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UNF professor presents at International Congress on the Education of the Deaf

Dr. Jennifer KilpatrickDr. Jennifer Renée Kilpatrick, assistant professor of deaf education, recently presented her research, “Written Language Inventory for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: Identification and expansion of students' writing repertoires,” at the 23rd International Congress on the Education of the Deaf. Her presentation summarized the work she and her colleagues have done to develop a Written Language Inventory (WLI) and supplemental materials for teachers of the deaf throughout the past eight years.

Kilpatrick’s written language (i.e., syntax or grammar) research began in an effort to support teachers with their written language instruction. She noticed that many were struggling with setting appropriate written language objectives for their students because the available writing assessments did not provide the type of detailed information they needed.  Kilpatrick she set out to create an assessment that could examine written language in use and support teachers in their instruction. In her work, Kilpatrick uses a Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) approach to written language assessment and instruction. Her research is the first of its kind to apply SFG in the field of deaf education. After an initial pilot study indicated that SFG analysis was useful to the process of setting written language objectives, Kilpatrick used SFG experiential meta-functional analysis to examine deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh) students’ and hearing peers’ use of grammatical structures at the phrasal level. Using her analysis findings, Kilpatrick developed a Written Language Inventory (WLI) and made revisions based on feedback from a pilot group of teachers. This inventory is an assessment that teachers of the deaf can use to take inventory of their students’ written language repertoires.

“While the WLI was created using the writing of deaf students, the findings do not differ from what we know about the spoken English development of hearing students,” said Kilpatrick. “I hypothesize that the assessment could be used with English Language Learners or other linguistically diverse students whose writing requires a more detailed assessment of written language than is provided by traditional writing assessment rubrics.”

Next, Kilpatrick and her team conducted a study examining the impact of the WLI on teachers written language objectives. The findings of the study show that without the WLI, teachers wrote objectives focused on capitalization, punctuation and broad grammar concepts (e.g., writing simple sentences, using correct subject-verb agreement). When using the WLI, their objectives became more specific, targeting specific grammatical structures (e.g., using subject pronouns, using simple past tense action verbs, using preposition to tell where).

Kilpatrick has continued to build on this work by creating a WLI Guidebook. The guidebook is a clickable digital collection of resources that teachers can use to provide targeted direct instruction after setting objectives. For each grammatical structure included in the WLI, the Guidebook provides information, lessons, and mentor texts that teachers can use for explicit instruction of written language (grammar) structures. In the coming year, Kilpatrick will be collecting data from teachers who are implementing the assessment and associated resources to examine the impact of the assessment on teacher’s writing instruction and students’ language outcomes.