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International Journal
Learning, Teaching
Educational Research
p-ISSN: 1694-2493
e-ISSN: 1694-2116

Vol.16 No.2
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VOLUME 16 NUMBER 2 February 2017

Table of Contents
Bug-In-Ear Technology to Enhance Preservice Teacher Training: Peer Versus Instructor Feedback .......................... 1
Nikki L. Hollett, Sheri J. Brock and Vanessa Hinton

The Necessity for Assessment and Management of Speech, Language and Communication Needs to Take
Account of Cultural and Multilingual Diversity .............................................................................................................. 11
Jonathan Glazzard

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy on Employment Development of Individuals with Disabilities .......................................... 22

Li Ju Chen

A Simulation-Based Model for Teaching Business Writing: Exploration and Applications ...................................... 35
Dr. Andrew Szanajda and Dr. Fang-Chun Ou

An Exploration of Culturally Grounded Youth Suicide Prevention Programs for Native American and African
American Youth .................................................................................................................................................................... 48
Rhonda G. Bluehen-Unger, Deborah A. Stiles, Jameca Falconer, Tammy R. Grant, Ericka J. Boney and Kelly K. Brunner

SThe Feature of ATR and ATR Harmony in NiloSaharan Languages of Ethiopia ...................................................... 62
Wakweya Olani Gobena

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 1-10, February 2017

Bug-In-Ear Technology to Enhance Preservice

Teacher Training: Peer Versus Instructor
Nikki L. Hollett, Sheri J. Brock and Vanessa Hinton
Auburn University
Alabama, United States

Abstract. Earbud technology has been used in teacher education to

strategically increase learning outcomes and appropriate decision-
making of pre-service teachers (PST) for over 60 years (Ottley &
Hanline, 2014). Research on the integration of wireless communication
in physical education teacher education (PETE) programs is limited,
however needed to prepare PST for effective teaching. The purpose of
this study was to examine the influence of instructor and peer cues via
Bug-In-Ear (BIE) technology on PST delivery of feedback and
movement. Participants (n=16) in an introductory methods course
taught 12 lessons to K-2nd grade children during a practical course
experience while receiving a condition: instructor verbal cueing, peer
verbal cueing, or control with no verbal cueing. Data collection included
videotaping and coding lessons for performance feedback (PFB) and
sector changes (SC) and individual interviews. Based on the occurrence
of cues per minute, results found significance with PFB offered more
frequently with instructor cues (F 2, 33 = 8.5, p= 0.001). Sector changes
increased in the instructor and peer cueing conditions, but differences
were not significant. Interview data revealed four major themes: (1) PST
focused more on teaching when using BIE technology; (2) using BIE was
sometimes distracting; (3) suggestions for improved implementation;
and (4) differences in peer and instructor verbal cueing. Results support
the beneficial integration of BIE technology into teaching methods
within a PETE program.

Keywords: teacher training; earbud technology; wireless

communication; teacher effectiveness

Earbud technology has been used to help individuals gain the applied skills
needed to be successful in the workforce for over 60 years (Ottley & Hanline,
2014). This kind of technology is referred to as a Bug-In-Ear (BIE) device or a
Whisper-In-My-Ear (WIME) device (Farrell & Chandler, 2008), in which trainees
insert the device into their ear, and the trainer or observer can speak to the
trainee through the microphone on the transmitter. With BIE the trainee is not
able to speak back to the trainer at the transmitter and the trainer does not have

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to be visible, thus encouraging more flexibility and independency due to more

indirect supervision. When using BIE to deliver immediate feedback, the
individual is able to alter behavior and techniques instantaneously.

Combining BIE with a virtual network can enable immediate feedback from
remote locations (Gibson & Musti-Rao, 2016). Webcam and Skype are examples
of technological advancements that make supervision of PST more convenient
and realistic. Individuals can set up a webcam to face the classroom or gym,
while the teachers or professors supervising can be in another classroom or
school. Videoconferencing has been used in rural and international locations
providing accessibility to those who are limited with resources and are isolated
(Alger & Kopcha, 2009; Bullock, Gable, & Mohr, 2008; Scheeler, McKinnon, &
Stout, 2012). More recently eCoaching or electronic coaching has been used for
simultaneous supervision through the internet to the PST to provide immediate
feedback during teaching (Coogle, Rahn, & Ottley, 2015; Regan, Weiss, &
Evmenova, 2017; Rock et al., 2014; Scheeler et al., 2010).

BIE technology can also be an effective tool to implement in the education

setting when preparing pre-service teachers (PST) (Farrell & Chandler, 2008;
Scheeler & Lee, 2002). BIE technology can be useful in providing a more
independent approach for PST to learn, however attitudes toward the
technology vary. For cooperating teachers, being able to use the BIE allowed
them to feel closer and more connected with their k-5 class without actually
teachingone of my major concerns is losing contact with my class, or watching
them get out of control when not under my supervisionI now had control over
my class and a better connection with the student teacher (Farrell & Chandler,
2008, p. 3). Cooperating teachers also gained a stronger relationship with their
PST personally and professionally by working as a team (Farrell & Chandler,

Aim and purpose

The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of instructor and peer
prompts via BIE communication on PST feedback and movement. Specifically,
researchers examined the frequency of performance feedback statements and
sector changes during a series of teaching episodes. PST were also asked to
reflect on the use of BIE technology and its influence on their teaching in

In this section, we aim to review the literature in classroom and physical
education settings that have incorporated BIE technology into research designs.
Justifications for the use of performance feedback and sector changes as the
outcomes measured will conclude this part of the article.

BIE in general and special education

BIE technology has been used in research extensively in general and special
education classrooms. Numerous studies have found BIE technology to work

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effectively in providing feedback to change teaching behaviors of PST working

in general classrooms and with special education students (McAfee, Ruhl, & Lee,
2006; Scheeler & Lee, 2002; Scheeler, McAfee, Ruhl, & Lee, 2006). Immediate
performance feedback, as stated by Scheeler, McAfee, Ruhl, and Lee (2006),
instantly stops teachers from practicing less effective teaching methods,
permitting students to receive more effective instruction. However, immediate
feedback can have a negative impact on the instruction the PST is giving by
distracting the teacher. The authors also found that if the feedback is delayed or
once the session is complete, the PST may continue the negative behavior
throughout their field based experiences and in service applied settings
(Scheeler et al. 2006). In a study by Goodman, Brady, Duffy, Scott, and Pollard
(2008), BIE technology was utilized to provide immediate feedback to special
education teachers in a K-8 classroom. Results showed rate and accuracy of
effective teaching behaviors improved with the novice teachers that used BIE
technology; during baseline period (without BIE) average accuracy was 58.3%,
and during intervention (with BIE) average accuracy was 95.3%. Coogle, Rahn,
and Ottley (2015) used BIE eCoaching through Skype to support effective
communication strategies of early childhood special education teachers. Results
indicated that immediate feedback through the use of BIE eCoaching improved
the PST communication strategies with children with special needs in small-
group activities. This outcome supports the use of BIE technology to give
feedback from a distance to enhance the student teaching methods (Rock et al.,
2009; 2012; Scheeler et al., 2010).

BIE in physical education

Research using BIE technology in physical education is limited to qualitative

designs focusing on satisfaction of using the device while teaching (Fry & Hin,
2006; Kahan, 2002). Kahan (2002) studied communication characteristics,
participant satisfaction, and attitudes toward BIE technology from the
standpoint of a PST and a cooperating teacher (CT). Data collection included
communication analysis, eight questionnaires (one after each lesson), and one
exit interview for one PST and her CT over the course of one semester. Results
found that communication in each lesson was of short duration (M = 15.8 s) and
low rate (M = 0.25 communications/min) with the majority of communications
being managerial and initiated by the CT. Interview data generated three themes
to explain the characteristics of analyzed communication: CT and PST
interpersonal and professional compatibility; role clarity; and commitment to
perceived role function. Interpersonal and professional compatibility
represented the balanced and compatible relationship between the CT and PST.
Both participants exhibited an emphasized managerial teaching philosophy and
similar attitudes on curriculum ideas. Role clarity explained the participants
sense of roles and responsibilities toward each other. The CT provided the
advice, mentorship, and supervising that the PST needed in order to develop as
a quality teacher. Perceived role function were different for both participants
due to their status, and this reflected in their initiated communications. The CT
perceived her role to critically observe and provide instructional feedback to the
PST, whereas the PST perceived her role to be focused on her teaching and to
develop her confidence and self-efficacy as a teacher. Thus, the number of PST

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initiated communication was lower than the CT. The PST developed her skills as
a teacher through the initiation of communication.

Over time, the student teachers teaching behaviors indicated that she
had assumed ownership of the class in every facet and had adopted the
cooperating teachers ideas such as beginning-of-lesson fitness games, time
saving equipment-distribution routines, and organization of students for
class that prevented or reduced off-task behavior and increased activity
time (Kahan, 2002, p.95).

Kahan (2002) found the PST showed higher satisfaction when receiving instant
feedback during the lesson. It was also stated the PST took ownership of the
classes and was more comfortable after receiving peer coaching via wireless ear-
buds. PST reported that the discretion, immediacy, and feedback were
cooperative, supportive, and offered great value to her teaching (Kahan, 2002).

Furthermore, Fry and Hin (2006) used interactive wireless technology to allow
PST (n= 21) to communicate with each other throughout their lessons, while
measuring satisfaction in the role of a teacher and coach. The PST were enrolled
in a Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) program and were required
to teach daily lessons over a four-week period. Data from a questionnaire
reported PST had higher levels of satisfaction at the end of the four-week
teaching block in the amount of communication (3.25 to 3.76), the content of
communication (3.85 to 4.00), and satisfaction with the role as a student teacher
(3.70 to 4.00). Results support PST being generally satisfied using the technology
during their teaching experiences.

Measuring teacher effectiveness in physical education

When incorporating BIE technology into teacher preparation, it is important to

identify criteria that determine teacher effectiveness. Since Medley (1979)
primarily defined teacher effectiveness as having desirable traits and practicing
effective methods in the classroom, researchers have focused on developing
systematic methods based on these conceptions for measuring teaching (Rink,
2013). Rink (2013) described the shift from studying indirect teaching
characteristics (teacher warmth, praise, flexibility) to studying more direct
teaching characteristics (task-oriented, learning experiences, activity time,
monitoring, and feedback) as more meaningful research. Providing feedback
was a direct teaching characteristic identified as being positively correlated with
student achievement (Rink, 2013). Additionally, analyzing sector changes
provided a critical component of teacher movements within the classroom (van
Der Mars, Darst, Vogler, & Cusimano, 1995). van der Mars, Darst, Vogler, and
Cusimano (1995) measured teachers sector changes and performance feedback
with students during lessons. Instead of focusing solely on communication
between two people, van der Mars et al. (1995) wanted to establish a detailed
database on certain dimensions of elementary physical education teachers
involvement and active supervision behaviors, and also observe the relationship
between teachers supervision and students activity engagement. Results
indicated teachers gave frequent skill feedback (3.2 times per minute), which is
greater than typical rates with cognizance both to students motor skill

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performance and to basic class conduct (van der Mars et al., 1995). van der Mars
and his colleagues (1995) also measured the amount of sector changes by student
teachers through the use of video recording and found that on average, the
teachers changed sectors 6.05 times per minute.


Participants included 16 PST (Mage=21, M=9, F=7) enrolled in an introductory
physical education methods course at a university in the southeastern United
States. PST had no teaching experience prior to enrolling in this course. As part
of the course, PST were required to teach 12 lessons consisting of fundamental
motor skill instruction to children in K-2nd grade, each lesson with a duration of
15 minutes. PST videotaped all lessons and submitted them to the instructor at
the end of the semester. Approval was granted by the Institutional Review
Board (IRB) to conduct the research study.

Using a quasi-experimental design, PST were systematically assigned to one of
three conditions: (1) instructor verbal cueing prompts from the instructor; (2)
peer verbal cueing prompts from a peer; or (3) control no prompts. PST wore
a BIE and wireless receiver clipped to their belt, while the instructor/peer
provided verbal prompts by speaking into a wireless microphone transmitter.
The BIE allowed the PST to hear feedback from the instructor/peer in response
to their teaching performance. PST were provided with two brief statements
concerning movement and feedback at the end of each minute which included
one of the following dichotomous statements: Good movement or move
around and good performance feedback or give performance feedback. The
intervention required feedback to be delivered immediately to the PST by the
instructor or a peer. Additionally, individual interviews were conducted with
each PST.

Data analysis
A research assistant without association with the methods course was
responsible for coding all lessons for movement/sector changes (SC) and
performance feedback (PFB). Sector changes were measured by the amount of
movement throughout the lesson by the PST. All of the teaching areas were
divided into four sectors by paint, tape, etc. PST were not informed of why the
teaching area was divided into sections. Performance feedback was recorded
when PST gave feedback relating to the students performance. For example,
Nice job keeping your elbow up. Performance feedback was coded when the
PST gave feedback to a group or individual regarding the performance of the
activity or game. Performance feedback was not recorded when the PST was
explaining instructions. Inter-rater reliability was established by the primary
researcher and research assistant on four occasions: SC (97.8%); and PFB
(95.4%). Data were converted to rate per minute to normalize lesson lengths. A
Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was conducted using SPSS

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version 22. Interview data were transcribed and subject to standard qualitative
methods in order to generate themes (Patton, 1990).

Overall, PST receiving verbal prompts performed more sector changes (peer 3.55;
instructor 3.8) and gave more performance feedback statements per minute (peer
.85; instructor 1.14) than PST who received no verbal prompts (control = 2.31; .55)
(see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Rate per minute of targeted behaviors based on condition.

Results indicated significant differences for the instructor condition only, Wilks
= 0.656, F6, 62= 2.4, p < .05. Specifically, univariate analysis signified PST gave
more performance feedback when the instructor provided cues (F 2, 33 = 8.5,
p=0.001). Post Hoc comparisons using Bonferroni indicated the mean score of
performance based feedback for the instructor condition (M = 1.14, SD = .33) was
significantly higher than the peer condition (M = .81, SD = .30) and the control
condition (M = .61, SD = .31). It is important to note the mean score was higher
for the peer condition compared to the control condition, even though there was
not statistical significance.

Interview data revealed the following dominant themes: (1) PST focused
more on teaching when using BIE technology; (2) using BIE was sometimes
distracting; (3) suggestions for improved implementation; and (4) differences in
peer and instructor verbal cueing. Pseudonyms were used to maintain

Theme 1: All 16 PST said they were more focused on teaching when
receiving verbal prompts. One PST stated, When I went back and watched the
videos, I could tell after directions [prompts] were given I would give more
feedback and move around more. Another PST explained, My best lesson was
with the earbud in. Its good to have someone keep you on track. Other

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representative comments included: It helped me correct something I was doing

right then, rather than later; I felt more on task and focused; and When I
would use them it really helped with continuing to walk around. I wouldnt
realize that I was just standing instead of walking as much as I should.

Theme 2: 50% of the PST stated using the BIE device was sometimes
distracting. In an interview one PST explained how the verbal prompts
interrupted their teaching:

I had the ear piece in my ear during this teaching. It was...interesting. It

helped to know how much time I had left but it was distracting when I
was talking to a child or helping them and Sara would say something. It
made me forget what I was saying to the child. I am not sure that I like

Another PST added, When someone was talking in my ear when I was talking
it threw me off. Other comments addressed distractions related to the actual
BIE device. A PST stated, The cords to the earpiece always seemed to get in my
way. Similarly, a PST noted, The ear piece would fall out sometimes and I
thought that took away from the kids time, and The ear bud was annoying
when constant static was coming through your ear. Other PST seemed to be
less distracted and made alternative comments such as, It was a little difficult at
first to adjust to the ear piece being in your ear as you are teaching but
eventually you get used to it and almost do not notice it.

Theme 3: 50% of the PST gave suggestions to improve implementation.

Comments focused on three main areas including device capability, timing of
verbal prompts, and content of verbal prompts. Concerning device capability,
one PST commented, I wish it was more like a Bluetooth device so you didnt
have to worry about the clip and cords. When considering timing of verbal
prompts a PST remarked, I think instead of reminding the teacher every
minuteonly speak to the teacher if they are not using feedback. Finally, in
addressing the required content of verbal prompts, one PST explained, I think
the ear buds are a good idea; however, I think it would be even more helpful if
our partner were able to say anything to us, instead of limiting it to good
movement/good feedback. Another PST added, I think it may be a little more
helpful to work on different criteria each week.

Theme 4: Differences in preference between peer and instructor verbal

cues is included as a theme in part due to an unanticipated absence of comments
by PST. Most PST did not appear to notice differences or mention preference as a
salient factor in their experience using BIE. The four PST that did mention
preference noted partiality to instructor prompts. One PST explained:

The "Ear-Bud" device was interesting. I liked it the best when I did it
with Dr. Anderson. It helped me keep on my toes about keep moving
around and not just standing in one spot of the room. It also helped with
giving the kids feedback. When I did it with my partner it wasn't as
efficient as doing it with Dr. Anderson.

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Another PST concurred by stating, I liked it the best when I did it with Dr.
Anderson. A PST added, It did make me a little more nervous when the
instructor would talk to me but it really made me focus on what I was doing.
One PST mentioned receiving verbal prompts but was less partial by noting,
The ear bud was great with either my partner or Dr. Anderson. I have to
admit that I was pretty nervous when I did it with Dr. Anderson, but that was


This study confirms prior research on the effectiveness of BIE technology in

teacher preparation settings. Teaching behaviors of PST can be altered when
immediate feedback on teaching performance is given (Coogle, Rahn, & Ottley,
2015; Gibson & Musti-Rao, 2016; Scheeler & Lee, 2002; Scheeler, McAfee, Ruhl, &
Lee, 2006). Specifically, in this study PST were more effective than the control
group in increasing feedback and sector changes when provided with verbal
cues from their instructor or peer using BIE technology. In interviews PST also
identified the importance of immediate feedback on teaching behaviors and
explained that it helped them correct performance in the moment rather than
considering changes at a later date. Similar findings were noted in numerous
teacher preparation studies by Scheeler and colleagues (2006; 2010; 2012), as well
as Rock et al. (2014).

BIE technology poses an assistive measure to promoting effective

teaching behaviors, however as pointed out in interviews by PST in this study,
communicative and technological strategies could be adjusted to ensure that
distraction is less of an issue. Scheeler et al. (2006) noted similar findings and
explained the teachers thought process can be interrupted when using BIE,
which could have a negative impact on instruction. One potential suggestion is
to provide verbal prompts when the teacher is not speaking, and timeliest
during a pause immediately following a statement made by the teacher. While
this technique may be more useful to provide less distractions, it does
compromise the systematic nature in data collection of providing feedback in a
precise manner such as the end of each minute. PST also noted the
cumbersomeness of the wires of the BIE receiver, the earpiece falling out, and
occasional static as distractions. An upgrade to more suitable equipment
including a Bluetooth connection is certainly plausible and warranted. Another
suggestion for improvement from PST was to allow verbal prompts on
behaviors other than the specified criteria. Again, this could compromise the
systematic procedures and variables in data collection, however the ability of
novice PST to actively observe and provide appropriate and timely verbal
prompts would be an interesting prospect to explore.

In addition to mirroring the results of effectiveness and restraints of BIE

technology, this study makes a unique contribution to the literature not evident
in past research in that it compares the efficacy of prompts given by either a peer
or instructor. Although significant differences were only found when comparing
instructor cues to the control group for performance feedback, the rate per
minute results were similar for peer and instructor prompts for sector changes

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(3.55; 3.8) and performance feedback (.85; 1.14) respectively. This finding raises
an important implication for using BIE technology in teacher training,
particularly in teaching methods courses. Typically, the ability of the instructor
to give immediate verbal prompts using BIE technology during a teaching
episode is limited due to the pupil/teacher ratio in the course. Determining that
peers can give comparable verbal prompts to the instructor on specified teaching
criteria is relevant and essential in maximizing effective teacher development.
One caveat to note, is three PST in this study did prefer instructor prompts to
peer prompts, though this preference did not appear to influence performance.


The results of this study show selected teaching behaviors can be increased
when PST receive verbal cues using ear bud devices. However, effectiveness can
vary slightly based on whether cues are given by a peer or instructor. An
increase in targeted teaching behaviors were evident in all three conditions, but
most prevalent with instructor verbal cues. Peer cues also noted an increase in
use of targeted teaching behaviors, but not significantly like the instructor
prompted cues. Overall, interviews showed PST felt positively about their
experience using BIE, but also pointed out how future use could be improved to
provide fewer distractions. Looking forward, even with past research utilizing
wireless devices and video recording to observe teachers effectiveness, it is still
unsafe to say if teachers are maintaining the effective behaviors they have
learned. Future research should explore whether pre-service physical education
teachers are retaining and continuing to implement effective teaching behaviors
after intervention has occurred. Lengthening the time of intervention, and re-
evaluating months after intervention may allow PST to show their true
effectiveness in teaching. BIE technology serves as an appropriate
communication device for advancing effective teaching methods in teacher
preparation programs.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 11-21, February 2017

The Necessity for Assessment and Management

of Speech, Language and Communication
Needs to Take Account of Cultural and
Multilingual Diversity

Jonathan Glazzard
Leeds Trinity University
Leeds, England

Abstract. This paper argues for the need for a culturally responsive
approach to the identification, assessment and intervention processes for
multilingual children with speech, language and communication
impairment. It highlights the potential for misdiagnosis and identifies
the specific difficulties which may be evident and thus, potential
indicators of language impairment as opposed to language difference.
The paper critiques the standardised tests which are often used by
therapists in the formal diagnosis process and argues that dynamic
assessment offers the best potential for an accurate diagnosis.

Keywords: Inclusion, Speech, Language, Communication.

This paper argues for the need for a culturally responsive approach to the
identification, assessment and intervention processes for multilingual children
with speech, language and communication impairment. It highlights the
potential for misdiagnosis and identifies the specific difficulties which may be
evident and thus, potential indicators of language impairment as opposed to
language difference. The paper critiques the standardised tests which are often
used by therapists in the formal diagnosis process and argues that dynamic
assessment offers the best potential for an accurate diagnosis.

Defining Language Impairment and identifying key issues

Ten percent of children in the United Kingdom have speech, language and
communication needs (OKeefe & Farrugia, 2016). A communication-rich
environment is one of the most effective was of enhancing speech, language and
communication (Glazzard, 2016). Children with speech, language and
communication needs do not necessarily have cognitive delay (Glazzard 2016)
and a range of assessment tools should be used for early identification of need
(NASEN, 2014).

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Language impairment has been defined as the inability to learn language as

manifested by deficits in expressive and or receptive language skills relative to
age-matched peers who have comparable language exposure (Bedore and Pena,
2008: 1). It is a neurodevelopmental disorder (Rice, 2004) which affects
approximately 7% of the population.
Simultaneous bilinguals learn both languages before the age of 3 years (Paradis,
2010). In contrast, sequential bilinguals have their first language (L1) generally
well developed prior to them learning a second language (L2) (Paradis, 2010).
The dominant language is the one to which they have received most exposure.
Development in the second language is not comparable to language
development in age-matched monolingual peers (Bedore and Pena, 2008) and
development in L1 may stall as L2 becomes more complex. Exposure to L2 and
childrens socio-cultural experiences influence language development (Nelson,

In many countries throughout the world speech and language therapy is a

profession which is characterised by a largely homogenous workforce providing
services to multilingual clients (Caesar and Kohler, 2007). In this context,
therapists face significant challenges in relation to providing a culturally
responsive service and there is limited research with practical significance to
support therapists in overcoming these challenges (Verdon et al, 2015). These
challenges are well-documented in the literature (Caesar and Kohler, 2007;
Guiberson and Atkins, 2012; Williams and McLeod, 2012).

The multilingual population is heterogeneous in that individual circumstances

vary in relation to age of second language acquisition and level of exposure to
language (Paradis et al 2011). There are some differences in the ways in which
monolingual and multilingual children acquire speech and language (Grech and
McLeod, 2012) and these differences can lead to false assumptions that
multilingual children have disordered language and/speech. It is important to
emphasise that if a disorder occurs it will be evident in all languages and not just
the target language (Paradis et al, 2011). If the difficulties exist in only one
language then this is described as a speech/language difference rather than a
disorder (Kohnert, 2010). The speech and language therapist is responsible for
the accurate diagnosis of speech/ language disorder rather than diagnosing a
speech/ language difference. Vocabulary deficits are evident in both languages
when there is evidence of language impairment (Bedore and Pena, 2008),
including expressive and receptive delays.

Delays in grammatical morphology, difficulties in relation to word meaning,

word retrieval and word learning are comparable across languages (Bedore and
Pena, 2008). Multilingual children with language impairment may also produce
qualitatively different errors than the errors made by their monolingual peers
(Bedore and Pena, 2008). This includes verb use (Jacobson and Schwartz, 2005)
and patterns of grammatical production (Restrepo and Kruth, 2000). Identifying
these errors may enable the therapist to make a more accurate diagnosis of
language impairment.

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The problems with standardised tests: a critique

Speech and language therapists often use standardised tests to determine the
presence of language impairment in combination with other methods (including
observation and interviews). Thus, the validity of such tests is critical for
accurate diagnosis. However, it has been argued that there are few
psychologically sound measures of language development in languages other
than English and few bilingual clinicians (Pena et al, 2014: 2218). One of the
pertinent issues documented in the literature is that speech and language
therapists in English speaking countries tend to assess multilingual childrens
speech in English only (Caesar and Kohler, 2007; Williams and McLeod, 2012)
and this can often lead to misdiagnosis (Toohill et al, 2012).

Studies have found evidence of cultural bias in tests (Sattler, 2001). Thus,
cultural content and culturally specific knowledge is often embedded into test
items (Warren, 2006) and this can detrimentally impact on the performance of
children from multilingual backgrounds (Schon et al, 2008). This can result in
the disproportionate representation of students from minority ethnic
backgrounds in special education which has been a concern for over 30 years
(Strand and Lindsay, 2009).

Many standardised tests available for speech and language therapists are
monolingual (Goral and Conner, 2013). The standardised norms are based on
monolingual native speakers of English, whilst some tests are normed with
monolingual speakers of another language (Goral and Conner, 2013). According
to Bedore and Pena (2008) the result is that bilingual children are often
inappropriately compared to a monolingual norm (p.19). There are relatively
few standardised tests which provide normative data from multilingual
individuals (Goral and Conner, 2013) and given the heterogeneous nature of the
multilingual population it would be extremely challenging to be able to find a
test which is based on normative data which matches the multilingual
individual being tested. Most tests are normed on monolingual individuals
(McLeod and Verdon, 2014), which calls into question the validity of the results
when the test is used on someone who is multilingual. There are also specific
debates about the language proficiency of those administering the tests and the
acceptability of code-switching during the assessment (Goral and Conner, 2013).
There are few bilingual clinicians (Pena et al, 2014) which automatically places
this group at a disadvantage.

To address some of these issues the use of translation in test adaption and the
development of local norms are common solutions (Bedore and Pena, 2008; Stow
and Dodd, 2003; Taylor and Payne, 1983). However, these solutions are not
unproblematic. Direct translation of tests into other languages assumes that
language development is consistent across languages, which cannot be assumed
(Bedore and Pena, 2008). Although there are similarities in language acquisition
across languages there are differences which can affect test performance (Bedore

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and Pena, 2008). For example, research has found that prepositions are more
difficult in Spanish than in English (Zimmerman et al, 2002).

Additionally, although translated tests may target linguistic forms of language

impairment in the source language, they may omit aspects of the target language
that might potentially differentiate between children with and without language
impairment (for example, vocabulary use and narrative components) (Bedore
and Pena, 2008). This is likely to be the case if item selection on tests is guided by
the difficulties that children typically experience in the source language. When
tests are adapted from English to other languages the markers of language
impairment in the target language are often not addressed (Bedore and Pena,

Most tests of language ability in English fail to meet the criteria for accurate
diagnosis of language impairment (Spaulding et al, 2006). Tests which do
accurately meet the criteria for accurate diagnosis select the items that children
with language impairment find the most difficult (Perona et al, 2005). Most
vocabulary tasks are not sufficiently challenging (Bedore and Pena, 2008

Dynamic Assessment
Dynamic Assessment (DA) has been recommended as a strategy for assessing
speech, language and communication needs in children from linguistically and
culturally diverse populations (Hasson and Joffe, 2007). This approach is
considered to minimise assessment bias due to lack of exposure to language
(Laing and Kamhi, 2003) because the approach does not measure static
knowledge which is subject to linguistic and cultural bias (Pena et al, 2014).
Instead, DA focuses on the learning process rather than norm comparisons (Pena
et al, 2014). It is the most commonly applied assessment approach for assessing
children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (Laing and
Kamhi, 2003) and research has suggested the value of this approach in assessing
word learning (Pena et al, 2001), narrative production (Kramar et al, 2009) and
categorisation (Ukrainetz et al, 2000).

According to Goral and Conner (2013: 132) Dynamic assessment is a promising

tool for differentiating multilingual children with PLI (Primary Language
Impairment) from [those with] TLD (Typical Language Development) . Static
assessment may not be accurate because multilingual children may demonstrate
a wide range of performance in their current linguistic skills (Goral and Conner,
2013). Multilingual children may demonstrate a wide range of achievement in
reaching typical developmental milestones (Goral and Conner, 2013) and
achievement can be influenced by variables including age, language status,
language input, pattern of exposure (sequential or simultaneous) and frequency
of exposure (Goral and Conner, 2013). Therefore separating multilingual
children with typical and atypical language development is inherently complex
(Goral and Conner, 2013) and tenuous (Anderson and Marquez, 2009) because
there may be overlap in errors between the two groups, for example in article

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Dynamic assessment essentially measures the rate of change in performance

(Goral and Conner, 2013) and information about the learning strategies
employed by the child. Children with primary language impairment for
example may attend to different features of words (Goral and Conner, 2013)
compared to typically developing children and this may lead to more accurate
identification of multilingual children with primary language impairment (Alt
and Suddarth, 2012). Research has found that multilingual children with
primary language impairment switched between languages more frequently
than typically developing bilingual children (IIuz-Cohen and Walters, 2012).
Additionally, this research found that multilingual children with primary
language impairment code-switched twice as frequently from L2 to L1 than from
L1 to L2 in contrast with typically developing bilinguals who code-switched
equally in either direction (IIuz-Cohen and Walters, 2012). Dynamic assessment
makes it possible to identify these errors as well as providing an indication of
the rate of change in performance over time.

Children with primary language impairment are often partly due to

inefficiencies in memory and attention (Gillam et al, 2009; Pena et al, 2014).
Dynamic assessment which incorporates clinical observation of strategy use as
children are actively engaged in language learning can help to differentiate
between multilingual children with language impairment and those who are
typically developing. Attention and memory processes can then be
systematically observed over time when children being to retell longer and more
complex narratives (Pena et al, 2014). Dynamic assessment enables the clinician
to gain insights into the learning behaviours of multilingual children with
language impairment, thus making it possible to identify the underlying nature
of childrens language difficulties and hence, their intervention needs (Pena et al,

Working in partnership with families: developing cultural

The Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (DFE, 2014)
emphasises the importance of establishing effective partnerships with parents
and carers at all stages of the process. These stages form part of a graduated
response (DFE, 2014) which includes the following processes: identification and
assessment of need; target setting; supporting the child to meet these targets;
reviewing and evaluating progress. It is perhaps pertinent to note that parental
referral to speech and language services is greater for monolingual children than
it is for multilingual children (Stow & Dodds, 2005) so it is critical to ensure that
parents are informed about the availability of services in their communities.

It is critical that speech and language therapists are able to demonstrate cultural
understanding to enable them to work effectively with different cultural groups
(Bellon-Harn and Garrett, 2008). The starting point for this is for therapists to
develop an awareness of their own cultural assumptions and to increase their
knowledge of the values held by different cultural groups (Garrett & Pichette,
2000). This will enable therapists to understand more accurately the specific

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barriers to developing effective parent partnerships. However, it cannot be

assumed that values are shared across a cultural group. Therapists should
therefore be willing to engage in cultural conversations with families in order to
help them understand the cultural values that clients hold.

The professional values of a therapist may not align with traditional family
values. Whilst the therapist may view speech, language and communication
difficulties as requiring specific intervention, family members may view these
needs as an essential part of the childs identity (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008).
Some cultural groups do not believe that they have a right to interfere with the
childs biological characteristics and may seek spiritual intervention rather than
clinical intervention (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008) to help the child. Other
cultures may believe that clinical intervention may be counter-productive to the
development of a positive and productive life (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008).
Clearly, where cultural and professional values clash, the speech and language
therapist plays a critical mediating role to help family members understand the
necessity for clinical intervention. Some cultural groups may be reluctant for
therapists to refer to child onto additional services due to fears that this might
make the problem worse and they may believe that the problem will resolve
itself (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008). In cases like this it is critical that the
therapist establishes positive relationships with families in order to gain their
permission for referral (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008).

It is critical that the therapist develops a level of cultural understanding when

working with clients from different cultures to enable them to manage the
process of clinical intervention with cultural sensitivity and empathy. In this
respect therapists need to understand traditional cultural values which will
inevitably determine which family members are included in the process. Some
cultures retain strong gender roles and this often determines who makes key
decisions within the family. In Latino families the father is usually responsible
for making decisions without any consultation with other family members
(Brice, 2002). In African American cultures decision making processes are
usually collaborative and involve all family members (Terrell & Hale, 1992).
Native Americans place more emphasis on the role of women and elders as
decision-makers (Portman & Garrett, 2005). For the therapist, understanding
these cultural values will help them to decide who should be involved in the
consultation process (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008). This process can take time
and might involve an element of family counselling and therapists may
therefore need to exercise a degree of patience whilst families come to terms
with this.

Once decision-makers have been established, the therapist needs to develop

cultural understanding about the level of involvement that families might wish
to have. In some Latino and Asian cultures the family may prefer to leave formal
decision-making up to the therapist (Chan, 1998; Roseberry-McKibbin, 1995).
Some Asian parents are less assertive and may prefer the therapist to work as an
advocate in the best interests of the family (Huang, et al, 2004). In contrast
research has indicated that first generation Chinese families may expect to be

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advocates for their child and play a full role in any decision-making processes
(Parette, Chuang & Huer, 2004).

In addition to the dilemmas outlined is also the issue of how clinicians

communicate with family members from different cultural groups (Barerra &
Corso, 2002). Attitudes to non-verbal forms of communication (for example, eye-
contact, hand-shaking, and proxemics) can vary across cultures (Adler,
Rosenfeld and Towne, 1989), as can attitudes to verbal communication. In some
cultures laughter and humour are critical to communication (Garrett et al, 2005)
whilst silence may be valued in other cultures. Some cultural groups may prefer
the clinician to communicate with them in writing (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008),
although literacy levels need to be taken into account. Conversely, other cultures
may prefer oral communication rather than written communication (Sileo &
Prater, 1998).

Essentially, families need to trust the therapist. They need to be able to trust that
the therapist is working in their childs best interests (Bellon-Harn & Garrett,
2008). Therapists can establish this trust by explaining to families why specific
interventions are needed. In the absence of this understanding, cultural mistrust
can develop (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008) and families may choose not to
participate in interventions which should be carried out in the home (Kaylanpur
et al, 2000). Although families may not openly challenge the therapist for fear of
being viewed as disrespectful (Hwa-Froelich & Wesby, 2003), cultural mistrust
can manifests itself in families not complying with the recommendations made
by the therapist. There is also potential for families to misinterpret the
recommendations, resulting in families implementing interventions in the home
in ways which do not address the identified need.

Families from some cultural groups are likely to find the experience of working
with a speech and language therapist stressful (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008).
Some of this stress may be caused by families not understanding what the
therapist is attempting to achieve. Additionally, families may not understand
how the clinical intervention will support the child in achieving long-term
aspirations which families have for their child. The therapist therefore has a
critical role to play in establishing positive relationships based on trust,
sensitivity and empathy. The therapist should always seek to minimise stress for
families by explaining clearly how the intervention will benefit the child. The
importance of therapists listening actively and attentively to multilingual
parents has been emphasised in the literature (Verdon et al, 2015), including the
need for the therapist to gain specific knowledge of dialectal variations (Verdon
et al, 2015). Ultimately, the family, their culture and associated values, will
determine what they want for their child (Bellon-Harn & Garrett, 2008).
Involving families in open discussions which provide them with opportunities
to share their own views and experiences of their child is one way of ensuring
that therapists deliver a culturally responsive service (Sue & Sue, 2003).


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The impact of interventions can be maximised if the home language is used as

the language of instruction (Kohnert et al, 2005). Additionally, intervention in all
languages spoken has been found to have the greatest impact (Paradis et al,
2011). The choice of intervention and approach to delivering it will be influenced
by the therapists ability to deliver an intervention in the home language
(Kritikos, 2003) and the availability of bilingual staff to support the therapist in
administering the intervention (Verdon et al, 2015). A community-based
approach to intervention, where assessment and intervention take place in the
community, outside the clinical setting, may help parents to feel safe and valued
(Verdon et al, 2015) and may also address issues such as low-referral rates ( Stow
& Dodd, 2003; 2005) and non-participation in intervention.

This paper has argued that difficulties in relation to speech, language and
communication impairment are evident in both the home language (L1) and the
target language (L2) and therefore assessments of childrens performance in both
languages is necessary for an accurate assessment. The paper has also argued
that proficiency in L2 is affected by variables such as type and length of
exposure to the second language as well as the age of the child and dynamic
rather than static assessment enables therapists to ascertain the rate of progress
over time as well as making it possible to assess language use within social and
cultural contexts. This paper argues that therapists need to develop cultural
knowledge, sensitivity and empathy when working with clients from
multilingual populations. Values in relation to intervention may not be shared
across cultures and the therapist will need to convince the family that
intervention is necessary to support the child. This process is not unproblematic,
given that families may be suspicious about the therapists motivations.
However, a complete assessment cannot take place without including the
perspectives of the parents. This paper has argued that therapists may wish to
consider adopting a community approach to assessment and identification in
order to support parents through the graduated response.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 22-34, February 2017

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy on Employment

Development of Individuals with Disabilities

Li Ju Chen
Chang Gung University
Taoyuan, Taiwan

Abstract. This article considers the factors that contribute to

being employed for the individuals with disabilities (IWDs).
There are two dimensions that are commonly mentioned
about the factors underlying IWDs poor employment
performance, one is society factor, the other is IWDs
personal physiological conditions. However, this article
claims it can be viewed from an alternative perspective. The
mechanism responsible for this can be explained by the
self-fulfilling prophecy: with a conviction of being accepting by
society and the employment market (ASE), an IWD has more
opportunities to obtain a job a short time after graduation.
Based on self-fulfilling prophecy effect, this article proposes
implications of employment transition services for IWDs.

Keywords: individuals with disabilities; employment;

self-fulfilling prophecy; transition services

Low employment of IWDs (Individuals with disabilities) is a problem prevalent
in many countries all over the world. In the United States, 81 per cent of the
overall population were employed, compared to only 32 per cent of IWDs
(Carter et al., 2010). A survey of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory
Services in England noted that most IWD graduates were less able to enter into
professional and full time employment than the general working-age population
(Piggott & Houghton, 2007). In Taiwan, 22.5 per cent of IWDs over 15 years of
age were employed while the unemployment rate was 4.14 per cent for all adults
(Yang, 2009). Compared with the general working-age population, the poor
employment achievement of IWDs is a concern in many countries (Carter et al.,
2010; Ju et al., 2012; Piggott & Houghton, 2007). Is lower employment rate the
fate of IWDs?
There are two dimensions that are commonly mentioned about the factors
underlying IWDs poor employment performance. The first dimension is the
barriers caused by personal physiological conditions, including the level and
category of the disability. If the disability status is the only critical factor in poor
rates of gaining employment, there appears to be a direct explanation: the IWDs

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disability has undoubtedly caused the obstacles to employment; The second

dimension involves the social factors including social unwelcoming conditions
that make IWDs encounter unfair employment situations. Given these two
conditions, which one cannot change, the IWDs have an inevitable result of poor
employment status and there is no need for IWDs to make efforts to improve
their employment potential; welfare policies are the best and only solution.
However, it was agreed that policy intervention is not the fine solution. On the
other side, it was found that an IWDs internal conviction of being accepted by
society and the employment market (ASE) is the real impact factor of an IWDs
employment status (Chen, 2015). The research provides support for the
self-fulfilling prophecy phenomenon which has been advocated in the
humanities and social sciences in past decades. This article describes the
self-fulfilling prophecy mechanism applied to IWDs potential employment, and
guides readers to another perspective on interpreting IWDs employment

Self-fulfilling Prophecy
In 1928, W. I. Thomas proposed a sociological perspective idea that was later
conceptualised as a self-fulfilling prophecy: the situation finally realised into
the true when a person defined an affair is that meaning. What a person expects
in advance is what he or she subsequently realises. Outcomes are associated
with ones expectations. This argument was much questioned initially: could an
incorrect belief identified at the beginning actually become true in the
consequence just because many people believed it, or because the incorrect belief
was very strong (Wineburg, 1987)? It was with none scientific justification. In
1948, when Robert K. Merton first proposed the term self-fulfilling prophecy, the
theoretical concept was systematically developed. Since the 1980s, many
scholars and practitioners have believed that the self-fulfilling prophecy is a
considerable force and a widespread phenomenon in society (Madon et al., 1997).
Since then, this magical viewpoint has been widely discussed in the stock
market, the state of war, crime, etc., and has branched out into the fields of
economics, psychology, politics, education and elsewhere.
Thomas (1928) and Merton (1948) explained how the self-fulfilling prophecy
works from a psychological viewpoint. According to Merton:
Men respond not only to the objective features of a situation, but also,
and at times primarily, to the meaning this situation has for them. And
once they have assigned some meaning to the situation, their
consequent behaviour and some of the consequences of that behaviour
are determined by the ascribed meaning. (p. 194)
Thomas (1928) and Merton (1948) stated that once a meaning was attached to a
situation, ones subsequent behavior and its consequences were affected by the
meaning attributed. Merton pointed out that when a mistaken belief is held by a
person or a group of people, the mistaken belief becomes true in the end. This
rule can explain social issues, including the financial meltdown, medical effects
and racial discrimination problems.
A self-fulfilling prophecy has two dimensions: one is that social beliefs, whether
true or false, lead to the masses following blindly; an incorrect evaluation
towards an event or person by the group encourages people to think in a
particular way. The common expectations allow for potential social mobility and

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then affects individuals actions. Social beliefs ultimately create the results
expected by the majority. Another dimension of self-fulfilling prophecy is
personal inner conviction; this inherent belief is moulded by prevailing social
beliefs or by self-criticism. In either case, it will affect the individuals intrinsic
motivation to act, deprive of his or her activities and eventually affect the
performance outcome. Although ones individual actions is impacted by his or
her belief directly in this process, actions are still profoundly impacted by the
belief in the society. As shown in Figure 1, A impacts B, and B impacts C; this
appears as a series of impacts. Here is thinking about whether it is possible to
skip A and examine the impact of B on C directly. The self-fulfilling prophecy
effect on the outcome of an event will have a different meaning.

Social belief Individual belief Individual

Mass mobility Individual action


Figure 1: The impact of belief on action and its outcome

The Factors of an IWDs Employment

The barriers caused by disabilities either directly or indirectly affect an IWDs
progress in employment. These obstacles include the following.

Physiological Conditions
Personal physiological conditions such as disability type and level are thought of
as obstacles to ones employment. Individuals with mild or physical disabilities
have better development while individuals with severe disabilities, emotional
disabilities, mental disabilities or multiple disabilities have poorer performance
(Carter et al., 2010; Winn & Hay, 2009). If the physiological obstacle is the cause
of poor development, IWDs will attain limited progress in employment as the
disability condition is hard to change and it is meaningless to work hard.
However, some studies have suggested that no relationship exists between
employment status and physiological conditions for IWDs (Chen 2013; Bishop,

Social Conditions
Much of the discussion on social conditions is about discrimination (Ju et al.,
2012; Piggott & Houghton, 2007; Roessler et al., 2007). These studies have
repeatedly pointed out that discrimination and prejudiced attitudes towards
IWDs result in severely impaired social participation, which is the critical reason
for IWDs poor gaining employment. To protect IWDs employment rights, many
countries have set up social welfare policies, or job rights protection regulations
to promote IWDs employment opportunities. At present, welfare and rights

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policies for the promotion of IWDs employment, such as the 1963 Vocational
Education Act, and the 1984 Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of
Rights Act in the United States, and the Disability Welfare Act in 1980 in Taiwan,
have been in place for decades. However, these policies still cannot completely
resolve the obstacles to IWDs gaining employment (Chen, 2015; Winn & Hay,
2009). So far the employment rate of IWDs is much lower than that of the
average person. Clearly, social welfare policy alone is still not the only solution
to IWDs employment issues.

State of Mind
Scholars believe that the social support system and ASE are important factors for
developing IWDs employment potential (Roessler et al., 2007; Winn & Hay,
2009). IWDs may believe that society has not accepted them and shape negative
self-expectations during the seeking employment process (Hopkins, 2011).
Hopkins pointed out that an IWDs expectation is affected by the experiences of
disability sake. In addition, IWDs may believe that the IWD welfare and rights
protection policies mean that they are a social burden and make less
contribution to society. Holding this belief strengthens their convictions about
community charity and leads to a negative mental state.

Actions of IWDs
The actions of IWDs are affected by their disabilities, which thereby affects their
progress in employment (Chen, 2013; Babbitt & White, 2002).
1. Disability itself: Strauser et al. (2006) found that IWDs believed
disabilities had a great impact on their career orientation. Hitchings et al.
(2001) indicated that the disability type and its severity affected one's
performance. Impairments such as physical disabilities, hearing
impairments and severe learning disabilities often placed restrictions on
movement and reduced exploratory behaviour in career development.
2. Academic performance: Some IWDs do not perform well in academic
settings. They may have a comprehensive cognitive disability or have
restrictions in learning inputs such as auditory stimuli, visual cues or
operating performance. These often result in IWDs having poor academic
or professional achievement that affects their career development.
3. Career activities: As with most people, IWDs who had a clear goal or took
aggressive action towards their potential career had clearer career
orientations and better achievement (Hitchings et al., 2001). These actions
were encouraged in a career exploration process that included career
scaling, workplace visits or gaining work experiences (Alverson et al.,
2010). Employers often worry about IWDs work ability and this reduces
their willingness to hire. Without work experience to prove work ability,
IWDs will limit their employment opportunities (Kang et al., 2010; Piggott
& Houghton, 2007; Winn & Hay, 2009). IWDs often take time for medical
treatment or resist taking action because of psychological problems. These
factors reduce positive actions in IWDs professional life (Chen, 2015;
Piggott & Houghton, 2007).
From one point of view, IWDs employment status is impacted by their
disabilities: disabilities impact on social opportunities, personal psychological

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states and the actions that determine individual employability and subsequent
employment achievements. However, from another angle, one should not look
at how the disability is an obstacle to social survival opportunities or its effects
on employment, but instead look at how employment achievement is impacted
by personal mental states and their related actions. Figure 2 shows a similar, but
more nuanced perspective than Figure 1, where A has an impact on B, and B has
an impact on C. It is feasible to see the impact of B on C directly. If the social
conditions are set aside, it is possible to review how an IWDs action directly
impacts on his or her employment activities. A surprising argument can be
made concerning the self-fulfilling prophecy, which offers an analysis that goes
beyond the traditional view of employment development.

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type Psychology
Disability Employment
Social conditions

Figure 2: How disability impacts IWDs employment development

The Effect of the Self-fulfilling Prophecy on IWDs Employment

When an IWD transits from school to the employment market, his or her
anticipation of ASE was found to influence his or her development greatly
(Hopkins, 2011). Carter et al. (2010) noted that IWDs beliefs whether society
accepts them is the critical issue affecting their employment performance and
career progression. The thoughts eventually becomes realized in accord with the
self-fulfilling prophecy. In the self-fulfilling prophecy, the IWDs employment
development may be divided into four steps (see Figure 3):

Belief of Acceptance Shaping

Most people develop a negative belief I am not accepted by the society think
themselves cannot integrate into the community to which they belong. Roessler
and colleagues (2007) found that people try to contribute to the society in order
to obtain positive attitudes from the community. For the sake of gaining the
benefits of well-being policies, IWDs may define of themselves as vulnerable in
society; which makes them more sensitive to doubting whether society accepts
them with sincerity. One study found that 27.8 per cent of IWDs before
graduation, and 20.8 per cent of IWDs after graduation think of themselves as
accepted by society. These perceptions did not vary by gender, disability
category, disability level or academic achievement (Chen, 2015). When other
IWDs shared their perception that there is discrimination in society against
IWDs, or that workplaces regard IWDs as with poor abilities, then their belief in
society acceptance tends to be negative. Individuals will hold negative attitudes
towards opportunities to enter the workplace and negative expectations towards
his or her performance outcomes.
Madon et al. (1997) pointed out that when teachers teach for students with low
academic achievement with much unpleasant learning experiences over a long
time, these students will have low self-affirmation. Madon et al. explained that
for these students, lack of friendliness in the environment made satisfactory
learning performance more difficult to achieve. Jussim et al. (1996) found that
African-Americans, individuals with low socioeconomic status and those with
low academic achievement are more intensely affected by the self-fulfilling
prophecy than others. These students are more sensitive to the strong messages
generated by the mechanism of the self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling

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prophecy effect occurs more severely in IWDs because they have greater
sensitivity about feeling accepted.

Beliefs Impact Employability

Ones mental state affects knowledge and attitudes, and thereby changes ones
actions; these actions ultimately have an impact on progress in employment. If
an IWD thinks the labour market accepts them, he or she will be confident that
the opportunity exists to obtain the same results as a person without disabilities.
One will make efforts to acquire employment and contribute to society. On the
other hand, if an IWD believes that society has negative attitudes and is
unfriendly, he or she may believe there are no opportunities to achieve and
intends to give up working hard to avoid wasting time. The individual then
takes passive action and is unable to raise employability. It is found that in this
case, progress in employment was not optimal, and the barriers to action were
more intense (Madon et al., 1997). Further research found that no matter what
the disability was, when an IWD felt high ASE, his or her actions were no
different from the general population: aggressively cultivated their
employability, captured employment information, and developed their
job-seeking strategies. They experienced considerable confidence about their
futures while at school, which made them take more positive actions; they also
did not ask for much welfare support from the government and pursued a high
quality of life. On the other hand, those IWDs who thought ASE is low gave up
on working hard in order to achieve more meaningful survival. Given the reality
they perceived, most did not rely on working hard but instead hoped to access
employment-related social welfare, and were less concerned about cultivating
employability (Chen, 2013).
Wineburg (1987) pointed out that when an IWD has received the message from
society that he or she is subordinate, that person will feel themselves to be poor
and their performance will be poor. The perceptions of the general public
inculcate profound values into ones mind (Clark, 1955, p. 50, cited in Wineburg,
1987), thereby affecting the IWDs actions. As Wineburg stated, the effects move
from out there in society to inside individuals minds and become embedded
in the personality aided by the mechanism of the self-fulfilling prophecy (p. 28).
In this effect of the self-fulfilling prophecy, expectation is an important element
that profoundly impacts ones next action. The direction of behaviour is not only
caused by psychological factors, but also by practical considerations of survival.
Although the perception may be wrong and the expectations unreasonable, the
self-fulfilling prophecy effect still has a considerable impact on employment.

Employability Impacts on Performance Outcomes

Same with other people, an IWDs attitude has an impact on his or her efforts in
employment; this affects employability and eventually affects employment
outcomes. It leads some people to enter into the job market, while others have
greater difficulty. According to a study in Taiwan (Chen, 2015), 40.4 per cent of
college students with disabilities got a job after graduating if, when they were
still in school, they believed ASE of IWDs was low. In contrast, 80.0 per cent of
college students with disabilities got a job after graduating if they believed ASE
of IWDs was high when they were still in school. The latter figure is close to the

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general college graduates employment rate of 83.5 per cent in Taiwan (Chen,
2015; Ministry of Education, 2006). If IWDs considered themselves unaccepted
by society and the workplace, they reduced their efforts and were less
employable, which resulted in difficulties in acquiring a job. Given the
self-fulfilling prophecy effect, ASE was not a direct cause in gaining a job or not;
rather it was the action formed by the beliefs that affected an IWDs
employability, and thereby affected their employment outcomes.

Outcomes Strongly Affect Convictions

The experience of entering the job market or working in the workplace continues
to have an impact on IWDs convictions concerning ASE of IWDs. If an IWD has
a negative belief originally, bad personal experience in the workplace makes the
belief in non-acceptance stronger: This society considers an IWD incompetent
or I was rejected no matter how hard I work. This belief then has an impact on
subsequent actions, and repeatedly affects employment performance, which
goes into circulation. As Wineburg (1987) put it, the inferior feelings have been
formed and will be continued. The publics conviction that IWDs are
characterised by their poor employability has fostered a widespread social norm
in society that has a recurring influence on IWDs progress in employment
generation after generation.
Chens follow up study found that one year after graduating from college, there
was a marked change in the persons beliefs about ASE of IWDs: for the IWDs
who did not gain a job after graduating, 100 per cent of those who had thought
that there was high ASE of IWDs before graduation, changed into holding a
belief in low acceptance after graduating. However, no one who believed low
ASE of IWDs before graduation changed into believing that ASE of IWDs was
high; For the IWDs who acquired a job after graduating, 37.5 per cent, who
thought there was high ASE before graduating, came to believe there was low
ASE. Only 9.5 per cent, who believed low ASE of IWDs before graduation came
to believe high ASE of IWDs after graduation (Chen, 2015). These findings show
that after the IWDs left formal education, their experiences were likely to create
more negative beliefs. This phenomenon may be because they themselves had
bad experienced. Thus the conviction held about IWDs employability spreads to
the social environment, where it has a specific impact on other IWDs entering
the labour market. The prophecy has a circular impact on society (see Figure 3)
and profound impacts on the IWDs in their search for employment.

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Employment outcome



Belief in societys acceptance

Self concept



Self concept


Figure 3: Self-fulfilling prophecy concerning IWDs progress in employment

Employment Transition Service

IWDs beliefs are influenced by others discriminatory stereotypes in society,
which cause reciprocal feelings among IWDs and have an impact on IWDs
expectations of the future. According to the self-fulfilling prophecy, these
feelings are sufficient to make IWDs isolate themselves from the crowd and
develop differently from others in employment. Wineburg (1987) pointed out
that the effects of the self-fulfilling prophecy process are caused by
environmental issues and the individuals convictions; those who do not have
positive expectations are sacrificed in the social structure, IWDs are innocent.
Because of the self-fulfilling prophecy on IWDs employment, the employment
transition service offers a new perspective: although disabilities create some
barriers for IWDs, people are able to develop their employment resources
despite their disabilities. This perspective creates another opportunity: Other
than a victim in society, IWDs progress in employment is mainly restricted by
themselves. As long as IWDs do not place limits on themselves by thinking
themselves inferior before taking actions, they can develop their employment in
the same ways as other people. The key point is whether a person is aggressively
undertaking activities to develop job skills and get ahead in finding and keeping
employment. An employment transition service for IWDs can offer the following

Changes in the External Social Environment

Prejudices and stereotypes in society led some groups to be underestimated and
subjected to uneven treatment (Madon et al., 1997). A social responsibility
viewpoint as OHara noted in 2004: It is the first thing in a transition services
policy to change peoples attitudes to reduce workplace discrimination against
IWDs. This was quite a humanism concept in rehabilitation innovations. This

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phenomenon needs recognition in national policy to uphold justice and

encourage society to have more reasonable expectations and positive attitudes
about IWDs (Eden, 1986). Employment supports in the social environment are
expected to be consistent with the first chapter of the Americans with
Disabilities Act which states avoiding workplace discrimination against IWDs,
and allow them to reasonably obtain and retain employment (Roessler et al.,
2007). In such a policy, employers are guided to understand IWDs abilities, and
to eliminate inappropriate attitudes so that IWDs make efforts without the
hesitation to promote their employability and enhance their employment

Perceived and Addressed Personal Beliefs

It is difficult to change external conditions, so transition services should focus on
IWDs attitudes, living strategies or life plans to cope with unfavourable external
conditions. Scholars have advocated that there should be a curriculum to help
those who suffer from the negative impact of the self-fulfilling prophecy to
change their feelings into positive beliefs of themselves (Farmer, Allsopp, &
Ferron, 2015; Marburger, 1963, cited in Wineburg, 1987). Another critical
program is to improve self-determination and to promoting successful
transitions (Farmer et al., 2015). When an IWD thinks he or she is not accepted
by society, the service should identify the circumstances and guide the
individual to adjust their attitude and cope with the social reality; this would
minimise the impact of social rejection. Helping IWDs to avoid
misunderstanding and negative behaviours but with self-confidence in response
to social attitudes and social discrimination will help them attain better
employment prospects.

Enhancing the Individuals Employability

In the process of the self-fulfilling prophecy, social conscience and self-concept
shape personal conviction. Social conscience is part of popular convictions and is
difficult for an individual to change. Self-concept can be adjusted by personal
experience, achievement and thinking, which can be controlled by an individual.
Madon et al. (1997) pointed out that when an IWDs awareness of the
environment is consistent with his or her personal self-concept, the self-fulfilling
effect will be more intense. That is, if an IWD believes society think IWDs are
poor performers, and they also think of themselves in this way, then the
predicted effects of poor performance are very likely to occur. On the other hand,
if one believes that society thinks IWDs are poor performers, but one does not
think that of oneself, the predicted effects of poor performance will be less. An
IWD is able to have more confidence in meeting employment conditions with
high employability even if he or she think the external environment holds
negative expectations about IWDs. The negative self-fulfilling prophecy effect is
then reduced. Therefore it is a very good strategy to aggressively cultivate
employability, for example, to perceive and find work opportunity (Martini, &
Cavenago, 2017) will make the students have more opportunities to successfully
transition from school to employment (Wehman, Sima, Ketchum, West, Chan, &
Luecking, 2015). It will encourage IWDs to hold a positive self-concept that will
enhance their opportunity to enter the job market.

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IWDs employment issues were much discussed according to the social model
that has prevailed in past decades. It is thought that others prejudices against
IWDs have created barriers and discrimination, resulting in difficulties for IWDs
to participate fully in society. Unwelcoming and inadequately accessible
facilities among employers have led IWDs to have much lower employment
rates than the others. This article does not deny that these social factors have an
impact on IWDs employment. However, the history of the social factors
involved is a long one, and difficult for individuals to confront. For social
changes to give IWDs fair employment conditions, IWDs should patiently look
forward to the government establishing employment policies that initiates
public acceptance, at least, with apparent acceptance. On the other hand, a factor
which an individual can control is keeping any negative attitudes to himself or
herself away. According to research and the self-fulfilling prophecy, it seems
that IWDs negative self-perceptions and projections lead to their employment
prospects being difficult to develop. Therefore, changing the individuals
attitude is the most direct and promising strategy for promoting IWD progress
in employment.
A statistic shows that from 1985, when the self-fulfilling prophecy was first
analysed and discussed, nearly 400 related articles explored the effects of
self-fulfilling prophecy in educational environments (Wineburg, 1987). Now, 30
years later, this topic is discussed in depth in other disciplines. However, the
self-fulfilling prophecy was never applied to IWDs poor employment
performance issues. The employment research pointed out that there is a
significant relationship between IWDs successful employment after graduation
and their convictions about ASE of IWDs before graduating. Of course, this
conviction is not a direct factor concerning whether a person is successfully
employed, but it is the driving force behind working hard or giving up. Thus
shaping ones employability differently and shape a different performance
outcome in the workplace. In an employment transition service, IWDs should
actively establish themselves as moving forward. To motivate IWDs to actively
cultivate employability, namely, to strengthen the link between B and C in
Figures 1 and 2, IWDs need to expect promising employment development.
As an advocate in Readers Digest once said: Self-fulfilling prophecy the key
to success. It was proved this magical power can greatly enhance one to have the
intelligence, willpower and competitiveness to the success. The secret is: to
expect (P34, Good & Brophy, 1977, cited in Wineburg, 1987). An individuals
behaviour tends to be influenced by his or her personal conviction: If a person
thinks of oneself as others think of him (or her), that is what he (or she) becomes.

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Correspondence: Li Ju Chen, Associate Professor of Graduate Institute of Early

Intervention, Chang Gung University, 259 Wenhua 1st Road, Kwei-shan,
Tao-Yuan 33302, Taiwan.
Acknowledgments: The researcher would like to express sincere thanks to the Ministry
of Science and Technology, Taiwan for funding this research. (No:

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 35-47, February 2017

A Simulation-Based Model for Teaching

Business Writing: Exploration and Applications
Dr. Andrew Szanajda
Dr. Fang-Chun Ou
Overseas Chinese University
Taichung, Taiwan

Abstract. The purpose of this work is to review the important role

of technology and authentic assessment in the field of business
writing, how it has come about and developed over time. A review
of Business English writing classes indicate the digitization of
classrooms has led to significantly higher student satisfaction and,
even more impressive, greater academic achievement for students
(Zhonggen & Guifang, 2016). Additionally, Spector et al (2016)
discuss how technology can make assessments more engaging for
today's students, largely due to resembling functioning in a real
world workplace. Despite these advantages, there have been few
sources that have illustrated how authentic assessment can be used
for business writing, and how to teach or learn and how effective it
is at achieving learning objectives and goals. This work offers a
framework for study of simulation-based model for teaching
business writing, beginning with a review of the research and
scholarship on business writing and authentic assessment, and then
explaining a framework that identifies key steps for future
investigation while providing instructions for conducting research.
Using simulations can prepare business students for future writing
success in the rapidly shifting global marketplace.

Keywords: Authentic assessment, Business writing,


Writing skills when engaging in doing business is an increasingly
important skill owing to the volume of communications. Content knowledge of
the field in which the business is making its mark is certainly important for any
successful businessperson, but it is certain that communication is even more
crucial for business success. Business today is more visible than ever before.
Companies and corporate entities are accessible to their customers, for better or
worse, and this has led to an increase in the amount of communication necessary
by what were previously often faceless corporations in the eyes of the consumer.
Brand presence will likely likewise demonstrate social media presence in
multiple forms, complete with customer interaction on a day by day and

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sometimes even minute by minute basis, as indicated online. Furthermore, in the

age of the twenty-four-hour news cycle, business situations that once might have
been written about or noticed only on a small scale often become news stories
that require communication from marketing departments, publicity managers,
or even the CEO.
Along with all of these additional opportunities for communication in
the world of business today, others abound based around the fact that
individuals operate in an increasingly global business culture. Communication
among national and often international stakeholders is a key point for business
success, and that communication is developing in new and unexpected ways,
ranging from Skype calls to emails. It is also becoming available in multiple
languages. As increasingly more people move more easily in this era of
globalization and the technology that accompanies it, it is increasingly more
feasible that the people working on a project may never meet in real life or may
not even speak all the same languages, but they must complete their tasks
regardless, and must communicate effectively, sometimes in challenging
circumstances, in order to reach their common objectives.
With the business world's increased need for effective communication, it
is naturally the case that companies are looking for candidates for positions who
can fulfill this requirement. While speaking multiple languages is definitely an
advantage for these applicants for business positions, English is in great part the
lingua franca of business worldwide. Yet, even those who can write and
communicate effectively in just this one language are not always easily found.
MBA programs and undergraduate business programs have accordingly
focused increasing attention in recent years on teaching business writing. From
writing emails to creating effective presentations for marketing purposes,
writing for business is notably different from the types of writing that most
students learn in university courses, and this special skill is becoming
increasingly more important. Teaching business writing takes many forms.
However, there has hitherto been little examination in the scholarly community
concerning authentic assessment as it can be used for business writing.
Authentic assessment, with its focus on real-world tasks and products, would be
ideal for functioning in business. The purpose of this work is to examine the
importance of business writing for business learning, and discusses the crucial
role of authentic assessment in keeping students engaged and in preparing them
for real-life situations they will face as members of the workforce. A simulation-
based model is proposed for teaching business writing that would allow
students to experience the various contexts in which business writing is very
important in as close to a real-life scenario as many classrooms would allow. A
comprehensive review of the current literature related to business writing and
authentic assessment is included, followed by presenting a model in which this
method of understanding what students have learned can be helpful to both
students and instructors.

Literature Review
The intersection of business writing and authentic assessment has not
been explored extensively in the scholarly literature on either topic, while both
of these topics have been individually studied at in detail. However, these areas

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of previous research must be examined and evaluated in order to determine the

importance of a simulation model for teaching business writing. Communication
in business is especially important since a great deal of business dealings is
team-based, and therefore students will need to be duly prepared to enter a field
in which they will repeatedly work in teams on projects. The clearer the
communication between team members, the more effective these teams will be
at both a collegiate/educational level and on a professional level with regard to
their functions, as defined by Poysa-Tarhonen, Elen, & Tarhonen (2016). It is
thus crucial for students to be able to communicate well with team members.
This is what business writing is for, but business writing cannot exist in a
vacuum. According to the consensus of the scholarly community, it must be
grounded in traditional English language and writing instruction, especially for
learners who are working in English as a non-native language (or L2). Quible &
Griffin (2007) are concerned about a so-called lost generation of business writers,
whose business acumen is high but they cannot communicate effectively.
Writing instruction for business must therefore begin with writing instruction
for its own sake.

English Instruction and Business Writing

There is some disagreement regarding the proficiency needed in terms of
business writing in students' preparation for successful careers in their
individual fields. How and how much this skill needs to be taught are matters of
debate, and different students and professors have differing ideas about these
issues as well. In a study of students of Lebanese descent studying at the
Lebanese American University, Bacha & Bahous (2008) found that students
tended to perceive their writing skills as more satisfactory than their professors
gave them credit for, and that they considered themselves to be sufficient
competent to complete writing tasks that both Business and English department
faculty members considered to be beyond their learning levels. Students also
had different ideas from faculty regarding what business writing tasks were
necessary and should be practiced. Despite these differences, both students and
faculty in the study considered that business writing was important and,
perhaps even more significantly, that both the Business and English department
faculty should collaborate in teaching business writing. This is arguably even
more important for students of English as a foreign language who are
confronting the realities of the importance of effective communication in their
field in a language in which they may not consider themselves to entirely
competent about using. Good communication is not just based on the individual
tasks that come with working in business, but is also based on a fundamental
understanding of grammar, sentence structure, syntax, and other mechanics,
and in many cases for EFL students, those writing techniques must be explicitly
taught in English. Smith (2011) also noted that business students should not just
write, but also read both business and unrelated material as a means of
improving their writing skills. Being literate is helpful in communication, but
this practice contributes to ensuring that students see good writing in actual
practice, in terms of both style and mechanics. Bay (2010) argued for greater use
of composition techniques in teaching professional writing. Writing as a

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discipline in itself has much to do with successful business writing, and the
teaching of good writing begins with the teaching of writing mechanics.
The importance of English mechanics instruction as part of the business
writing learning process cannot be overstated. Weldy, Maes, & Harris (2014)
noted that first year university students recognise the importance of business
writing, but they also tend to undervalue it, as well as consider that their skills
are sufficiently suitable without there being a need for a great deal of further
instruction. Their research presented a two-semester focused writing program
that focused on a five-step writing process, in which students completed ten
assignments. Students' understanding of the academic importance of business
writing, as well as their grammar and the organisation of their writing,
improved significantly at the end of this program, thus demonstrating the idea
that teaching business writing along with teaching how important it is has a
very significant component of conventional English teaching. When students are
taught business writing with a process that necessitates careful use of language,
much as they might be in a basic English class, they not only become better
writers who are skilled at one way communication, but also with a greater
understanding of the importance of business writing. Clear, prescriptive
techniques for improving their writing, such as the 3D Writing Heuristic put
forward by Hershey (2007) help students write more clearly and can provide
students with specific directions to follow in order to become better writers.
Washington (2014) makes an explicit connection between the
globalisation of business and effective written communication, demonstrating
the importance of written work for businesspeople in the twenty-first century.
Effective writing skills are becoming more of a focus in business education
programs throughout the United States, with three essential factors being
identified: teaching writing to international students, faculty attitudes toward
the teaching of writing, and workplace writing experience. Collaboration
between business and English faculty and departments addresses all of these
matters. International students can receive the explicit instruction in grammar
and mechanics that they often need, faculty attitudes toward writing are
improved with greater transparency and collaboration among faculty members,
and workplace-type writing can be undertaken as part of class work
assignments within this new model. English writing instruction in the
traditional sense thus has an important role to play in terms of teaching students
to write specifically in business contexts.
According to Reardon (2015), 84% of students believe that their writing is
adequate for the workplace without explicit instruction in either writing or
business writing in particular, but it is clear that interventions such as those
created by Weldy, Maes, & Harris can greatly improve students' skills. Stowers
& Barker (2003) noted the same situation as Reardon - students believe that their
writing skills are sufficiently useful for the workplace, although neither
professors nor, more significantly, business owners who might hire them agree
with this assessment. Stowers and Barker posit that motivation is a crucial part
of having business students write better, and their work indicates that one way
to motivate students is through the use of technology in the classroom.

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Teaching with Technology

Reardon (2015) found that the use of computerized assessment
technology for writing can be especially effective for business writers, who focus
much more on the areas in which their writing is lacking, such as editing
mechanics, when assessed in this manner. Notably, students agree with teachers
on this issue, finding that computerized writing assessment can help them learn
and remember the rules of grammar and editing, which could be their greatest
shortcomings. Thus, assessment can actually become a useful part of the
learning process for business writing in and of itself.
Technology can also be useful in the sense of the "flipped" classroom, in
which students learn at home, often through streaming videos or other forms of
technology, and practice the skills they have learned in class thereafter.
Zhonggen & Guifang (2016) found that flipped classrooms used specifically for
Business English writing classes led to significantly higher student satisfaction
and, even more impressive, greater academic achievement for students. Web 2.0
activities, including the use of social media and other interactive web
applications, have also been found to lead to higher student satisfaction and
greater student creativity, as well as to higher student self-efficacy, according to
Liu, Lu, Wu, & Tsai (2016). Yen, Additionally, Hou, & Chang (2015) found that
Facebook and Skype were effective learning tools that enhanced business
students ability and comfort levels communicating in English, in a study of
Taiwanese students. Using of technology in the business writing classroom thus
has a wide range of positive effects for students that extend beyond simple
mastery of the material.
Peer evaluation of business writing tasks has been examined in literature
sources at least since the publication of the work by Lynch and Golen (1992), but
the methods of peer editing and writing collaboration have been greatly
enhanced by technology that has since been developed. Lin, Yu, and Yang (2014)
posit a model of cloud-based writing instruction and assessment that encourages
collaboration among students and between students and faculty members. In
their model, students work on documents and writing assignments in the cloud,
such as with the use of Google Docs, and are able to see and comment upon each
others' work as part of a peer review process and revise their own as needed
while a greater range of skills are improved. This model of interactive learning
has been found to be effective specifically for business writing, and has obvious
applications to the real world, which, the authors point out, make it both more
engaging and more effective as a strategy for teaching business writing. Even
before the introduction of cloud technology, Forman (1991) emphasized the
importance of collaboration in business writing, and technology has since
allowed for this method of teaching, learning, and writing to have become a
practical reality. According to Hanjani (2016), collaborative writing and making
continuous revisions are especially helpful for learners working in a second
language. The process of peer review and feedback, when applied gradually
with an instructors guidance, empowers students and is an effective learning
technique. Stoddart, Chan, & Liu (2016) took the idea of collaborative writing a
step further, investigating the use of wiki-based writing for collaboration. Wikis
allow students to share their knowledge with each other, with students all
contributing to the class knowledge base and are enabled to edit and collaborate

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on each other's writing. The resulting product can be used by future classes and
students. This kind of writing, with its peer-editing component, is especially
helpful for L2 learners, and wiki-based collaboration, along with cloud-based
collaboration, is supported among practitioners as the best practices for business
writing. Computers and technology clearly have a role to play in terms of
learning to write in the business context, and this is further amplified by the
work of Chang (2016), who examined e-learning as a teaching modality for
aspiring entrepreneurs in Taiwan. His study found that students who went
through an e-learning based training created better business plans, and noted
that team-based learning, when led effectively, can lead to the achievement of
learning goals. The burgeoning utility of the internet in teaching business
writing is clearly evident, which is advisable, especially given how much
business students will use online tools in their future careers. The real-world
applications are evident.

Assessing Business Writing Effectively

Even writing instruction that has components of traditional English
instruction and is aided by technology may not be effective for every student,
and in order to ensure that all students are learning what is expected and that
programs are graduating students ready for the workplace, intensive and
effective assessment is needed. May, Thompson, & Hebblethwaite (2012) note
the importance of robust assessment for business writing, including the use of
data analysis to determine whether students are coming away from their
learning experiences with the requisite skills for success in future workplaces.
One way to assess business writing is by having students both analyze
and sometimes write case studies, and this has been found to be helpful for L2
learners in Russia, where Brattseva & Kovalev (2015) noted that reading and
writing case studies was a tool to both teach and assess the learning of native
Russian-speaking business students in English. They found that using such a
method of assessment and learning helps students be more communicative, as
well as helping establish a host of other positive traits: students also become
more goal-oriented, more creative, and more decisive. If it is done correctly,
assessment can then also contribute to the learning process for students of
business writing. According to Giulioni & Voloshin (2014), the use of mini case-
studies is perhaps even more useful for both learning and assessment In some
instances, since these are less intimidating for students.

The Role of Authentic Assessment in Learning

Authentic assessment involves students creating results that have actual
use and that imitate what they would do in real-world situations. Huba & Freed
(1999) characterize authentic assessment as large part of their model of learner-
focused assessment on college campuses, noting that students learn more
effectively this way and are more highly motivated to learn as well. Ullah &
Wilson (2007) confirm the importance of student involvement in learning and in
the assessment process for student success. Trevitt and Stocks (2012) argue for
the use of portfolios as part of assessment, and these have the flexibility to be
composed of a range of different results, which can lead to more authentic

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assessment as students are tasked to create and complete the same items and
tasks they would in a real world career context.
One way to increase the authenticity of both formative and summative
assessment for twenty-first century learners in particular is by using technology
as part of the assessment process, and not just of the learning process, as is
discussed above. Spector et al (2016) discuss how technology can make
assessment more engaging for today's students in large part because it resembles
what they will do in a real world workplace. Problem-based and inquiry-based
learning, in which students learn organically and are assessed in ways that make
sense in the real world, are, according to the study group that produced this
study, the best practices for modern, tech-savvy learners.
Experiential learning functions in conjunction with authentic assessment,
and this is especially true in a business context. When so much of what students
are learning is going to be used directly in the real world, learning by doing, and
being assessed on the products they create, can be extremely helpful for
students. Deeter-Schmelz (2015) discusses a unique corporate and academic
integrated partnership in which students in a sales management course
underwent a combination of role play, traditional learning of course content,
and real-world application through interaction with corporate partners in order
to learn business writing skills. These elements created an effective project in
which students were able to learn and then to apply new skills in an authentic
manner. This type of learning and assessment therefore definitely has a purpose,
specifically in a business English classroom.

Simulations in Business Learning

Moving away from the field of writing directly, it is clear that
simulations are used consistently in business process and concept learning at
both the university and the MBA level. Simulation programs are designed to
give students authentic tasks on which they can practice and apply skills they
have learned in the classroom. With the introduction of increasingly more
effective technology, these learning modalities are becoming increasingly more
common in MBA programs. Neely & Tucker (2013) found that they are
considered effective by teachers and by students, although one caveat is that the
learning that ensues may be difficult to assess. The authors found particular
difficulty in quantifying and assessing indefinite "soft" skills, such as
communication skills, in these simulations, in contrast to hard skills, such as
data analysis. Case-based in-basket writing tasks, in which students are asked to
prioritize and respond to a variety of tasks given to them at the same time in
order to simulate a real office working environment, have been found to be
especially effective in eliciting business writing and in forcing students to give
evidence of the various skills necessary for effective business communication.
These case study based in-basket activities give what Stearns, Ronald, Greenlee,
& Crespy (2003) call "contexts for communication," allowing for students to
demonstrate their expertise in this otherwise difficult to assess area.
Since simulations are already being used, adapting them to assess
business writing in particular more effectively is a clear next step for research.
Simulating writing-heavy tasks, using a peer editing component, writing and
communicating collaboratively, and utilizing technology are all elements that

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students must perform in such a simulation for it to be consistent with the best
practices, as presented in the current literature. The simulation described below
attempts to combine these elements into a cohesive model for assessing business
writing via simulation activity.

A Simulation for Business Writing: Rationale and Procedures

Learning through doing, as well as being assessed on real-world
products (termed "authentic assessment," as described above), are touchstones of
the business education model, but clearly any activity or procedure designed to
teach business writing needs to do so in a manner that also incorporates some of
the other best practices of business education, including collaborative teamwork
and the introduction of writing and English-language elements outside of the
sphere of business writing only.
Such a simulation would need to include a great deal of opportunities for
writing that would not just be technical, but also provide a wide scope for some
of the conventions of general composition, such as descriptive wording. At the
same time, teams within the simulation need to be able to work in groups to
create products that have some meaning and can be assessed not just by a
professor, but perhaps also by future potential employers as well. Students will
gain writing skills, business experience, and self-efficacy as they are motivated
by the completion of tasks that are analogous to the real world, and will come
out of the simulation with a business plan that might even provide material for
future class work or for their own ventures outside of the classroom.
The simulation will begin with students divided into teams of four to six
participants. The professor can decide whether to randomly assign these groups,
or whether to pair specific students together at their discretion, depending on
whether or not personal interaction is part of what is being assessed. It is
preferable, all other things being equal, to put students in random groupings,
since in the real world they will have to work with teams of diverse personalities
and skill sets. However, to adapt this activity for a beginner group, a professor
might choose to group individuals who will work well together, or whose
strengths complement one another. For example, they might group someone
who is comfortable with speaking in public with someone who has great ideas,
but is not good at organising details, or someone who is effective at delegating
and someone who is very detail oriented. Such a group might produce optimal
learning for new business students within the context of the activity.
Once students are grouped, their task is to develop a business idea. They
will develop a product or service, create a written business plan, create and
deliver a presentation to attract investors, create a mock social media presence
for their new brand or service, and create position descriptions, interview
questions, and a recruitment drive for potential employees of their new
company. Throughout this process, students will use cloud-based computing to
share and critique each others work, and assessment will be undertaken during
this process.

Assigning Roles
Students will be presented with a list of the various products that will be
expected of them, as described above, and be asked to divide up the separate

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tasks among the members of the team. They will then be asked to each produce
a written rationale explaining why they have taken on their particular role and
how this will contribute to the team's success. This will allow students to
practice compositional writing outside of the regular parametres of business
communication. Students should upload these files to the cloud folder the
instructor has set up for each team, and should edit and comment on each
others work. One aspect of the assessment of this stage of the project should
involve whether or not students commented on and edited others' work, and
whether or not students made changes to their own work in conformity with the
comments that had been given to them. This can be tracked in a cloud-based
editing program, such as Google Docs.

The Business Plan

The business plan should be a written document aimed at investors,
analysing the market of the specific product or service, and include analysis of
how the product will differentiate itself (essentially a SWOT-type analysis) as
part of the written document. The plan should outline the products or services
that will be offered, the sales and marketing objectives and plans along with
information about pricing and distribution as applicable, the general operations
of the business, the composition of the management team and their expertise to
bring the product or service to market, financial plans, such as an explanation of
how much initial investment will be needed and what that money will be used
for, and finally, an assessment of risks and competitors. Other elements of the
business plan may vary depending on the particular business that the students
have chosen to pursue.
This document, whether it is worked on by one person on the team or by
multiple team members, should be edited and commented on by all, as was the
initial written part of the role assignment process described above. Finally, each
student in the group should write an executive summary of the business plan,
and students should compare theirs to others and critique each other's
summaries, since this provides another avenue for practice in business writing.

The Presentation
The presentation should include slides or PowerPoint, with the number
of slides or length of the presentation being is at professor's discretion, and this
might be one way to differentiate this project for different levels of learners. For
example, an MBA group would do a different length and depth of presentation
material than would a group of first year university students in an introductory
class. The slides should come with speakers' notes as well as with handouts or
materials that would be given to potential investors.
Like other documents created, these should be edited by all of the
students. The students involved in the creation of these particular materials
should also submit a reflection document, which could take the form of a
narrative in which they describe their choices and the way they went about the
task, as well as discuss what they learned. Narrative writing is one of the
conventions of composition that usually falls outside the parametres of business
writing, but practice doing this can make for more literate and articulate
students who are overall better communicators.

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Social Media
The next stage of the project relates to using social media. In today's
internet-driven business environment, it is important for brands to maintain
social media presence. Brands go so far as to pay social media "influencers" to
promote their products in subtle ways, such as by featuring them in photos on
Instagram or videos on SnapChat. There appear to be an ever-growing number
of platforms, and these represent both an opportunity and a set of potential
pitfalls for products and brands, since interaction with customers, for better or
worse, is quicker, easier, and more public. In terms of the simulation exercise,
social media strategising presents a way for students to explore these trends and
for them to learn to further communicate in business terms.
This task will consist of a written out social media plan, including
discussion of which platforms to use, what kind of tone to take, post frequency,
plans for growing social media presence, etc. This will be written as a
comprehensive plan, and then the material will be vetted and become the subject
of a shorter form of communication in the format of a memo in order to give
students practice in writing this form. The memo and the fully described social
media plan will both become part of the collaborative folder, and all group
members will, as with other products, be responsible for editing and
proofreading each other's work, while leaving constructive comments.

Hiring and Recruitment

The final step of the simulation will involve hiring and recruitment.
Students working on this stage will create a written out strategy document
detailing hiring research, including potential salary ranges, a mocked-up
organizational chart, text for hiring and recruitment ads, and potential interview
questions, as well as model answers to these interview questions. At minimum,
two students should work on this portion of the simulation, since one should
write the interview questions and the other or others can then write answers.
This gives students an opportunity to communicate business-related experiences
and personal accomplishments succinctly and clearly, which is something that
they will have to do both aloud in job interviews and in writing over the course
of their careers.
One possible extension of the simulation is to have a simulated "job fair"
with another class in which students do mock interviews for the positions they
are "hiring" for. If this is added to the simulation, then additional writing, such
as a memo detailing the company and its products or services, could be
provided to the "interviewer subjects" ahead of time, who would then use that
writing sample to decide which companies they were interested in pursuing
"jobs" at. Doing this with two classes of students would allow for both sets to
create hiring materials and conduct interviews and to be the individuals seeking
jobs. Writing a reflection on this experience could be an additional business
writing sample, allowing for more practice with narrative writing, as well as
with editing and giving feedback to peers.
This stage of the simulation might be especially useful for L2 learners,
because they would have opportunity to work not just on writing skills, as in
other parts of the simulation, but also on public speaking and conversational

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skills as well. For these learners, the intersection of writing and speaking can
benefit both skill sets.

This project can be assessed in a number of ways, depending on what
aspects of business communication and writing the professor would like any
given group to focus on. It could even be done more than once, as an
introductory project and a capstone project for a year long course of study, with
different products or simulated services, for example, and the two experiences
being compared.
Within the simulation, there are opportunities for formative assessment
by virtue of the writing products that each student turns in at the start along
with the role assignments. They also should receive grades and feedback based
on the commenting and editing they do of their peers work.
It is important to note that assessment should be as collaborative as
possible in order to realistically resemble the authentic assessments that students
will face when they are in the workplace: the feeling should be that of going
back and forth on a project with a supervisor, rather than the usual professor-
student dynamic. This adds to the reality of the simulation and also gets
students to be more cognizant of their writing skill level (which the literature
showed many overestimate), and of the importance of business writing and
Along with grades taken throughout the process for separate
assignments, the final product of the activity is the entire portfolio of documents
in final draft form, including the presentation, business plan, and all other
elements detailed above. This can be a group grade, so that every member of the
group receives the same amount of credit. This project is designed for students
to get a combination of peer feedback, instructor feedback, individual formative
and summative assessment, and group assessment, which are all to be based on
their various writing and communication tasks.

It is clear that simulations have an undeniably important place in the
teaching of business practices, and this can certainly be extended to business
writing. Business writing is one of the most important skills that todays
students need to learn, since communication is becoming increasingly more
important as the business world becomes more globally focused and
collaboration from office to office, and even country to country becomes more
common as a result of increased pace of globalization, such as outsourcing of
production by head offices to other countries. Taiwanese corporations shifting
production to China or Vietnam are currently prime examples, and therefore
this evaluation method could be of specific interest to Taiwanese business
English instructors and students.
However, business writing classes often involve activities that are not
reflective of the business tasks students will have to take on in the real world.
This is where authentic assessment comes into play, since this style of evaluation
resembles tasks students may indeed have to take on in their future careers.
Using simulation for business writing tasks specifically is not something that has

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previously been examined in the existing scholarly literature, but the idea offers
a wide range of possibilities for future applications and research. The common
denominators of future studies need to be simulations designed with the best
practices of business writing instruction in mind. Specifically, all versions of this
project or related ones must use technology for both learning and assessment, as
well as teach English conventions specifically and directly. Editing, and
particularly peer editing, needs to be a part of the process within the
simulations, as well. With these practices in place, simulation can be a successful
way to teach business writing. Using simulations, it is to be hoped, can prepare
business students for future writing success in the rapidly shifting global
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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 48-61, February 2017

An Exploration of Culturally Grounded Youth

Suicide Prevention Programs for Native
American and African American Youth

Rhonda G. Bluehen-Unger, Deborah A. Stiles, Jameca Falconer, Tammy R.

Grant, Ericka J. Boney and Kelly K. Brunner
Applied Educational Psychology, Multidisciplinary Studies
Webster University

Abstract. This exploratory paper recounts how students and faculty

from multicultural graduate programs in psychology conducted
intensive studies of youth suicide prevention programs and discovered
that the manual known as the EBI Manual or the Task Force on Evidence-
Based Interventions in School Psychology is an excellent research tool for
studying prevention programs, but it has limitations. The manual
illustrates how to evaluate whether or not an intervention program is
scientifically sound, but not if it is culturally grounded. Our students
and faculty want to be able to recommend to schools and agencies
effective interventions for preventing youth suicide, but unfortunately,
most evidence based-interventions have been designed for European-
American, middle-class youth and most take a one-size-fits-all
approach. Although a few prevention programs seek to culturally
tailor existing programs to fit the needs of a specific youth population,
tailoring programs for Native American and African American youth is
not sufficient. It is necessary to use suicide prevention approaches that
are community-derived and culturally grounded. In this exploratory
study, we identify important themes in culturally grounded prevention
programs; the themes include acknowledging historical trauma,
encouraging spirituality, identifying risk and protective factors, and
promoting cultural identity and community involvement.

Keywords: Youth suicide prevention, Native American, African


this debris of historical trauma, family trauma, you know, stuff that can kill
your spirit, is actually raw material to make things with and to build a bridge.
You can use those materials to build a bridge over that which would destroy
From Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo, Mvskoke Nation poet
i found god in myself and i loved her i loved her fiercely
From "For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf" by
Ntozake Shange, African American poet

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Poets such as Joy Harjo and Ntozake Shange recognize the connections
between suicidal ideation and cultural trauma and loss; they know about the
importance of culture, spirituality, and community support in promoting
wellness, healing, and suicide prevention. In contrast, psychologists,
psychiatrists, and public health researchers often overlook or minimize the
importance of these factors. They are more likely to focus on the rigor of
scientific studies and ignore cultural issues in youth suicide.

The insights of Harjo and Shange about suicide and suicide prevention
may be derived from their imaginations, observations, and cultural experiences;
the insights of psychologists and other scientists may be derived from new
research studies as well as systematic reviews and meta-analyses of existing
scientific studies; however, there appears to be one variable which is not
systematically integrated into these one-size-fits-all approaches. That one
variable is culture.

It is, of course, important for scientists to conduct studies, review studies

and then identify evidence-based suicide prevention programs because
adolescent suicide is a major health concern and the third leading cause of death
for adolescents and the second leading cause of death for adolescents who are
Native American. Although not as high as the rates for American Indians, we
also need to be concerned about African Americans because suicide rates among
young African Americans have increased in recent years (Bennett & Joe, 2015;
Matlin, Molock, & Tebes, 2011).

Although not systematically integrated into the research literature, a few

articles do recognize the importance of cultural differences. For instance, a 2008
article in the American Psychologist called for the exploration of the implications
of culture for the development of suicide prevention and treatment
interventions (Goldston, Molock, Whitbeck, Murakami, Zayas, Nagayama, &
Hall, 2008, p. 14). A 2011 article titled, Suicidality and Depression Among
African American Adolescents: The Role of Family and Peer Support and
Community Connectedness found that very few studies have examined the
relationship of peer support and suicidality among ethnic minority adolescents
(Matlin et al., 2011, p. 110). A 2016 book chapter, A Culturally Informed
Approach to American Indian/Alaskan Native Youth Suicide Prevention found
that some scientifically sound suicide prevention programs fail to bring about
lasting change because they are culturally disconnected (LaFromboise & Malik,

Our Graduate Programs Interest in Youth Suicide Prevention

The authors of this article are graduate students and faculty associated
with applied educational psychology and school psychology programs that
study evidence-based interventions for social, emotional, and behavioral
challenges. In this article we explore the topic of culturally grounded suicide
prevention programs and we also chronicle how we began to question the
standard approach to youth suicide prevention.

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Our graduate course studying suicide prevention programs. For several

years, Webster Universitys applied educational psychology and school
psychology programs have offered a one-credit hour graduate course in which
students carefully examine suicide prevention programs. The course prepares
students to research and evaluate evidence-based interventions and to make
recommendations for program adoption to schools and agencies. Within the
content of the course, the authors, who have enrolled in or lectured in the
course, examined and rated the effectiveness of programs using the methods
described in the course readings, especially an article on suicide prevention
programs by Miller, Eckert, and Mazza (2009).

The article by Miller and colleagues (2009) takes a public health

perspective and reviews thirteen studies using a four-point scale to rate the
evidence on eight methodological indicators. These are measurement,
comparison group, statistically significant outcomes, educational/clinical
significance, identifiable components, implementation fidelity, replication, site of
implementation (Miller et al., 2009, p. 172).

In their article, Miller and colleagues gave one of the studies - the Zuni
Life Skills Development Program study - high praise because it was multi-
method, provided strong evidence for outcome measures, and was culturally
tailored. This study was one of two universal suicide prevention programs
they reviewed that demonstrated the highest methodological rigor and this
was the only study to adopt a culturally tailored approach to developing a
school-based suicide prevention program for us among Native American youth
(Miller et al., 2009, p. 178).

We at Webster University were pleased with ourselves and our

collaborative efforts to come together as a class to address the sensitive topic of
youth suicide. We were pleased with ourselves because we thought we were
teaching and learning about best practices in the graduate course. In our suicide
prevention programs course, we thought we were being culturally aware and
sensitive because course readings included the entire article, The Zuni Life
Skills Development Program: A School/Community-Based Suicide Prevention
Intervention (LaFramboise & Lewis, 2008). We also patted ourselves on the
back because a guest speaker for the course introduced an article, School-
Based Suicide Prevention with African American Youth in an Urban Setting
(Brown and Grumet, 2009).

Questioning our graduate course studying suicide prevention

programs. For the first two times that we taught the suicide prevention course, it
went as planned. The course changed in 2013, when our graduate student and
first author of this article, Rhonda Bluehen-Unger, enrolled in the suicide
prevention course. She expressed concerns about the culturally tailored
approach in the Zuni Life Skills Development Program. Since that time, she has
convinced all of us that suicide prevention programs need to be culturally
grounded, not culturally tailored.

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As a result of comments from Rhonda Bluehen-Unger, Webster

Universitys applied educational psychology and school psychology programs
began to think about best practices in suicide prevention programs in a different
light. We began rereading the course materials, especially the Evidence-Based
Intervention (EBI) Manual, the Procedural and Coding Manual of Division 16 and the
Society for the Study of School Psychology Task Force. We also expanded our course
readings to include more systematic review articles, more articles about culture
and suicide prevention, two participatory action research (PAR) articles, and
some non-scientific, but culture-specific articles and websites devoted to suicide
prevention for Native American and African American youth.

Redoing the Literature Review

Three of the authors worked on identifying more studies about youth

suicide prevention. We conducted bibliographic searches using the PsycINFO
and ERIC databases. We conducted multiple searches in these databases with
the following terms: suicide, suicide prevention, culture, cultural, African
American, Black, Native American, American Indian, Ethnic Minority.

In addition to the computerized searches, we looked at the reference lists

for all of the useful studies we found. We also reviewed the following journals:
Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, American Journal of Public Health, Journal of
Adolescent Research, Journal of Black Psychology, American Indian and Alaska Native
Mental Health Research. Another excellent source for us was the Suicide Prevention
Resource Center, Library & Resources

We also investigated articles and books about culture and youth suicide
that are not part of the mainstream, evidence-based scientific literature.

Results and Discussion

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

We found that most scientific studies about youth suicide prevention do

not even mention cultural considerations and have no insights for Native
American and African American populations. One example is Hot Idea or Hot
Air: A Systematic Review of Evidence for Two Widely Marketed Youth Suicide
Prevention Programs and Recommendations for Implementation (Wei,
Kutcher, and LeBlanc, 2015). We studied this rigorous review of the following
youth suicide prevention programs: Signs of Suicide and Yellow Ribbon. The
review used scientific evaluation techniques and was guided by Preferred
Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA).
According to its website, PRISMA focuses on the reporting of reviews

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evaluating randomized trials, but it can also be used as a basis for reporting
systematic reviews of other types of research, particularly evaluations of
interventions (See http://www.prisma-statement.org/Default.aspx). The
review by Wei and colleagues was systematic and comprehensive and yet there
is not one mention of culture, cultural identity, or culturally informed practice.

Task Force on Evidence-Based Interventions in School Psychology (EBI

Manual (2nd edition, 2009)

We decided to more carefully study the second edition of the EBI Manual.
The second edition has twelve methodological indicators (rather than eight) and
includes the addition of cultural validity to existing types of research validity.
Unlike the PRISMA checklist, which does not include culture, the EBI Manual
(2nd edition) includes the importance of cultural considerations in
psychoeducational interventions.

The EBI Manual describes cultural considerations, but prevention

science research in the United States has focused on White/European American
populations. Despite evidence of considerable racial/ethnic variation in
adolescent suicidal behavior in the United States, research on youth of European
American descent accounts for much of what is known about preventing
adolescent suicide (Joe, Canetto & Romer, 2008, p. 354).

In contrast to the earlier (1st) edition, the EBI Manual (2nd edition)
emphasizes multicultural and diversity issues. A search for cultur* in the EBI
Manual (2nd edition) yielded 141 results. The word culture(s) appears 31 times,
cultural(ly) appears 97 times, acculturation appears 9 times, social-cultural 3
times, and multicultural 1 time. Page 7 of the second edition of the EBI Manual
states, Thus, cultural validity features are included within this revision of the
Manual. Intervention studies will be evaluated to the extent that they provide
deeper descriptions of the cultures and values of those involved with the
research, including the participants, collectors of data, and researchers. The EBI
Manual (2nd edition, p. 7) requests reviewers of the empirical literature be
especially sensitive to cultural diversity and issues surrounding the context of
intervention implementation in schools and community settings. The EBI
Manual (2nd edition) does include culture, but regrettably it omits the
consideration of these central aspects of culture: religion, spirituality, and
historical trauma.

Our study is an exploration of the effectiveness of culturally grounded

suicide prevention programs. During our explorations, we discovered that even
though the second edition of the Task Force on Evidence-Based Interventions in
School Psychology (EBI Manual (2009) omits spirituality, religion, and history, it
does provide some useful methods for evaluating the effectiveness of culturally
grounded suicide prevention programs for Native American and African
American youth.

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One-Size-Fits-All Approach

We read five articles that appear to take a one-size-fits-all approach to

suicide prevention. These articles were written by Cooper, Clements, and Holt
(2011), Freedenthal (2010), Robinson, Cox, Malone, Williamson, Baldwin,
Fletcher, and OBrien (2012), Wei and others (2015), and Wyman, Brown,
LoMurray, Schmeelk-Cone, Petrova, Yu, Walsh, Tu, Wang, and others (2010).
The one-size-fits-all approach assumes that any youth suicide prevention
program might be appropriate, meaningful, and effective for many youth

The article by Robinson and others (2012) does not discuss culture at all,
but their systematic review includes reviews of programs from other countries
and the review notes that, Black or African American was the race/ethnicity
of the participants in one of the studies. In fairness, the article by Cooper and
others (2011, p. 697) does mention the, important factors that contribute to teen
suicide include issues such race. And yet, merely mentioning the that race is an
important factor is not sufficient; according the EBI Manual 2nd edition (2009,
p.36), Culture is defined as the shared norms, values, beliefs, practices, and
behaviors relevant to the target population; and reflects cultural experiences that
extend beyond the traditional categories of race, ethnicity, and language to
encompass the shared experiences of any group. Cultural values have a huge
impact on how one thinks about life and death. Culture impacts how individuals
give meaning to factors that contribute to suicidal behavior.

In addition to omitting discussions of cultural factors, the five articles

that appear to take a one-size-fits-all approach to suicide prevention also omit
any discussion of religion or spirituality. (In fairness, Cooper et al. includes the
words religion and religious, but there is no discussion). These topics would not
be especially relevant for most prevention programs, but they do seem to have
relevance for the choice to take ones own life. Spirituality/religion, as one
aspect of culture, is a frame that gives meaning (about life and death). To
uncover reasons for living is crucial to suicide prevention (Bullock, Nadeau, &
Renaud, 2012, p. 1912).

Culturally Tailored Approaches

In our explorations, we attempted to follow best practices for the

literature review process. Although we know that there is ongoing research on
the topic of youth suicide prevention programs for Native American and African
American youth, we only found one published scientific study of the
effectiveness of a culturally tailored suicide prevention program for Native
American youth (the Zuni Life Skills Development Program) and we could not
find any published, evidence-based articles that establish the effectiveness of a
culturally grounded suicide prevention program for African American youth.

LaFramboise and Lewis (2008, p. 347) described the cultural tailoring as a

unique feature and strength of the Zuni Life Skills Development Program.
This program is listed as an evidence-based program on the website of the

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Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
(SAMHSA). (http://www.sprc.org/bpr/section-i-evidence-based-

On the website list of evidence-based suicide prevention programs and

practices, the Zuni Life Skills Development Program is the only program with
Adaptations. All of the other evidence-based programs have the following
words under Adaptations: No population- or culture-specific adaptations
were identified by the developer. Another listed evidence-based program, the
Model Adolescent Suicide Prevention Program (MASPP), was developed for a
small American Indian tribe in rural New Mexico; unfortunately MASPP has
the following words on the website, Adaptations: No population- or culture-
specific adaptations were identified by the developer.

Molock and others (2008, p. 323) noted that, To date, there appear to be
no published studies of effective suicide prevention programs or treatments
specifically tailored for African American youth. We couldnt find any
published studies of evidence-based prevention programs, although we do
know that there is ongoing research on this topic.

Culturally Destructive Research, Prevention, and Intervention Programs

One-size-fits-all and tailored are terms that describe how clothing fit.
One-size-fits-all approaches and cultural tailoring work on the surface. They are
the outer clothing of suicide prevention and not the deeper descriptions of
the cultures and values described in the EBI Manual (2nd edition). These surface
approaches, which are often developed by researchers and interventionists who
are not part of these cultures, can be harmful to Native American and African
American communities.

In her writings, anthropologist Dr. Beatrice Medicine criticizes much of

the research that has been done by other people on Native Americans.
[American] Indian communities have not significantly profited from other
peoples research because its focus has been on problems [such as] suicides
The uncritical proliferation of helping programs limits knowledge and
comprehension of Indian families even more. It has been, and is, profitable for
universities, service agencies, and tribal groups to obtain funds to intervene and
attempt to change the pathological character of Indians and their life-styles
Previous natural helping service systems curing societies (Iroquois) and
womens craft guilds (Cheyenne) no longer function as mutual aid societies
(Medicine, 2001, p. 256).

There is evidence that not only do the needs of Native American youth
differ from the general population, but also there is variation among Native
American tribes. A study conducted by Bolton and colleagues titled A
Comparison of the Prevalence and Risk Factors of Suicidal Ideation and Suicide
Attempts in Two American Indian Population Samples and in a General
Population Sample found that, Suicide attempts without suicidal ideation

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were found to be more common in the American Indian samples than in the
general population (Bolton, Elias, Enns, Sareen, Beals & Novins, 2014, p.4). As
stated by Goldston et al, 2008, p. 21), There are major cultural differences
between different Native American groups. Not surprisingly, Bolton and
colleagues (2014) also discovered differences in suicidal behaviors, including
ideation and attempts among the Northern Plains and the Southwest tribes they
studied. In comparison, the Southwest tribe was significantly more likely to
report suicide attempts than the Northern Plains tribe. Culturally specific
programs are needed. According to Medicine (2001), Native Americans should
not be categorized as a single group. With more than 562 federally recognized
tribes in the United States and Canada, the one-size-fits-all approach to
suicide prevention will not work for all Native American youth.

Some scientists have raised concerns about research and interventions

that target African Americans. Cultural mistrust must be considered when
designing suicide prevention initiatives for ethnic minority populations A case
in point, African Americans with high levels of cultural mistrust will expect that
members or institutions of the dominant culture will not treat them [fairly] (Joe
et al, 2008, p. 360). Decades of individual and institutional racism affecting the
black community, along with failed social efforts to eliminate discrimination,
may contribute to the perception that race-related obstacles will prevent goal
attainment (Hirsch, Visser, Chang, & Jeglic, 2012, p. 123). When developing
programs the roles of racism, segregation, neighborhood influences, and other
forms of discrimination must be acknowledged. (Joe et al., 2008, p. 358).

Culturally Grounded Suicide Prevention Programs

Although we did not find any empirical, scientific studies of the

effectiveness of the culturally grounded approach, we did find several studies
that indicated what might be important in culturally grounded suicide
prevention programs for Native American and African American youth. As
suggested by the poets Joy Harjo and Ntozake Shange, cultural trauma and loss
are important considerations, as well as community, hope, and spirituality.
Harjo (2012) acknowledges the significance of trauma and suggests that it can
become the raw material to make things with and to build a bridge. In
Shanges poem (1977, p. 63) the lady in red decides not to commit suicide and
explains i found god in myself & I loved her/ I loved her fiercely [sic].

The 2008 article by Goldston and others (p. 14) includes these cultural
considerations that are similar to those highlighted by the poets Joy Harjo and
Ntozake Shange, Several cross-cutting issues are discussed, including
acculturative stress and protective factors within cultures; the roles of religion
and spirituality and the family in culturally sensitive interventions; different
manifestations and interpretations of distress in different cultures; and the
impact of stigma and cultural distrust on help-seeking. As suggested in the
2014 article by White and Kral, we are rethinking youth suicide and embracing
multiple frameworks for making sense of youth distress and suicide (p. 131).

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Acknowledging Trauma, Encouraging Community Efforts and Finding

Spiritual Solutions

While stressful events occur daily for most individuals, the word
trauma is used to describe emotionally painful and distressing experiences or
situations that overwhelm peoples ability to cope, leaving them powerless
(American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Although the terms intergenerational
trauma and historical trauma have been used interchangeably, community
health experts make distinctions. Both forms of trauma span multiple
generations, but intergenerational trauma refers to familial trauma and historical
trauma is on a larger scale. Experiences and events associated with historys
traumatic impact are the experiences of American Indians after European
colonization and the experiences of African Americans during slavery (Coyle,
2014; Mohatt, Thompson, Thai, & Tebes, 2014). Historical trauma theory
proposes that populations historically subjected to long-term, mass trauma
colonialism, slavery, war, genocide exhibit a higher prevalence of disease even
several generations after the original trauma occurred (Sotero, 2006, p. 93).

Native Americans. The effects of these historical injustices are still

apparent in Indian Country today (Gray & McCullagh, 2014). A participatory
action research (PAR) study of Inupiat youth, suicide, and cultural loss found
that historical trauma and racist policies have negatively impacted the Inupiat
youth and led to one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Through
community meetings involving elders and youth, new understandings of youth
suicide and suicide prevention were developed. In the future, suicide
preventions programs and practices will be based on collective resistance and
cultural re-creation (Wexler, 2006, p. 2947).

Working in collaboration with the University of Washington, the

Suquamish Tribe and Port Gamble SKallam Tribe also used a participatory
research approach. This university/community/tribal research group also
acknowledged that historical trauma was a contributing factor to mental health
challenges faced by American Indian and Alaska Native people (Donavan,
Thomas, Sigo, Price, Lonczak, Lawrence, Ahvakana, Austin, Lawrence, Price,
Purser, & Bagley, 2015). The group created a culturally grounded social skills
intervention for substance abuse and wrote an article titled, Healing of the
canoe: Preliminary results of a culturally grounded intervention to prevent
substance abuse and promote tribal identity for Native youth in two Pacific
Northwest Tribes. According to the authors (2015), preliminary results suggest
that the program increased the participants sense of hope and optimism and
knowledge of substance abuse.

For Native Americans, cultural spirituality, but not Christianity, may be

a protective factor. A study of spirituality and attempted suicide among
American Indians found that a commitment to Christianity was not associated
with suicide attempts, but a high level of commitment to cultural spiritual
orientation was associated with a reduction in self-reported attempted suicides
(Garroutte, Goldberg, Beals, Herell, Manson, 2003).

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According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, The Sweet Grass

Suicide Prevention Project on the Oglala Lakota Nation includes Culture,
Collaboration, and Coaching (See http://www.sprc.org/grantees/oglala-
sioux-tribe). In article in the Lakota Country Times by Amanda Takes War Bonnet
(2009) describes the Sweet Grass Project as a culturally grounded suicide
prevention program (http://www.lakotacountrytimes.com/news/2009-09-
01/front_page/001.html). According to the article, the name 'Sweet Grass' came
from Jess Taken Alive, Hunkpapa Lakota, who said the answers for our youth
are amongst us within our culture. Understanding the use of sweet grass with
prayer alone could save a youth, by teaching them to acknowledge oneself and
the world we are in through prayer." The Sweet Grass Project almost lost federal
funding because the Project has not significantly reduced youth suicide.
According to an article written by Brandon Ecoffey in 2015, the Sweet Grass
Suicide Prevention Project was given a one-year extension by the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). The U.S.
Department of Education states that the Sweet Grass Project officially ended on
December 31, 2015 (Elaine Janis, personal communication, March 6, 2017). Sweet
Grass continues largely because of the efforts of locals such as Elaine Janis,
formerly of the Sweet Grass Project. Elaine Janis volunteers her own time and
money to help and work with children at-risk for suicide on the Pine Ridge
Reservation. The Sweet Grass Project has evolved to include even more
traditional healing practices and more involvement of teenagers in youth suicide

For American Indian/ Alaskan Native youth, LaFromboise and Malik

(2016, p. 235) recommend the American Indian Life Skills Development
Curriculum (AILS). Rather than being a one-size-fits-all intervention, the AILS
encourages interventionists to incorporate traditional and contemporary
worldviews of the tribes and communities they work with into the curriculum
without compromising the core psychological components of the program or
displacing the skills training outlined in the manual. The AILS program also
seeks to identify culturally unique protective factors as well as risks factors.

African Americans. Urban African American youth have many risk

factors for suicidal behavior: poverty, exposure to violence, high rates of
depression and irritability, and substance abuse (Brown & Grumet, p. 116).
Understanding the culture and/or cultural issues when examining the suicidal
behavior allows an increase in the ability to provide better and more appropriate
services (Joe et al., 2008). Religion and spirituality are central to African
American culture (Chatters, Taylor, Lincoln, Nguyen, & Joe, 2011; Taylor,
Chatters, & Joe, 2011). In the article Developing Suicide Prevention Programs
for African American Youth in African American Churches, Molock and her
colleagues discuss the important role that the Black Church could play in suicide
prevention programming for African American youth (Molock, Matlin,
Barksdale, Puri, & Lyles, 2008). The Black Church refers to those independent,
historic, and totally African American controlled denominations that constitute
the core religious experience of the majority of African American Christians
(Molock et al., 2008, p. 325). The Black Church could play an important role in

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


prevention for three reasons. First, African American churches have a long
history of helping community members. Second, African Americans report that
they are highly religious and religiousness is associated with positive mental
health outcomes. Third, the Black Church is influential and can engage and
retain families. Churches are the sociocultural context in which many African
Americans already engage in help-seeking behaviors (Molock et al., 2008, p.
326). In churches youth receive moral direction, access to important role models,
and opportunities to enhance social skills. In addition, sermons, listening to
religious music, and reading religious texts, all provide messages of optimism,
hope, existential meaning, and personal worth and salvation which may help
individuals cope with difficult life circumstances and protect again suicidality
(Chatters et al., 2011, p. 349).

In addition to serving as a cultural foundation of African-American

culture, the Black Church provides youth with moral direction, normative
bearings, spiritual experiences, [and] access to role models (Molock et al., 2008,
p. 324). Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that the Black Church is not
monolithic; nor is it the sole social support for African American youth.
Although the Black Church can fill important roles in suicide prevention, a one-
size-fits-all approach to suicide prevention will not work for all African
American youth.

The protective effects of social support for African American youth are
well documented. A mixed methods study of African American male
adolescents found that, social support among African American boys may play
an important role in lowering depressive symptoms, particularly when these
youth face stigma regarding mental illness and service use (Lindsey, Joe, &Von
Nebbit, 2010, p. 9). Key protective factors for suicidal behavior in Black
adolescents include family support, peer support, and community
connectedness (Matlin et al., 2011). Better mental health and psychosocial well
being for Black adolescents are predicted by family, school, and religious
integration (Rose, Joe, Shields, & Caldwell, 2014).


Several years ago Surgeon General David Satcher described the

increasing rate of suicide among ethnic/racial minority groups as an emerging
public health problem (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999).
In 2017 we still need to respond to the Surgeon Generals Call to Action to
Prevent Suicide. We find that suicide prevention programs for Native
American and African American youth must be culturally grounded, not just
culturally tailored. We also find that prevention programs must be designed by
those who know the culture and who are familiar with culturally specific beliefs
and practices. All suicide prevention programs must address mental health
concerns and involve peers, family, and community members. Suicide
prevention programs for Native American and African American youth must
also incorporate culturally relevant religion/spirituality, which are the frame
that gives meaning to big issues such as life and death, historical trauma,
resilience, and transformation.

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Acknowledgements: The authors wish to thank Jessica A. Meyer for her

assistance with preparing this manuscript for publication. Jessica Meyer assisted
with numerous aspects of the research, especially the thorough study of most of
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Correspondence should be addressed to the second author, Dr. Deborah A.

Stiles, Applied Educational Psychology, Multidisciplinary Studies, Webster
University, 470 East Lockwood, St. Louis. Missouri, USA, 63119,

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 62-75, February 2017

The Feature of ATR and ATR Harmony in Nilo-

Saharan Languages of Ethiopia

Wakweya Olani Gobena

PhD Candidate of Linguistics
Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Abstract. Within the prominent vowel systems in Nilo-Saharan languages,

Advanced Tongue Root (ATR) feature plays significant part in the
phonological system of the languages. This review attempts to assess the
studies on ATR contrasts and ATR harmony in the phonetic and
phonological characteristics of the languages in Ethiopia. Some of the
languages with accessible study outputs were considered under analysis in
this review work; based on the studies, the fundamental ATR related
characteristics of the languages were provided, and the relevant
discussions were made accordingly. The information from the relevant
studies is presented systematically and comparatively so that the readers
find it easily understood; hence, the paper will have its intended linguistic
value for the further researchers and other beneficiaries. Finally, some
generalizations were drawn and recommendations were forwarded.

Keywords harmony, ATR systems, Nilo-Saharan, vowel, phonology,


1 Introduction

1.1 Background and Justification

As a part of vowel system in phonological phenomena of languages, the vowel
feature that is called Advanced Tongue Root (ATR) has been confirmed to be the
widely attested system in Nilo-Saharan languages especially in Africa
(Billington, 2014; Ko 2012; Casali, 2008). This paper attempts to provide
extended definition of ATR contrast and to assess ATR harmony in some Nilo-
Saharan languages in their formal and functional characteristics. Nilo-Saharan
languages are spoken in eastern Africa stretching to the central and northern-
half part with the speakers of about 60 million Nilotic people (2010 figure).
Many languages constituting about 206 in number are members of the Nilo-
Saharan family in the east and central Africa (Ethnologue) some of which are
located in the southern and south-western Ethiopia; the paper focuses on the

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Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan languages. The Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan languages are

spoken by the minority groups most of which are recently attracting the
attention of linguistic researchers. From the Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan languages,
my sketchy assessment touches upon Nuer, Majang, Mursi, Murle, Gumuz,
Komo, Meen, Baale, Anywa1, and Shabo, whose phonological property, as a
proto-linguistic phenomenon, is relevant for distinguishing vowel systems on
the basis of the Tongue Root in identifying vowel sounds as groups.

The ATR feature was first attested in Niger-Congo languages in 1960s, and it
was later found in the overwhelming majority of Nilo-Saharan languages which
is, nowadays, considered as the main feature in its compatibility with their
vowel systems as of most languages in the family (Aralova, 2015). In the earlier
times before the ATR terminologies were introduced, description of vowels were
done by using raised/unraised distinctions claiming the raising of the
tongue in production of the vowels, but the studies afterwards came up with the
notion of ATR not only with raising of the tongue but also advancement and
larynx expansion on the basis of phonetic and phonological aspect of describing
the vowel sounds in particular language(s). Ladefoged, (1964:39f) addresses the
enlargement and expansion of opening between back of the mouth and throat,
retraction or raising of the tongue body for distinguishing the vowels on the
basis of phonetic characteristics by using the acoustic and articulatory records of
cine-radiology film, and the distinction corresponds to [ATR] feature of the
present day.

As a shared feature of some vowels, ATR is a distinctive feature that conveys

about three notions, and these are forwardness of the tongue (advancement),
raising of the tongue (root state) and enlargement of pharyngeal cavity
(expansion) with larynx lowering in the production of vowels (Morton, 2012). A
vowel sound that involves the points indicated is considered to be [+ATR]
whereas the others are described as [-ATR] ones on the basis of the particular
languages phonetic and phonological characteristics because a basically ATR
language shows [ATR] distinction (Mahanta, 2007). However, few languages
like Anywa as described in Reh, (1996) may happen to show the distinction as
[+ATR] and Neutral/plain or the other way round. Some studies like Turton
and Bender (1976), and Triulzi, et. al. (1976) of Mursi and Berta languages
respectively use the traditional distinction of vowels as tense and lax contrasts in
Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan family. In addition, Tefera, (1989) distinguishes vowels
of Shabo language, a nine vowel system, as tense and lax contrast in describing
the grammatical sketch of the language. However, the literature puts that the
terms tense/lax are somehow different from the [ATR] distinction of vowel
both in phonetics acoustic and articulatory nature and in phonology co-

The term has been spelt differently in different languages varying as Anuak, Agnwa, Anyua,
Anywa, and this paper uses the spelling Anywa throughout the writing.

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occurrence restriction (Ladefoged, 1964; Ladefoged and Maddieson, 1996). Thus,

the current studies focus on ATR feature of the languages which is considered
inclusive, instead of the traditional feature, tense/lax contrast, provided that the
language allows such vowel system.

In the phonetic characterization of ATR distinguishing from tense/lax features,

Ladefoged and Madieson, (1996) illustrates that tense/lax distinction is about
muscular tension and voice quality whereas ATR is about tongue root position
and some pharyngeal settings so that the phonetic system of [ATR] is different
from that of tense/lax contrast of vowels. Therefore, they happen in different
characterizations in their acoustic and articulatory properties As Tiede, (1996)
substantiates the point by Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) method of
identifying the phonetic (acoustic and articulatory) correlates of the vowels in
their distinctive variation related with ATR feature. It shows that levels of the
articulatory characteristics, sagittal form related with tongue position and the
axial form related with pharyngeal cavity expansion, pertaining to [ATR] is
different from the tense/lax feature as observed in a sample language; whats
more, it has been observed that tense/lax distinction differs from [ATR] feature
in its acoustic aspect in which the formant variation of tense/lax is larger than
the difference in [ATR] contrast. The involvement of voice quality in the ATR
feature also has been an issue of argument between linguists.

Some descriptions like Ladefoged and Maddieson, (1996), and Duerksen, (2004)
indicate that ATR distinction goes with some particular phonation type as
auditory characteristics of vowels. Stewarts (1967) [ATR] distinction connects
the [+ATR] vowels with creaky, and the [-ATR] ones with breathy voice qualities
(Stewart, 1967 cited in Aralova, 2015). Indicating the attempts so far to connect
ATR feature and voice quality in languages, Aralova, (2015) and Casali, (2008)
state that auditory distinction (voice quality) is much more complicated than
that of [ATR] distinction so that these features are worth said to be parallel
features in vowel systems because the [ATR] contrasts do not clearly
correspond to particular and separate phonation type in languages.

As phonological characteristics of ATR feature, vowels with similar height,

backness and roundness can be distinguished by using a binary feature [ATR];
moreover, the [ATR] distinction happens to be the initial units for the
occurrence of ATR harmony which rather justifies the ATR feature as its
phonological nature (Billington, 214). On the basis of terminological concepts of
ATR, the phonological system ATR harmony represents the occurrence of all
[+ATR] vowels or all [-ATR] ones in a word as a phonotactic appropriateness
and smooth utterances (Ko, 2012; Casali, 2008; Mahanta, 2007). According to
Mahanta, (2007), ATR harmony happens on the basis of three major factors:
morphological factors (through affixation processes), or phonological factors

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(harmonizing as dominant-recessive2 system in a word), or positional factors

(position of the cause or the triggering vowel in a word as determinant). The
study divides the ATR harmony into two types as superclose (left-to-right)
harmony and mid (right-to-left) harmony according to direction of the harmony,
and languages choose their harmony domain and type as per their individual
phonotactics. Mous, (1986) claims the ATR harmony of the morphological factor
results from Well Formedness Condition by representing the harmony in
notational formula. The phonological feature of East African Nilo-Saharan
languages is considered to be [+ATR] dominant in the ATR harmony system so
that the [+ATR] vowels happens to influence in most of the languages (Casali,
2008; Noske, 2000; Lojenga, 1986).

The recently developed researches of Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan languages treated

their phonology most of which touched upon the ATR feature because the
languages exert such feature as their proto-familys system. These languages are
mostly nine-vowel and ten-vowel systems with few seven-vowel system
languages almost all of which are pertinent for ATR distinction of the vowels
(Otero, 2015; Moges, 2007), and the languages have been studied for their ATR
features by many researchers so far. However, they need to be comparatively
assessed for their standards and levels of description with sufficient data and
detailed explanations. Hence, this paper provides typological information of the
Nilo-Saharan language in Ethiopia in terms of structural typology and/or
genetic category.

1.2 Objectives
The present paper tries to address the following specific objectives in relation to
some studies of ATR contrast and harmony in Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan
a) Assessing the ATR contrast and harmony systems and types described in
the languages.
b) Comparing the coverage level and depth of the studies concerning ATR
c) Identifying gaps or the overlooked parts of the ATR harmony
d) Forwarding recommendations for the gaps in the descriptions (if any).

1.3 Significance
Even though the paper work seems to deal with a broad issue referring to
studies on Nilo-Saharan languages of Ethiopia, the comparative consideration of
the studies on these languages puts a precious asset for the future researchers of

The term dominant-recessive is a compound noun that conveys dominant (the harmony
triggering vowel or the couse) and recessive the changed vowel in ATR harmony.

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these languages because this paper provides the general picture of the proto-
language in terms of their ATR harmony. It also adds knowledge to the
language users, students and teachers. In addition, it can be a base for the
classificatory and/or structural typological studies that might be conducted on
Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan languages in the future. The countrys curriculum,
especially the local educational institutions may make use of this paper as
holistic information of the languages.

2 Methodology
Procedural structure was followed to assess the nationally and internationally
available studies conducted on ATR system of Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan
languages going through comparative form of analyzing the relevant studies.
First, survey of the available works was carried out, and identified for putting
them under analysis. The identified works are hierarchically considered under
analysis on the basis of their content and breadth so that descriptions of vowels
that focused on individual languages were treated before the comparative works
that involve more than one language. Based on the compiled inferences, the gaps
within and among the studies were then identified for which recommendations
were forwarded.

3. Results and Discussion

Most of the Nilo-Saharan languages have the feature vowel harmony in which
ATR harmony is a component part (cf. section 1.1). Though most studies
pertaining to ATR harmony and the relevant languages were done focusing on
individual languages, few of them tried to identify the commonalities and
differences some of the Nilo-Saharan languages exert in their typological
features in terms of genetic classification and/or diachronic structural category.
Among the relevant works many of which are recent ones, the available and
easily accessed studies of few Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan languages have been
analyzed herewith. Few earlier works were also considered in the analysis.

In the description of Anywa vowel system, Bender, et. al. (1976), Lusted, (1976)
and Reh, (1996) identify the vowel system as voice quality distinction between
breathy and plain sets instead of ATR contrast, but Reh slightly touches the
concept of ATR and its connection with voice quality. Bender, et. al. (1976)
identifies the language as seven vowel system /i, e, , a, , o, u/ in which all
have long correspondents except /e/ which Lusted omits it out claiming the
language as six vowel system. Studies of Bender and Lusted show the plain and
breathy vowel distinction for four of the vowels in the language as /i, / /, /
/a, / /o, / with two diphthongs /ie/ and /i/; however, they dont say
anything about ATR system of Anywa. On the other hand, Reh, (1996) states that
[BRV] in Anywa embodies breathiness/[BRV] itself and ATR feature

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considering that they go hand in hand. According to Reh, [+ATR] vowels which
involve breathy voice correspond to neutral (non-breathy) vowels in the ten
vowel system identified has [+BRV] /i, e, , o, u/ and [-BRV] /, , a, , u/.
Although, Rehs description somehow involves the ATR feature in the language
as a vowel distinguishing system in the language, connecting ATR feature with
voice quality tends to remain controversial as stated in Casali, (2008) and
Aralova, (2015). It also conveys the notion of vowel harmony in terms of voice
quality harmonization process instead of ATR feature indicating that [+BRV] is
extended to the adjacent vowel in the domain of root or stem in Anywa. Both of
the descriptions seem to be focusing on voice quality with little acoustic
characterization without ATR contrasts of the vowels; perhaps, that may be the
reason for their difference in setting the number of vowel phonemes in the
vowel systems.

Otero, (2015) described the concept of ATR and its harmony in Ethiopian Komo
in a relatively detailed way. It identifies the language as a seven contrastive
vowel system /i, , , a, , , u/ that separating into two sets as [+ATR] vowels-
/i, u/ and [-ATR] vowels-/, , a, , /. It also states the existence of phonemic
contrast in the language with ATR feature of the seven vowel system as
uncommon property which is mostly found in languages of East Africa. Besides
the phonemic seven vowels, Otero considers the phonetic surface [+ATR]
vowels [e, , o] as allophonic correspondents of the [-ATR] vowels /, a, / so
that the language becomes a ten vowel system on phonetic ground.

Table 1: Phonemic and phonetic vowels (Otero, 2015: 214)

[+ATR] [-ATR]
-HIGH [e] [o] -HIGH
[] a

After identifying the language as phonemic and phonetic variation, Oteros

description indicates ATR harmony systems in terms of directionality and
dominance systems in the language. According to this study, Komos ATR
harmony is typically anticipatory occurring in mono-morphemic words and
across morpheme boundaries as well - the [+ATR] vowel imposed to the
preceding adjacent [-ATR] vowels. It illustrates that root or stem vowels are
often assimilate to the [+ATR] suffix vowels though some [-high, -ATR] and
[+high, -ATR] vowels of suffix may happen not triggering the harmony.
Example: yk-ir [yekir] He sows yk-uk [yekuk] sow.PFV [+ATR]

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tg-i [togi] You taste tg-uk[toguk] taste.PFV

ham-a [hama] I yawn ham- [ham] yawn.VEN No

dad-an [dadan] We refuse dad-[dad] refuse.VEN
Otero, (2015: 215)
Therefore, sometimes the [+ATR] and [-ATR] vowels can possibly occur in the
same word in Komo without any ATR harmony process in the same
environment. It states that the progressive [+ATR] harmony is lacking in the
language, but the language exhibits [-ATR] progressive harmony in which the
[+high, -ATR] root/stem vowels /, / impose their feature rightwards to the
suffix [+high, +ATR] vowels in a productive fashion. In general, Komo shows
[+ATR] anticipatory harmony, and [-ATR] progressive harmony in the domain
root, stem or word but not beyond word though the word can be either mono-
morphemic or multi-morphemic.

Majang, the northern surmic language, is identified as ten-vowel system (Moges,

2007) - /i, , e, , a, , , o, , u/ unlike the considerably untenable six-vowel
system /i, e, , a, o u/ set by Bender, (1983). Moges study came up with the
generalization that ATR distinction of the ten or nine vowels can work for South-
western surmic and northern surmic (Majang) languages of Nilo-Saharan family
most of which are spoken in Ethiopia. It divides the vowels into two sets as
[ATR] distinction with no restriction of their co-occurrence (members of
different sets) in one root or stem or word so that the process of ATR harmony
doesnt need to take place. According to this study, absence of ATR harmony in
Majang might have resulted from diachronic language phenomena as cognate
systems of the proto-surmic evidence indicates. The nine-vowel system, Majang,
is considered to have ATR harmony process as described in Pearce, (2008), but
it claims subtlety of the harmony system because the expected reduction
resistance of [ATR] vowels and the phonetic quality change (reduction) of the
[+ATR] vowels as in other languages are unnoticeable so that the generalization
for Majang to have a vowel harmony is less reasonable on the current synchronic
description status.

Nuer is better considered for the significant distinction of voice quality rather
than ATR systems as described in Duerksen, (2004) and Moges, (1995). They
identify the language as seven vowel system /i, e, , a, , o, u/-plain/non-
breathy vowels with their corresponding breathy vowels, but the latter
description contains three more centralized breathy vowels having no
corresponding plain vowels with the absence of breathy-high-back vowel which
makes the number of breathy vowels exceed that of the plain ones.

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As stated in Turton and Bender, (1976), Mursi is a language with five vowel
system with the lax counterpart for each plain vowel in allophonic distinction as
/i, e, a, o, u/ and [, , , , ]. The so called allophonic variations are equivalent
with the present days [-ATR] vowels in the genetically related languages. On the
other hand, Triulzi, et al. (1976) considers Berta as a language with basically five
vowel system; however, there exists the tense and lax contrast for each vowel
which is considered as allophonic variation just in the same way with Mursis as
described in Turton and Bender. In connection with the up-to-date dominance of
ATR feature in contrast with those two works of the year 1976, their description
can be construed to be controversial because of the unpopular ATR feature in
time and scantiness of the studies.

In contrasting descriptions, Gumuz is considered for the general vowel harmony

rather than ATR system because it is claimed to be a six-vowel system (Ahland,
2012; Pearce, 2008). The contrast is that Pearce states the vowel harmony in
Gumuz on its starting point claiming that there is no vowel harmony attested so
far, but Ahland describes the vowel harmony of Gumuz in two ways as total and
partial degrees on regressive basis with exception of [] which undergoes total
assimilation regressively or progressively, but it doesnt say anything about the
particular ATR system of the language.

Example: NoG (North Gumuz)

/d--bit-/ [d--bt-] (Anticipatory)
he will descend

The change of vowel // of phonemic word into // in the phonetic word is the
partial regressive or anticipatory assimilation of vowels. The focus is on the
vowel harmony without describing the ATR system in few languages like
Gumuz as described in the above studies maybe due to sketchiness of the works
or the real language structure. Tefera, (1989) provides a simple and sketchy
description of vowel systems in Shabo identifying its [eight] vowels /i, e, , , a,
, o, u/ five of which occur with the long correspondents. The five vowels /i, e,
a, o, u/ having the long forms are considered tense in the study. This is all
about vowels as conveyed herewith, but any in depth investigation may find it
exhibiting ATR system because the so called tense in this study is perhaps
empirically [+ATR] type that somehow is a gap just like most earlier literature
distinguishing tense/lax sets instead of [ATR] in the relevant languages.

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In Murle, Arensen (1982) identifies only seven vowels /i, e, , a, , o, u/

considering [] and [] as allophonic variations, but Moges, (2005) asserts that
Murle is a nine-vowel system /i, , e, , a, , o, , u/ with phonemic relevance
providing empirical illustrations, and these are described in [ATR] distinction.

Murle vowel phonemes (Moges, 2005 122)

i u
e o
[+ATR] [-ATR]

The study indicates that the phonemic vowel length is also attested in Murle.
Regarding vowel harmony, the study explains that the vowels are harmonized
comprising the [+ATR] and [-ATR] sets in which [a] happens with both sets. The
dominant vowel type [+ATR] triggers the harmony in both directions
(progressive and regressive) changing the [-ATR] vowels in root, stem and
word. In addition, the [+ATR] vowel suffixes are dominant over the [-ATR]
vowel roots and stems in harmonizing them.

(1) Singular Plural Gloss

tk utue ti mouth Moges, (2005
ll loloj ok rainy season
l ool ok road
k kee ti belly

(2) Singular imperative Plural imperative Gloss

m i mi - it play
k u uu it pull
kp e kee it count
tt e tee it cut

The [+ATR] suffix vowel is the dominating set over the [-ATR] vowels in the
roots, and the root vowels are harmonized with the vowels of the suffixes as
shown in example set (1) above. Moges indicates the second set of examples as
the plural structure through the prefix and suffix in the discontinuous
morpheme VVC in which the suffix containing [+ATR] vowel triggers the

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harmony by changing the [-ATR] vowels in the roots; the vowel prefixes are just
formed through duplicating the first vowel in the roots.

Moges, (2001) asserts the predominance of ATR distinction and ATR harmony in
almost all Nilo-Saharan languages extending to the wider range of East African
vowel systems as a common linguistic feature. For instance, it recognizes the
commonest nine-vowel system /i, , e, , a, , o, , u/ for Baale and Murle in
southwest Surmic languages dividing into [ATR] sets with mutual exclusion in
one morpheme. The vowel /a/, in Baale, has the surface form [a] because it
doesnt have a [+ATR] counterpart so that it is not restricted from free co-
occurrence with the [+ATR] vowels in the same root. For the rest of the vowels
in the language, ATR harmony takes place with dominance of [+ATR] feature in
the domain of root, stem or words with dominant suffix [+ATR] spreading to a
preceding root with [-ATR] vowel. The study identifies the southeast Surmic
languages like Chai, Mursi and Meen as seven vowel system languages with
absence of the vowels // and // from the nine vowels indicated for the
southwestern Surmic. As stated in Moges, (2001), the Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan
languages, with some exceptions whose vowel systems are not synchronically
and diachronically well treated in the descriptions, involve the ATR contrast and
ATR harmony in their phonological systems of vowels.

Within the general grammatical description of the Surmic languages, Bender,

(1977) states that the vowel system of the languages is easier than that of the
Nilotic types claiming that the Surmic languages follow basic five vowel systems
with the additional lax vowels like // and // with consideration of in few
others. On top of this, the Surmic languages are considered for having very less
features of tense/lax and voice quality phenomena unlike the Nilotic types in
the family. Most of the earlier descriptions, like this one, are under broader
topics that their way of analyzing and characterizing is too sketchy to come-up
with convincing statements especially on the very specific, but inclusive, issues
like ATR systems.

4. Gaps and Controversies

The recently research attracting areas, Ethiopian Nilo-Saharan languages, have
been described predominantly in terms of their grammatical and lexical
properties in which some of the descriptions treated phonological patterns even
with little works of phonetic outputs in the languages. The proto-linguistic
typology of these languages in phonetic and phonological patterns particularly
on ATR features of the languages has been comparatively stated by Moges
(2001) that tremendously contributes in such scanty and few relevant works;
apart from this one, there is no any comprehensive and comparative study of the
Nilo-Saharan languages, especially in Ethiopia, that conveys ATR systems so
that typological distinction of the languages as their group and sub-group is

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lacking. Casali, (2008) calls on the study on ATR system of Nilo-Saharan

languages asserting its urgency because most of the languages are yet to be
studied for identifying their typological categories and for assessing their
commonalities and differences among the languages.

As far as the accessible pertinent studies indicate, many Nilo-Saharan languages

in Ethiopia are less described in terms of exhibiting ATR contrast and ATR
harmony. The languages like Dinka, Mebaan, Shilluk, Suri, Bodi, Kwegu, Shita,
Nera, Tishema are not well identified in their detailed phonetic and
phonological properties and the particular ATR systems; it seems there is a
wider gap in this linguistic area attracting many more researchers. The need for
more studies is not only for the absence or insufficiency of phonetic and
phonological description but also for rationalizing and/or changing the
described ones. For instance, Kunama is considered as five-vowel system which
needs to be justified for why it deviates from the majority in the same family.
Whats more, in the languages like Gumuz as in Ahland (2012), the phonological
patterns of the vowels are described from which the particular ATR feature (as a
specific part of vowel system) is missing. Perhaps, such studies lack detailed
description. In connection with this, co-occurrence of the vowels in terms of ATR
features in notational explanations is necessary for more effective and detailed
understanding of their phonological systems. This is needed especially for the
low vowel /a/ because it lacks its +ATR correspondent in many nine-vowel
system languages. In addition, in some languages, environment restrictions are
relevant for the ATR harmony processes and their phonological patterns.

Universality of the ATR distinction of vowels and ATR harmony across the Nilo-
Saharan languages in Ethiopia is under question because of some non-exhibiting
languages in the same family. Perhaps, such irregularity arises from diachronic
background of the language in sociolinguistic (contact) phenomena. A case in
point, the presence of ATR contrast in Majang with the absence of vowel
harmony process as stated in Moges, (2001) can, perhaps, be considered as a
token for some missing features overtime. Another point of concern to have
remained subtle is the connection between ATR contrast and voice quality
distinction in Nilo-Saharan languages realizing if they are the co-occurring
features or autonomous properties in a given language. As stated in Reh, (1996)
for Anywa, the two features occur together which is partly supported by Moges,
(2001) saying that the voice quality follows the ATR distinguished vowels (eg.
+ATR vowel is followed by breathy voice) with the claim of less commonality in
all languages. Thus, it is worth considered under the controversy until sufficient
studies provide justifications on this regard.

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5 Conclusions
In the vowel systems of Nilo-Saharan languages in Ethiopia, ATR distinction
and its harmony systems are less studied on the basis of phonetic (acoustic,
articulatory and somehow auditory) properties; even the phonological studies
are scanty and seeming incomplete in most cases so that the available resources
do not suffice for trustworthy generalizations. However, it is proto-linguistically
intuitive that ATR feature is compatible in the Nilo-Saharan languages from the
existing descriptive indications. ATR harmony can occur within a morpheme or
in the form of cross-morphemic process; affixal dominant ATR sets trigger
harmonizing the recessive vowels in the root or stem. The binary vowel feature
ATR distinguishes the two sets in terms of tongue advancement, and it usually
is an indication that the languages also exhibit ATR harmony in which vowels of
different ATR sets never co-occur in a word. The [+ATR] vowel sets usually
happen to be the dominant ones in the ATR harmony processes whether the
harmony is within a morpheme or across morphemes. The overwhelming
majority of the languages are nine-vowel systems with few ten-vowel and seven-
vowel system languages all of which are phonologically compatible for ATR
contrast and hence ATR harmony processes. There are still few other languages
described to be deviating from such vowel system commonalities like Gumuz
and Kunama whose grounds need to be explored.

6 Recommendations
A comprehensive research needs to be conducted particularly on ATR systems
of the Nilo-Saharan languages in Ethiopia because there is no separate and
detailed description on this specific issue; the existing ones all just treat the ATR
system in the other broader topics like phonology of a language or even the
broader topic, Grammar. On the same concept, the feature ATR system, the
general languages of Nilo-Saharan family need to be comparatively studied and
typologically well identified by characterizing the common and different ways
of behaving among the languages.

Another interesting issue that attracts more research is the historical and
sociolinguistic phenomena for justifying the few languages that deviate from the
regular forms of ATR systems in the family. Identifying and classifying the
occurrence patterns on the basis of synchronic and diachronic studies equips the
researchers and other concerned bodies with the overall picture of the family
and its sub-groups as well. Hence, effective and efficient educational syllabuses
as well as books can be prepared accordingly for the benefit of native speakers of
the languages and the country, Ethiopia.

Since the languages are spoken in the remote areas of Ethiopia around the
border of the country, it needs researchers to sacrifice much effort and money so

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that the national and international research funds should be mobilized towards
studying these languages and bringing them to their standard level, at least, in
relational concept. In addition, I suggest establishment of a research center in the
language areas (if there is no any) so that the interested individuals can get to
work on studying and characterizing the languages and contributing to the
growth and structural well-being (like maintaining the structure protecting
from change overtime).

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