Publications & Resources

An Approach to Operationalizing Academic Language for Language Test Development Purposes: Evidence From Fifth-Grade Science and Math

Apr 2004

Frances A. Butler, Carol Lord, Robin Stevens, Malka Borrego, and Alison L. Bailey

This report details an exploratory study that employs empirical methods to operationalize academic language (AL) for language test development purposes. First, an evidence-based approach to operationalizing AL is discussed, followed by a proposed methodology for systematically collecting and synthesizing AL research findings from two data sources—standards and textbooks at the fifth-grade level for science and math. In addition, we explore the potential for using extant classroom videos as an AL data source and present preliminary findings. We then begin to articulate a process for synthesizing AL data for test development purposes, specifically to inform specifications and prototype tasks. Findings include the use of language functions as an organizing structure for operationalizing AL. The research reported here will lead to a better understanding of the kinds of language students need for successful school performance, which will help in the development of English language tests for English language learners that are aligned to the language of the classroom.

Butler, F. A., Lord, C., Stevens, R., Borrego, M., & Bailey, A. L. (2004). An approach to operationalizing academic language for language test development purposes: Evidence from fifth-grade science and math (CSE Report 626). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).