University of Leicester
2021NigolianMPhD.pdf (2.35 MB)

The Assessment of Reading for English Learners in the Academic Language of Mathematics

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posted on 2022-02-16, 22:11 authored by Mark Nigolian
This thesis was designed to improve the assessment of math academic language, specifically in the area of reading for English Language Learners (ELLs) in grades K-12 in the United States (U.S.). This was conducted through research on the WIDA (World-class Instructional Design and Assessment) Consortium’s approach in assessing academic language in math reading. The research also developed a new method for assessing reading in math academic language based on Systemic Functional Linguistics called the REALM (Reading Evaluation in the Academic Language of Mathematics).
Part 1 of this thesis used a Mixed Methods Research (MMR) to evaluate WIDA math reading test items. A core component of this research was an item analysis comparing the performance of ELLs who possess math knowledge of the math topics embedded on the WIDA ELP test items to the performance of those ELLs without such math knowledge. Other elements of the MMR were a cognitive lab asking student perceptions of WIDA math reading items, a teacher survey measuring teacher perceptions about the presence of math content in WIDA items, and text analysis of WIDA items. Part 1 showed that content knowledge in mathematics may impact student performance on the WIDA math reading items, intended to measure language proficiency.
Part 2 of the thesis research developed, refined, and administered a math reading assessment (REALM) focused on math word problems based on Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). This new math language assessment operated effectively and provided detailed information regarding student needs and strengths in the area of reading math word problems. The transparent nature of the REALM was designed to support students in understanding the language features of math word problems to enhance language and math learning.



Glenn Fulcher; Agneta Svalberg

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Education

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD