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See detailUsing Automatic Item Generation in the context of the Épreuves Standardisées (Épstan): A pilot study on effects of altering item characteristics and semantic embeddings
Michels, Michael Andreas UL; Hornung, Caroline UL; Inostroza Fernandez, Pamela Isabel UL et al

Scientific Conference (2021, November 11)

Assessing mathematical skills in national school monitoring programs such as the Luxembourgish Épreuves Standardisées (ÉpStan) creates a constant demand of developing high-quality items that is both ... [more ▼]

Assessing mathematical skills in national school monitoring programs such as the Luxembourgish Épreuves Standardisées (ÉpStan) creates a constant demand of developing high-quality items that is both expensive and time-consuming. One approach to provide high-quality items in a more efficient way is Automatic Item Generation (AIG, Gierl, 2013). Instead of creating single items, cognitive item models form the base for an algorithmic generation of a large number of new items with supposedly identical item characteristics. The stability of item characteristics is questionable, however, when different semantic embeddings are used to present the mathematical problems (Dewolf, Van Dooren, & Verschaffel, 2017, Hoogland, et al., 2018). Given culture-specific knowledge differences in students, it is not guaranteed that illustrations showing everyday activities do not differentially impact item difficulty (Martin, et al., 2012). Moreover, the prediction of empirical item difficulties based on theoretical rationales has proved to be difficult (Leighton & Gierl, 2011). This paper presents a first attempt to better understand the impact of (a) different semantic embeddings, and (b) problem-related variations on mathematics items in grades 1 (n = 2338), 3 (n = 3835) and 5 (n = 3377) within the context of ÉpStan. In total, 30 mathematical problems were presented in up to 4 different versions, either using different but equally plausible semantic contexts or altering the problem’s content characteristics. Preliminary results of IRT-scaling and DIF-analysis reveal substantial effects of both, the embedding, as well as the problem characteristics on general item difficulties as well as on subgroup level. Further results and implications for developing mathematic items, and specifically, for using AIG in the course of Épstan will be discussed. [less ▲]

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See detailThe factor structure of mathematical abilities in Luxembourg’s national school monitoring: Its stability over elementary school and relations to, gender, language background, and SES
Sonnleitner, Philipp UL; Hornung, Caroline UL

Scientific Conference (2021, July)

Mathematics skills are the fundament of modern societies, especially those based on a knowledge-economy. The age of digitalization renders mathematics education even more crucial since it builds the ... [more ▼]

Mathematics skills are the fundament of modern societies, especially those based on a knowledge-economy. The age of digitalization renders mathematics education even more crucial since it builds the starting point for all STEM-related fields. Consequently, mathematics is at the core of numerous educational Large-Scale Assessments on international (e.g. PISA, TIMSS) or national level (e.g. NAEP, NEPS, SNSA). Although the underlying test development frameworks are most often multi-dimensional or hierarchical, psychometric analyses usually focus on a single latent factor that represents a rather vague general mathematical ability. How and to what extent this simplification affects educational studies that rely on these data remains unclear. The present study takes Luxembourg’s national school monitoring program ÉpStan as example to tackle this question and clarify the consequences. ÉpStan’s mathematics test is conducted annually in elementary school Grades 1, 3, and 5 and is comprised of around 50 to 70 items. Since ÉpStan captures competencies of all students biyearly, each analysis will be based on the full cohort (n > 5000). First, we will investigate whether the curriculum-based test framework for mathematics can psychometrically be represented in a related (multi-dimensional) confirmatory factor model including the domains numbers & operations and space & form. This will be done in Grades 1, 3, and 5. Second, we will study the factor model’s cross-sectional stability within each Grade (over three consecutive years) and longitudinal stability between Grades. Finally, we will study the factors’ relations to students’ cognitive and sociodemographic characteristics and compare the results with correlations found using the most widely used one-dimensional model of mathematical abilities. Based on the results, we will discuss implications not only for educational studies that often uncritically make use of large-scale assessment data, but also highlight the consequences for group-level feedback that is based on such assessments. [less ▲]

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See detailA propensity score matching approach on predicting academic success of primary school students
Wollschläger, Rachel UL; Hornung, Caroline UL; Sonnleitner, Philipp UL et al

Scientific Conference (2020, July)

School career and academic achievement are known to greatly affect an individual’s path through life (e.g., Trapmann, Hell, Weigand & Schuler, 2007; Jimerson, 2001). In Luxembourg, recent findings ... [more ▼]

School career and academic achievement are known to greatly affect an individual’s path through life (e.g., Trapmann, Hell, Weigand & Schuler, 2007; Jimerson, 2001). In Luxembourg, recent findings indicate that at school entrance (i.e., the beginning of Grade 1) the majority of the students achieve or even surpass the required minimum level of core competencies such as mathematics and early literacy (Hoffmann, Hornung, Gamo, Esch, Keller, & Fischbach, 2018). However, in Grade 3 (i.e., after the first two years of elementary school) many students do no longer achieve the required minimum level of competencies in math and literacy (ibid.). Especially students with another language background than (any of) the official languages in Luxembourg (Luxembourgish, German, and French) and those socio-economically disadvantaged were found to be more likely not to obtain the competency level (ibid.). The current study aims to investigate which specific factors may facilitate (or hinder) learning progression by using longitudinal data of the Luxembourg School Monitoring Programme Épreuves Standardisées from Grade 1 (2014, 2015) to Grade 3 (2016, 2017, 2018). More specifically, students with irregular pathways (i.e., those who experienced grade retention) will be identified as treatment group and compared to a stratified control group of students following regular pathways. For each student of the treatment group, one or more students from the control group will be matched through propensity score matching, a matching procedure based on logistic regression, according to different pre-sets of variables. In a second step, the two groups will be compared in regards to competency levels as well as to socio-emotional context variables such as family background, student-teacher interaction, and school satisfaction aiming at identifying characteristics potentially facilitating (or hindering) a student’s school career. [less ▲]

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See detailFinger Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) predicts the development of numerical representations better than finger gnosis
Van Rinsveld, Amandine; Hornung, Caroline UL; Fayol, Michel

in Cognitive Development (2020), 53

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See detailThe effect of grade retention on reading skills of immigrant children in multilingual elementary school. A longitudinal study.
Ertel Silva, Cintia UL; Alieva, Aigul; Hornung, Caroline UL et al

Presentation (2019, November 06)

In a longitudinal study the effect of grade retention on reading skills of immigrant children in multilingual elementary school was investigated. The study was conducted between 2013 and 2017 and thirty ... [more ▼]

In a longitudinal study the effect of grade retention on reading skills of immigrant children in multilingual elementary school was investigated. The study was conducted between 2013 and 2017 and thirty-four per cent of the sample was lost due to grade retention. These children had been followed from kindergarten to grade 3 of elementary school. To observe differences among promoted and retained students, we assessed them using various language and socioeconomic measures. We also compared a subgroup of promoted students, scoring lower in grade 2 than the mean of retained students in reading comprehension. The current study revealed four main findings. Firstly, there were no significant differences between promoted and retained students in their first language vocabulary (Portuguese). Secondly, there was a significant difference in second and third language vocabularies (Luxembourgish and German) and in German reading tasks (the language of instruction) from kindergarten to grade 2, with promoted students scoring higher than retained students. Thirdly, and most importantly, retained students did not catch up with promoted students in the language of instruction (German) measures even after grade retention, but they did in language of socialisation (Luxembourgish). Fourthly, and in contrast to retained students, the low-achieving promoted students improved significantly in German reading comprehension by grade 3.The last two findings underline that grade retention does not lead to improvement in children’s reading comprehension. As vocabulary is one of the main predictors of reading comprehension, programs that improve poor readers’ vocabulary knowledge may be more efficient than grade retention. The present findings corroborate previous studies reporting that grade retention is not beneficial and that low-achieving students promoted to the next grade show better academic outcomes later than retained students. [less ▲]

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See detailSchulische Kompetenzen von Erstklässlern und ihre Entwicklung nach zwei Jahren.
Hoffmann, Danielle UL; Hornung, Caroline UL; Gamo, Sylvie UL et al

Report (2018)

Dieses Kapitel stellt die Befunde aus drei Datenerhebungen (2014, 2015, 2016) der ÉpStan im Zyklus 2.1 vor und zeigt welche schulischen Kompetenzen Erstklässler am Anfang ihrer Schullaufbahn aufweisen und ... [more ▼]

Dieses Kapitel stellt die Befunde aus drei Datenerhebungen (2014, 2015, 2016) der ÉpStan im Zyklus 2.1 vor und zeigt welche schulischen Kompetenzen Erstklässler am Anfang ihrer Schullaufbahn aufweisen und wie sich diese über zwei Jahre hinweg entwickeln. Allgemein betrachtet, sind die für den Zyklus 1 festgehaltenen Bildungsstandards in den drei überprüften Kernkompetenzen („Luxemburgisch-Hörverstehen“, „Vorläuferfertigkeiten der Schriftsprache“ und „Mathematik“) erfüllt. In allen drei Kompetenzen erreicht die Mehrheit der Schülerinnen und Schüler zu Beginn des Zyklus 2.1 das Niveau Avancé. Zwei Jahre später, im Zyklus 3.1, fällt die Verteilung der Schülerinnen und Schüler auf die verschiedenen Kompetenzränge negativer aus als im Zyklus 2.1. Hier haben vergleichsweise mehr Kinder das Niveau Socle in allen drei Kernkompetenzen noch nicht erreicht. Unsere Befunde zeigen außerdem, dass verschiedene außerschulische Faktoren (wie z. B. sozioökonomische Situation, Sprachhintergrund) bereits sehr früh im Verlauf der Schullaufbahn einen äußerst starken Einfluss auf die Testergebnisse haben und dass sich dieser Einfluss über die Jahre hinweg verstärkt. [less ▲]

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See detailLes compétences scolaires des enfants au début du cycle 2 de l'école fondamentale au Luxembourg et leur développement après deux ans.
Hoffmann, Danielle UL; Hornung, Caroline UL; Gamo, Sylvie UL et al

Report (2018)

Ce chapitre présente les résultats de trois collectes de données (2014, 2015, 2016) des ÉpStan au cycle 2.1 et présente avec quelles compétences scolaires les élèves débutent leur scolarité au début du ... [more ▼]

Ce chapitre présente les résultats de trois collectes de données (2014, 2015, 2016) des ÉpStan au cycle 2.1 et présente avec quelles compétences scolaires les élèves débutent leur scolarité au début du cycle 2.1 et comment celles-ci évoluent sur deux ans. De manière générale, nos résultats montrent que les compétences disciplinaires du cycle 1 portant sur les trois domaines d’apprentissage observés (« compréhension de l’oral en luxembourgeois », « compréhension de l’écrit» et « mathématiques ») sont acquises. Au début du cycle 2.1, la majorité des élèves atteint le Niveau Avancé dans l’ensemble des trois domaines d’apprentissage considérés. Deux ans plus tard, au cycle 3.1, la répartition des élèves sur les différents niveaux de compétence est plus négative qu’au cycle 2.1 et ceci dans la mesure où moins d’enfants ont atteint le Niveau Socle dans l’ensemble des trois domaines d’apprentissage observés. Nos résultats montrent également que, dès le début de la scolarité, différents facteurs extrascolaires (tels que le statut socio-économique et le contexte linguistique) ont une influence extrêmement forte sur les résultats des épreuves et que cette influence augmente au fil des années. [less ▲]

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See detailProject NUMTEST: Assessing basic number competence without language
Greisen, Max UL; Hornung, Caroline UL; Schiltz, Christine UL

Poster (2018, June 28)

Although numerical skills are essential in modern societies, 5- 7 % of the population suffer from mathematical learning disabilities. Due to the hierarchical nature of mathematical knowledge, screening ... [more ▼]

Although numerical skills are essential in modern societies, 5- 7 % of the population suffer from mathematical learning disabilities. Due to the hierarchical nature of mathematical knowledge, screening during the earliest stages of learning is essential to intervene efficiently. While different screening tools exist, they rely on verbal instructions and task content, hampering their usefulness in linguistically heterogeneous young school populations. We developed a computerized task that requires subjects to encode both auditory and visual numerical information to successfully respond to the task’s demands. For task instruction, participants were presented a video showing a person correctly solving three easy items of the task, before moving on to a practice session of three different items. If any item was solved incorrectly, the entire practice session was repeated for the participant. We administered the task to a sample of first grade students and collected participant’s performance in standardized addition, subtraction and number comparison (1 & 2-digit) tasks. A multivariate analysis with practice repetition as between-subject factor on the four standardized control measures revealed that participants that repeated the practice session scored significantly lower in three out of four dependent measures. These results suggest that the immediate understanding (i.e. practice items solved correctly on the first try) of our task, requiring deductive reasoning and an abstract, format-independent representation of quantity, is able to differentiate between high and low performers on standardized measures of basic math competence non-verbally at an early stage of learning. Implications and limitations will be discussed. [less ▲]

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See detailTaking Language out of the Equation: The Assessment of Basic Math Competence Without Language
Greisen, Max UL; Hornung, Caroline UL; Baudson, Tanja Gabriele UL et al

in Frontiers in Psychology (2018)

While numerical skills are fundamental in modern societies, some estimated 5–7% of children suffer from mathematical learning difficulties (MLD) that need to be assessed early to ensure successful ... [more ▼]

While numerical skills are fundamental in modern societies, some estimated 5–7% of children suffer from mathematical learning difficulties (MLD) that need to be assessed early to ensure successful remediation. Universally employable diagnostic tools are yet lacking, as current test batteries for basic mathematics assessment are based on verbal instructions. However, prior research has shown that performance in mathematics assessment is often dependent on the testee’s proficiency in the language of instruction which might lead to unfair bias in test scores. Furthermore, language-dependent assessment tools produce results that are not easily comparable across countries. Here we present results of a study that aims to develop tasks allowing to test for basic math competence without relying on verbal instructions or task content. We implemented video and animation-based task instructions on touchscreen devices that require no verbal explanation. We administered these experimental tasks to two samples of children attending the first grade of primary school. One group completed the tasks with verbal instructions while another group received video instructions showing a person successfully completing the task.We assessed task comprehension and usability aspects both directly and indirectly. Our results suggest that the non-verbal instructions were generally well understood as the absence of explicit verbal instructions did not influence task performance. Thus we found that it is possible to assess basic math competence without verbal instructions. It also appeared that in some cases a single word in a verbal instruction can lead to the failure of a task that is successfully completed with non-verbal instruction. However, special care must be taken during task design because on rare occasions non-verbal video instructions fail to convey task instructions as clearly as spoken language and thus the latter do not provide a panacea to non-verbal assessment. Nevertheless, our findings provide an encouraging proof of concept for the further development of non-verbal assessment tools for basic math competence. [less ▲]

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See detailLEARN Newsletter - Édition 2018
Georges, Carrie UL; Hoffmann, Danielle UL; Hornung, Caroline UL et al

Book published by LEARN (2018)

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See detailVisuo-spatial abilities are key for young children’s verbal number skills
Cornu, Véronique UL; Schiltz, Christine UL; Martin, Romain UL et al

in Journal of Experimental Child Psychology (2018), 166C

Children’s development of verbal number skills (i.e, counting abilities and knowledge of the number names) presents a milestone in mathematical development. Different factors such as visuo-spatial and ... [more ▼]

Children’s development of verbal number skills (i.e, counting abilities and knowledge of the number names) presents a milestone in mathematical development. Different factors such as visuo-spatial and verbal abilities have been discussed to contribute to the development of these foundational skills. To understand the cognitive nature of verbal number skills in young children, the present study assessed the relation of preschoolers’ verbal and visuo-spatial abilities to their verbal number skills. In total, 141 children aged between five and six years participated in the present study. Verbal number skills were regressed on vocabulary, phonological awareness and visuo-spatial abilities, as well as verbal and visuo-spatial working memory in a structural equation model. Only visuo-spatial abilities emerged as a significant predictor of verbal number skills in the estimated model. Our results suggest that visuo-spatial abilities contribute to a larger extent to children’s verbal number skills than verbal abilities. From a theoretical point of view, these results suggest a visuo-spatial, rather than a verbal, grounding of verbal number skills. These results are potentially informative for the conception of early mathematics assessments and interventions. [less ▲]

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See detailLEARN Newsletter - Editioun 2018
Georges, Carrie UL; Hoffmann, Danielle UL; Hornung, Caroline UL et al

Book published by LEARN (2018)

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See detailGeneral and Specific Contributions of RAN to Reading and Arithmetic Fluency in First Graders: A Longitudinal Latent Variable Approach
Hornung, Caroline UL; Martin, Romain UL; Fayol, Michel UL

in Frontiers in Psychology (2017)

In the present study, we opted for a longitudinal design and examined rapid automatized naming (RAN) performance from two perspectives. In a first step, we examined the structure of RAN performance from a ... [more ▼]

In the present study, we opted for a longitudinal design and examined rapid automatized naming (RAN) performance from two perspectives. In a first step, we examined the structure of RAN performance from a general cognitive perspective. We investigated whether rapid naming measures (e.g., digit RAN and color RAN) reflect a mainly domain-general factor or domain-specific factors. In a second step, we examined how the best fitting RAN model was related to reading and arithmetic outcomes, assessed several months later. Finally in a third step we took a clinical perspective and investigated specific contributions of RAN measures to reading and arithmetic outcomes. While RAN has emerged as a promising predictor of reading, the relationship between RAN and arithmetic has been less examined in the past. Hundred and twenty-two first graders completed seven RAN tasks, each comprising visually familiar stimuli such as digits, vowels, consonants, dice, finger-numeral configurations, objects, and colors. Four months later the same children completed a range of reading and arithmetic tasks. From a general descriptive perspective, structural equation modeling supports a one-dimensional RAN factor in 6- to -7-year-old children. However, from a clinical perspective, our findings emphasize the specific contributions of RANs. Interestingly, alphanumeric RANs (i.e., vowel RAN) were most promising when predicting reading skills and number-specific RANs (i.e., finger-numeral configuration RAN) were most promising when predicting arithmetic fluency. The implications for clinical and educational practices will be discussed. [less ▲]

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See detailThe relevance of verbal and visuo-spatial abilities for verbal number skills – what matters in 5 to 6 year olds?
Cornu, Véronique UL; Schiltz, Christine UL; Martin, Romain UL et al

Poster (2017, September)

The acquisition of verbal number skills, as defined by the meaningful use of number words, marks a milestone in numerical development. In the present study, we were particularly interested in the question ... [more ▼]

The acquisition of verbal number skills, as defined by the meaningful use of number words, marks a milestone in numerical development. In the present study, we were particularly interested in the question, whether verbal number skills are primarily verbal in nature, or if they call upon visuo-spatial processes, reflecting a spatial grounding of verbal number skills. 141 five- to six-year old children were tested on a range of verbal (i.e. vocabulary, phonological awareness and verbal working memory) and visuo-spatial abilities (i.e. spatial perception, visuo-motor integration and visuo-spatial working memory). We were particularly interested in the predictive role of these abilities for children’s verbal number skills (as measured by different counting and number naming tasks). In a latent regression model, basic visuo-spatial abilities, measured by spatial perception and visuo-motor integration, emerge as the most important predictor of verbal number skills. This gives raise to the assumption, that verbal number skills are, despite their verbal nature, spatially grounded in young children. [less ▲]

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See detailThe power of vowels: Contributions of vowel, consonant and digit RAN to clinical approaches in reading development
Hornung, Caroline UL; Martin, Romain UL; Fayol, Michel UL

in Learning and Individual Differences (2017), 57

The main purpose of this study was to examine the specific contributions of rapid automatized naming (RAN) measures with different visually presented stimuli (e.g., vowels, consonants, digits) to reading ... [more ▼]

The main purpose of this study was to examine the specific contributions of rapid automatized naming (RAN) measures with different visually presented stimuli (e.g., vowels, consonants, digits) to reading outcomes in first and second grade. Previous studies have shown that RAN is an independent and robust predictor for reading skills in children. Less research investigated the incremental contributions of distinct RAN measures to reading skills in beginning readers. Ninety-three children from kindergarten and first grade completed four different RAN measures involving color, digit, vowel, and consonant naming at the end of the school year. Six months later these children were either in first or in second grade and completed several reading measures. The results emphasize that vowel RAN was a strong and unique predictor for reading accuracy in first grade. Vowel RAN and digit RAN were both significant predictors for reading speed in second grade. The current findings underline that vowel RAN is a promising predictor for reading outcomes (i.e., accuracy and speed) at the beginning of elementary school. RAN performance did however not significantly predict second grade reading comprehension. Results and practical implications will be discussed. [less ▲]

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See detailProject NUMTEST: Assessing basic number competence without language
Greisen, Max UL; Hornung, Caroline UL; Martin, Romain UL et al

Poster (2017, May 31)

While numerical skills are fundamental in modern societies, some estimated 5-7% of children suffer from a mathematical learning disorder, called developmental dyscalculia (DD). Nevertheless, universally ... [more ▼]

While numerical skills are fundamental in modern societies, some estimated 5-7% of children suffer from a mathematical learning disorder, called developmental dyscalculia (DD). Nevertheless, universally valid diagnostic instruments are still lacking, as all current DD test batteries are based on language instructions. Consequently, their measurements are tightly linked to the specific language context of test administration and thus their results cannot easily be compared across countries. Here we are showing results of the first pilot study of a research project that aims to develop a test for basic math abilities that does not rely on language instruction and minimizes language use. To this aim, video and animation based instructions were implemented on touchscreen devices. A first version of the tasks has been tested with two samples of first grade children in Luxembourg’s fundamental schools, of which half completed the same tasks with traditional verbal instructions. Our results indicate that performance in the experimental group was similar or better than the control group using verbal instructions. Relationships between linguistic background and the sample’s performance on one hand and qualitative usability aspects of nonverbal task instruction and tablet-pc use with young children will be discussed. [less ▲]

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