Developing literacy skills in Hong Kong’s young Chinese language learners: Effectiveness of an evidence-based instructional intervention

Developing literacy skills in Hong Kong’s young Chinese language learners: Effectiveness of an evidence-based instructional intervention

First Author: Yu Ka Wong -- The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Keywords: Intervention studies, (Chinese) characters, second language learning, Literacy development
Abstract / Summary: 

Effectiveness of an instructional intervention on Chinese as a second language (CSL) literacy provided to Hong Kong’s primary ethnic minority students was evaluated. The intervention is proposed on the knowledge base supported by a sizable body of Chinese literacy research. A total of 199 grade-four students from five schools joined the research and was designated into treatment (97 students) and control (102 students) groups for a year. The treatment group’s Chinese classes were provided with learning materials highlighting instructions on componential knowledge such as Chinese orthographic conventions and word-compound structures. A range of linguistic measures covering Chinese orthographic, phonological, morphological awareness, character reading and spelling was administered to both groups of students before and after treatment as pre- and post- tests. The students performed better on all measures except spelling after a year, with statistically significant paired t-test values ranging from t (198) = -4.01, p < .01 (phonological awareness) to t (198) = -10.05, p < .01 (character reading). Results of analysis of covariance showed that, controlling for pre-test attainments, students of treatment group gained greater improvement than those of control group in all competences except phonological awareness. The treatment effects, as indicated by the partial eta-squared (ηp2) values, were as follows: orthographic awareness: ηp2 = .040, p < .01; morphological awareness: ηp2 = .022, p < .05; character reading: ηp2 = .037, p < .01; and, spelling: ηp2 = .070, p < .01. The findings supported the effectiveness of the intervention in developing the CSL students’ Chinese literacy skills (character reading and spelling) by promoting their orthographic and morphological knowledge and awareness. To enhance learning effectiveness, teachers may explicitly teach the structural properties of the Chinese language and use them as guiding principles for learning content development.