Dimensionality of Bilingual Phonological Awareness and Oral Language Skills Across Different Instructional Programs



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Background: In bilingual research one should be cautious that the acquisition of literacy is multi-determined, and many contextual factors contribute to children’s ability to read and write in their first and second languages. However, most bilingual studies fail to examine contributing factors such as the context and the language in which students receive instructed and only focus on student-level outcomes. Furthermore, while it is well known that phonological awareness (PA) is a fundamental skill in learning to read in alphabetic languages for both monolingual and bilingual students, the nature and dimensionality of PA has not been adequately examined in the latter group. Purpose: This study gets at the heart of the nature and dimensionality of phonological awareness (PA) of English learners (ELs) with respect to the impact of the context in which they received reading instruction. Method: To examine the dimensionality of PA, a multigroup-multilevel confirmatory factor analysis model was used. The design of this study was cross-sectional, thus the performances of 8,733 ELs on a variety of PA, oral language, and reading measures was examined within Kindergarten (N= 2,690), Grade 1 (N= 3,459), and Grade 2 (N=2,584). Results: At the student-level English and Spanish PA were statistically separable, but highly overlapping in bilingual education (BE) and structured English immersion (SEI) programs; however, the pattern of correlation was much more complex at the classroom-level across grade-levels. Furthermore, contextualizing oral language did not seem to impact the magnitude of English and Spanish PA correlations at the student-level, but further complicated the results at the classroom-level. Conclusions: Although, PA is an inherent language general ability the type and amount of reading instruction and experience with oral language play an important role in the development of this skill.



English language learners, Multigroup-multilevel confirmatory factor analysis, Oral language, Phonological awareness