Contextual Variation, Familiarity, Academic Literacy, and Rural Adolescents’ Idiom Knowledge Purpose: The paucity of data on idiom development in adolescents, particularly rural adolescents, limits the ability of speech-language pathologists and educators to test and teach idioms appropriately in this population. This study was designed to delineate the interrelationships between context, familiarity, and academic literacy relative to rural adolescents’ idiom knowledge. ... Clinical Forum
Clinical Forum  |   January 01, 2003
Contextual Variation, Familiarity, Academic Literacy, and Rural Adolescents’ Idiom Knowledge
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Constance Dean Qualls, PhD
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
    Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, The Pennsylvania State University, 105 Moore Building, University Park, PA 16802-3100
  • Rose M. O’Brien
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  • Gordon W. Blood
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  • Carol Scheffner Hammer
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  • Currently affiliated with Chatham County Schools, Pittsboro, NC.
    Currently affiliated with Chatham County Schools, Pittsboro, NC.×
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: cdq2@psu.edu
Article Information
Development / School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Clinical Forum: Literacy Issues in Multicultural Populations
Clinical Forum   |   January 01, 2003
Contextual Variation, Familiarity, Academic Literacy, and Rural Adolescents’ Idiom Knowledge
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, January 2003, Vol. 34, 69-79. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2003/007)
History: Received September 28, 2002 , Accepted October 12, 2002
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, January 2003, Vol. 34, 69-79. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2003/007)
History: Received September 28, 2002; Accepted October 12, 2002
Web of Science® Times Cited: 15

Purpose: The paucity of data on idiom development in adolescents, particularly rural adolescents, limits the ability of speech-language pathologists and educators to test and teach idioms appropriately in this population. This study was designed to delineate the interrelationships between context, familiarity, and academic literacy relative to rural adolescents’ idiom knowledge.

Method: Ninety-five rural eighth graders (M age=13.4 years) were quasi-randomly assigned to complete the Idiom Comprehension Test (Qualls & Harris, 1999) in one of three contexts: idioms in a short story (n=25), idioms in isolation (n=32), and idioms in a verification task (n=38). For all conditions, the identical 24 idioms—8 each of high, moderate, and low familiarity (Nippold & Rudzinski, 1993)—were presented. For a subset (N=54) of the students, reading and language arts scores from the California Achievement Tests (5th ed., 1993), a standardized achievement test, were correlated with performance on the idiom test.

Results: Performance in the story condition and on high-familiarity idioms showed the greatest accuracy. For the isolation and verification conditions, context interacted with familiarity. Associations existed between idiom performance and reading ability and idiom performance and language literacy, but only for the story and verification conditions. High-proficiency readers showed the greatest idiom accuracy.

Clinical Implications: The results support the notion that context facilitates idiom comprehension for rural adolescents, and that idiom testing should consider not only context, but idiom familiarity as well. Thus, local norms should be established. Findings also confirm that good readers are better at comprehending idioms, likely resulting from enriched vocabulary obtained through reading. These normative data indicate what might be expected when testing idiom knowledge in adolescents with language impairments.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs Research to Practice Division, Grant No. H325H9900734. We are grateful to the school principals, parents, and students for their important contribution to this research project. We also acknowledge the graduate students in communication sciences and disorders at Penn State (Class of 2002) who provided reliability data. Finally, very special thanks to Beth Treaster, Jennifer Lantz, Heather Jordan, Alex Gaither, Emily Arnold, Lauren Ness, and Paul Pietrzyk for their support and assistance on various aspects of this research.
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