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Development of a diagnostic instrument to identify reading, writing and numeracy difficulties in Arabic before entry to primary school in Bahrein

Alharmesi Alhajeri, Amina and Boyle, Jim (2014) Development of a diagnostic instrument to identify reading, writing and numeracy difficulties in Arabic before entry to primary school in Bahrein. International Journal of Learning Management Systems, 2 (1). pp. 1-19.

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This study aimed at developing a reliable instrument to identify reading, writing and numeracy problems at school entry in Bahrain. Three curricular areas, reading, writing and numeracy were targeted for building this indtrument. The reading section consisted of items derived from the research literature relating to phonological awareness and concept of print. The writing section consisted of items requiring the child to write their own name, draw a human figure, write a letter to a favourite person and copy geometric shapes. The numeracy section composed of addition items derived from the Maths Recovery programme (Wright, Martland, & Stafford, 2006). Item analyses and analyses of reliability and validity were carried out. A sample consisting of 145 Bahraini children from preschool (N=47, 14 boys and 30 girls, mean age 72.77 months, range 63 months to 95 months) and grade one (N=98, 47 boys and 51 girls, mean age 79.63 months, range 71 months to 115 months) were used for validation. All of the preschool children had teacher-identified learning difficulties and one group of the grade one pupils (N=48, 22 boys and 26 girls, mean age 82.33 months, range 76 months to 115 months) had learning difficulties while a second group (N=50, 25 boys and 25 girls, mean age 76.92 months, range 71 months to 84 months) were typically-developing. The results revealed satisfactory levels of internal consistency reliability for the final selection of items (Cronbach alpha was 0.73) and concurrent validity based upon teacher evaluation was in the range 0.81-0.90. The instrument also distinguished children with difficulties from their typically-developing peers (insert some details). Analyses of sensitivity and specificity based upon an additive risk model (reference) yielded sensitivity of 0.93 and specificity of 0.67, in both cases based upon problems in two or more of the three curricular areas of the test The instrument reliably identified over 90% of the children with difficulties and can serve as a diagnostic tool to assist teachers in assessing problems in literacy and numeracy. However, in the light of the lower levels of specificity, use of the instrument as a screening test is not recommended.