Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Kathy Escamilla

Second Advisor

Janette Klingner

Third Advisor

Bhuvana Narasimhan

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to compare how English language learners (ELLs) and monolingual English speakers solved multiple-choice items administered with and without a new form of testing accommodation--vignette illustration (VI). By incorporating theories from second language acquisition, bilingualism, and sociolinguistics, this study was able to gain more accurate and comprehensive input into the ways students interacted with items. This mixed methods study used verbal protocols to elicit the thinking processes of thirty-six native Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELLs), and 36 native-English speaking non-ELLs when solving multiple-choice science items. Results from both qualitative and quantitative analyses show that ELLs used a wider variety of actions oriented to making sense of the items than non-ELLs. In contrast, non-ELLs used more problem solving strategies than ELLs. There were no statistically significant differences in student performance based on the interaction of presence of illustration and linguistic status or the main effect of presence of illustration. However, there were significant differences based on the main effect of linguistic status. An interaction between the characteristics of the students, the items, and the illustrations indicates considerable heterogeneity in the ways in which students from both linguistic groups think about and respond to science test items. The results of this study speak to the need for more research involving ELLs in the process of test development to create test items that do not require ELLs to carry out significantly more actions to make sense of the item than monolingual students.