Test of American Sign Language
The Test of ASL (TASL) has been developed within the framework of a larger research project between San Francisco State University and the University of California, Santa Cruz investigating the relationship between ASL and English literacy skill (Strong & Prinz, 1997, 2000; Prinz et al., 1994).
Similar to the ASLAI, the TASL provides an in-depth investigation of specific linguistic structures and, thus, does not provide a screen for deaf children. So far, the TASL has been used with 155 deaf students, aged 8 to 15.
The Test of
ASL consists of two production and four comprehension measures.
TASL production measures
(1) Classifier Production Test: A five minute cartoon movie was shown to the students. The cartoon was then presented again in ten segments. The students need to sign each segment in ASL and were videotaped. Later, they were scored for the presence of different size, shape, and movement markers in the classifiers.
(2) Sign Narrative: Pictures from a children’s book without text were given to the students. They need to be able to sign the story in ASL. The students were videotaped and later scored using a checklist for the presence of ASL grammar and narrative structures.
TASL comprehension measures
Story Comprehension: An ASL narrative presented by a native
signer was shown on video. While watching the video, the students were asked
questions about the content and were videotaped.
Classifier Comprehension Test: Pictures with
objects of a variety of features were shown to the students. They saw a deaf
person describing each object in five different ways. On an answer sheet with
video freeze frames of each description, the students needed to mark one that
provided the best description.
(3) Time Marker Test: on video six representations of specific time or period of time were shown. On a calendar-like answer sheet, the students needed to find corresponding dates.
(4) Map Marker Test: On video a description was given for ways objects are located in given environments, e.g. vehicles at a crossroads or furniture in a bedroom. For each description, the students had to select the correct representation from a selection of photographs in an answer booklet.
In the first
stage of this project, the TASL has been developed, refinement of data
collection procedures have been made, sampling procedures have been planned,
and a small sample has been tested. The results of the pilot revealed that the
instrument measurements are both reliable and valid.
In the second
stage, two measurements were conducted on the deaf students: the TASL and an
English literacy test. The subjects of the study were 155 deaf students from
the same educational site, divided into two age groups (1) 8 to 11 years old
and (2) 12 to 15 years old.
A draft of the
test was sent to five nationally-known deaf linguists who were hired as
consultants to review the test and give suggestions of how to improve it. The
final version incorporates their feedback.
tested during the school day in two sessions, each one hour long. One hour was
assigned for the TASL and one hour for the English literacy test. The TASL was
conducted by a deaf researcher fluent in ASL, and no hearing person was
present. The test instructions were in ASL on video. The signed responses were
videotaped and later scored by a deaf researcher.
reliability was established for each TASL subtest by having raters score ten
protocols, review them, resolve disagreement, and then score a second set of
protocols. The agreement was better than 96%.
of ASL proficiency were created by dividing the range of TASL scores into
thirds: low, medium, and high levels of ASL ability.
analyses of the TASL is currently underway. The test has been translated into
Catalan Sign Language at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain and
into French Sign Language in cooperation of the
Bilingual School for the Deaf in Geneva and the University of Geneva,
Department for Psycholinguistic, Switzerland. Psychometric analysis for these
tests are currently underway. There are also plans to translate the TASL into
Swedish Sign Language (P. Prinz, personal communication, October 21, 2000).
approximately one hour to administer and 15-30 minutes to score. There are
plans to standardize the test (establish norms) so it can be used as a
diagnostic measure (P. Prinz, personal communication, December 12, 2000).
The TASL is
not available. So far it only has been used in the research context and not as
an assessment for deaf students.
Among the strengths of the TASL
are that (1) it has beenreviewed by deaf experts, (2) it has been developed for
research purpose, and (3) has future plans to be used as an assessment for deaf
Among the weaknesses of the TASL
are that (1) it does not report on the psychometric testing in the published
literature (only inter-rater reliability), (2) it can not to be used as a
baseline assessment in an educational setting, and (3) it focuses only on the
older age ranges.
Web-based version of the TASL
version of the TASL has been expanded and redeveloped to a web-based testing instrument. The
goal was to have a tool for more diagnostic purpose to help explaining
differences in deaf children's sign language proficiency. In addition, the
revised TASL is meant as a device for educators to help developing strategies for
teaching the deaf. The structure of the original version was changed to be more
suitable for these purposes. In addition, the new version of TASL will be
web-based which significantly facilitates the process of administering and
scoring the test. The revised version focuses on both comprehension and
production. The format of the test items makes it possible to assess
participants' ASL skills without relying on video recordings of test takers'
language samples. Pilot testing is currently underway (W. Mann, personal