Sign Language Learning and Assessment in German Switzerland

Exploring the potential of vocabulary size tests for Swiss German Sign Language

  • Tobias Haug Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik & Sign Language Assessment Services
  • Sarah Ebling Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik
  • Penny Boyes Braem Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik & Centre for Sign Language Research Basel
  • Katja Tissi Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik
  • Sandra Sidler-Miserez Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik
Keywords: Swiss German Sign Language (DSGS), sign language assessment, vocabulary size tests

Abstract

In German Switzerland the learning and assessment of Swiss German Sign Language (Deutschschweizerische Gebärdensprache, DSGS) takes place in different contexts, for example, in tertiary education or in continuous education courses. By way of the still ongoing implementation of the Common European Framework of Reference for DSGS, different tests and assessment procedures are currently been developed and their potential are explored to support the learning and assessment of DSGS. Examples of this are two vocabulary size tests. The first is a web-delivered Yes/No Test, the second a Translation Test from written German to DSGS. For both tests, the same set of items was used. The items were sampled from DSGS teaching materials.

For the development of the two vocabulary size tests, 20 DSGS adult learners of ages 24 to 55 (M = 39.3) were recruited as test takers. An item analysis of the test results yielded candidates for removal from the item set. Cronbach’s Alpha showed good results for both tests (>.90), and inter-rater reliability of the translation test also indicated promising results (Cohen’s Kappa = .613, p <.001). Evidence contributing to content validity was collected based on the sampling method of the test items. Due to the lack of a second DSGS vocabulary test that could be used to establish concurrent validity, external variables were identified and investigated as possible external criteria contributing to the performance of the test takers. One variable, number of courses attended, showed a significant correlation with the test results.

Author Biographies

Tobias Haug, Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik & Sign Language Assessment Services

Prof. Dr. Tobias Haug studied sign linguistics at Hamburg University and Deaf Education at Boston University, where he received his master’s in 1998. In 2009, he earned his Ph.D. in sign languages from Hamburg University. In 2017 he completed a distance master in Language Testing, Lancaster University. Since 2004, he has been the program director of and lecturer in the sign language interpreter program at the University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education in Zurich.

Sarah Ebling, Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik

Dr. Sarah Ebling is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Zurich and University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education Zurich. As a computational linguist, her focus is on the contribution of language technology to accessibility. For her Ph.D., she worked on automatic sign language translation and animation.

Penny Boyes Braem, Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik & Centre for Sign Language Research Basel

Penny Boyes Braem (PhD, Dr. h.c.) has conducted studies of L1 acquisition of ASL, the use of ‘mouthings’, characteristics of signed prosody, comparisons of early and later learner signing as well as developing a large databank of Swiss German (DSGS) signs, which is now incorporated into a growing corpus lexicon. (www.fzgresearch.org)

Katja Tissi, Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik

Katja Tissi is a trained sign language teacher for Swiss German Sign Language (DSGS). She works for more than 30 years as a lecturer in the sign language interpreting program at the University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education in Zurich. She has been involved in various research projects on DSGS, among others dealing with the creation of technical terms in DSGS, phonological variants, and the assessment in L2 learners.

Sandra Sidler-Miserez, Interkantonale Hochschule fuer Heilpaedagogik

Sandra Sidler-Miserez is a trained sign language teacher for DSGS. She has been involved in various research project at the University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education in Zurich. She is also in charge of the online lexicon for DSGS, maintained by the Swiss Deaf Association.

Published
2019-04-30
Section
Articles