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Adolescent discourse across four tasks (Wallis & Westerveld, 2024)

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posted on 2024-05-15, 19:41 authored by Adele K. Wallis, Marleen F. Westerveld

Purpose: Comprehensive spoken language assessment should include the evaluation of language use in naturalistic contexts. Discourse elicitation and analysis provides the opportunity for such an evaluation to occur. In this article, our overall aim was to describe adolescents’ language performance on four elicitation tasks and determine if there are task-related differences across the elicitation tasks.

Method: Forty-four typically developing adolescents with ages ranging from 12;2 to 17;11 (years;months; M = 15;2; 21 boys and 23 girls) participated in the study. They completed four spoken discourse tasks: (a) story generation using a wordless picture book, (b) fable retell, (c) six personal narratives in response to emotion-based prompts, and (d) monologic response to two stories that contained a moral dilemma. Responses were transcribed and analyzed for four language performance measures tapping into language productivity, syntactic complexity, lexical diversity, and verbal facility.

Results: Despite individual variability in performance, mean scores were close to median scores for most measures, suggesting a symmetrical distribution. As expected, all four language performance measures were significantly different across the four elicitation tasks. The personal narrative task elicited the longest samples, with the highest verbal fluency. In contrast, both lexical diversity and syntactic complexity were the strongest in response to the fable retell and the moral dilemma tasks.

Conclusions: This investigation provides speech-language pathologists with an overview of how task-related factors may impact adolescent language performance. These findings may be used to support their clinical decision-making processes in choosing a suitable discourse task when conducting a comprehensive spoken language assessment. Three hypothetical case examples are used to illustrate the decision-making process.

Supplemental Material S1. Assessment protocol.

Supplemental Material S2. Overview of elicitation tasks used in language sample analysis drawn from research into adolescent discourse.

Supplemental Material S3. Means (and 95% CI error bars) for TNCU across the four elicitation tasks.

Supplemental Material S4. Means (and 95% CI error bars) for MLU across the four elicitation tasks.

Supplemental Material S5. Means (and 95% CI error bars) for MA-NDW across the four elicitation tasks.

Supplemental Material S6. Means (and 95% CI error bars) for WPM across the four elicitation tasks.

Wallis, A. K., & Westerveld, M. F. (2024). Examining adolescent language performance in discourse production across four elicitation tasks. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 55(3), 838–852.


This study received funding from Wishlist Research Grant Scheme 2014, Wishlist Foundation, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service.