Academic Language Competencies (BiSpra) II: Affordances, Language Processing, and Diagnostics.

The command of the so-called academic language, which is characterized, among other things, by a semantically more demanding vocabulary, more complex grammatical structures as well as more sophisticated speech acts, types of discourse, and text genres, is considered to be a crucial precondition for school success. Although education research and education practice ascribe high importance to academic language skills, a clear description of the language features that characterize academic language, is lacking thus far. At the same time, valid test instruments for the assessment of the skills needed to handle academic language demands – especially for the German language – do not yet exist. Against this background, the research project “Academic language proficiency (BiSpra II): Language demands, language processing, and diagnostics” pursued two main goals: First, we aimed at (1) identifying academic language features that are likely to play a central role for school success and to pose particular problems for children from varying family backgrounds. Based on these findings, we aimed at (2) developing and validating a test instrument for the assessment of academic language skills of elementary school children, which should be informed by both linguistics and developmental psychology. Furthermore, the importance of these language skills for academic success should be examined. Whereas we focused on the first goal during the first funding period, we put special emphasis on the second goal during the second funding period.

In close cooperation of the two project groups in Bamberg and Berlin and based on the preparatory work and the results of the first funding period, we (further) developed tasks for the assessment of functional-integrative listening comprehension skills of linguistically challenging texts as well as tasks for the assessment of language-component related academic language skills (vocabulary, comprehension of sentence connections with clause connectors). The main objective of the further development of text-based listening comprehension tasks (main focus of the Berlin project group) was to provide additional, particularly challenging texts and tasks, which should be suitable for upper elementary classes. The development of the scales for academic vocabulary and the comprehension of sentence connections with clause connectors (main focus of the Bamberg project group) did not only come along with the challenge of testing two different item formats against each other (gapped sentence format vs. picture-based format) and of identifying a suitable format based on item statistics. Furthermore, the development of the vocabulary items required an empirically based and linguistically grounded selection of specific terms and words that are relevant for learning processes at school. In order to achieve this goal, the Bamberg project group cooperated with the work group of Prof. Dr. Angelika Redder (University of Hamburg) for six months.

Regarding the text-based listening comprehension, the results of a pilot study showed that we succeeded in developing reliable test items that are suitable for the assessment of students from different grades and from various language backgrounds. In terms of the comprehension of academic vocabulary and clause connectors, the gapped sentence format proved to be superior to the picture-based item format. Overall, the gapped sentence format yielded good reliability coefficients and differentiated between grades and language groups in the expected way. It was therefore chosen for the subsequent validation study.

The validation study implemented a repeated measurement design with two cohorts of students (2nd and 3rd grade), in which roughly 1,000 children participated. In addition to the three BiSpra scales, we assessed a number of validation variables in the study (e.g., general vocabulary, grammar, basic cognitive abilities, reading comprehension, mathematical competencies). The results support the finding that the scales are generally suitable to assess the achieved competence levels, interindividual differences in the competence levels, as well as individual competence developments at elementary school age. They further indicate that the newly developed scales are related to other skills (e.g., general vocabulary, basic cognitive abilities) as expected, thus providing first hints as to convergent and discriminant validity. Preliminary analyses in terms of prognostic validity, that are thus far based on small sub-samples, further suggest that the competencies that are assessed by the BiSpra scales significantly contribute to the prediction of school-related competencies and teachers’ ratings of students’ achievements (e.g., in reading and science), even when important background variables (e.g., age, socioeconomic status (SES) of the families) are controlled. Additionally, the impact of the families’ SES on students’ grade marks seems to be primarily mediated by the academic language skills of the children.

The available results will be deepened and expanded in the subsequent third funding period (BiSpra Tasks). Besides the longitudinal analysis of changes over the time we are planning to investigate the role of certain aspects of the class composition and/or of instructional processes, for example, in order to get further insights into the importance of academic language for the acquisition of school-related competencies.

Principal Investigators
Stanat, Petra Prof. Dr. (Details) (Educational Psychology (Learning, Instruction and Evaluation))
Weinert, Sabine Prof. Dr. (University of Bamberg)

Other Team Members
Heppt, Birgit Dr. (Details) (Department of Education Studies)

participating organizational facilities of the HU


Duration of Project
Start date: 03/2013
End date: 07/2016

Research Areas
Bildungssprache, Empirische Bildungsforschung, Grundschule, Schülerinnen und Schüler mit Zuwanderungshintergrund, Sprachdiagnostik, Validierung

Dragon, N., Berendes, K., Weinert, S., Heppt, B., & Stanat, P. (2015). Ignorieren Grundschulkinder Konnektoren? — Untersuchung einer bildungssprachlichen Komponente. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, 18(4), 803-825.

Heppt, B. (2016). Verständnis von Bildungssprache bei Kindern mit deutscher und nicht-deutscher Familiensprache. Dissertation, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Verfügbar unter:

Heppt, B., Stanat, P., Dragon, N., Berendes, K., & Weinert, S. (2014). Bildungssprachliche Anforderungen und Hörverstehen bei Kindern mit deutscher und nicht-deutscher Familiensprache. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 28(3), 139-149.

Köhne, J., Kronenwerth, S., Redder, A., Schuth, E. & Weinert, S. (2015). Bildungssprachlicher Wortschatz – linguistische und psychologische Fundierung und Itementwicklung. In A. Redder, J. Naumann & R. Tracy (Hrsg.), Forschungsinitiative Sprachdiagnostik und Sprachförderung (FiSS) – Ergebnisse (S. 67-92). Münster: Waxmann.

Schuth, E., Heppt, B., Köhne, J., Weinert, S. & Stanat, P. (2015). Die Erfassung schulisch relevanter Sprachkompetenzen bei Grundschulkindern – Entwicklung eines Testinstruments. In A. Redder, J. Naumann & R. Tracy (Hrsg.), Forschungsinitiative Sprachdiagnostik und Sprachförderung (FiSS) – Ergebnisse (S. 73-92). Münster: Waxmann.

Weinert, S., Stanat, P., Heppt, B. & Schuth, E. (2017). Verbundvorhaben: Bildungssprachliche Kompetenzen (BiSpra II): Anforderungen, Sprachverarbeitung und Diagnostik. Schlussbericht 2016. Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg u.a. Verfügbar unter:

Weinert, S., Stanat, P., Heppt, B., Theisen, E. & Köhne-Fuetterer, J. (2019): Bildungssprachliche Kompetenzen (BiSpra II) - Anforderungen, Sprachverarbeitung und Diagnostik. Version: 1. IQB – Institut zur Qualitätsentwicklung im Bildungswesen. Datensatz.

Last updated on 2020-17-11 at 11:11