are optimally reliable and valid. In order to achieve this goal, a new English Exam Skills test for primary students enrolled in the EESP has been developed and validated, following McNamara’s (2000) “testing cycle” of the design stage, the construction stage, the try-out stage, and the operational stage. Results obtained from the trialling and validation of the test, including item and whole test analyses, were used to refine and finalize the test. Test takers’ performances on this test (both the original and revised versions) were compared with their performances on a test conducted in mainstream primary schools. Substantial correlations constituted evidence of convergent validity. The analyses not only helped to establish the construct validity of the newly developed test but made it possible to predict EESP students’ performance on their school and national examinations. In addition, such analyses helped to gauge the effectiveness of the EESP curriculum and the English Language development of dyslexic learners in primary schools.

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Keywords:          Dyslexia, English Exam Skills, Language testing and assessment, Test validation, Test design

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