Pragmatics is the component of oral language that is most directly associated with social interactions. Pragmatics governs the use of language in context. Thanks to recent research by Christie Yoshinaga-Itano and colleagues (see summary and graph), it is clear that even though children with hearing loss may be performing much better in terms of number of words known in comparison to age peers, they are at very high risk for delays in pragmatic language development. Routinely as children who are deaf or hard of hearing are evaluated for strengths and needs there are language assessments performed. Currently, most popular standardized test batteries of oral language do not include norm-referenced, reliable, and valid measures of pragmatic language.
The US focus on Core Content Standards places full-participation in the classroom setting of tantamount importance. Students with hearing loss in the mainstream are expected to be able to participate fully in verbal instruction, cooperative learning, and 1:1 with others under typical classroom conditions (excessive noise, reverberation). We cannot assess a student’s ability to fully participate in their classroom without also considering their social communication skills. Clearly there is a need to quickly identify if a student is likely to have significant pragmatic language deficits!
The Pragmatic Language Observation Scale was selected to be added to the products offered by Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss because of its strong psychometric properties and the ability to for a classroom teacher to rate a student on the PLOS in only 5-10 minutes. During development of the PLOS, of particular interest were communication behaviors that are (a) part of the natural ebb and flow of the school setting (e.g., chatting with others, sharing information) and (b) not related directly to spoken language instruction (e.g., ability to define words, knowledge of parts of speech). Even the very few language tests that pinpoint the area of pragmatics (i.e., LUI, CASL, TOPL-2) fail to measure the use of spoken language in actual school and social situations (i.e, the CASL is more of a measure of student’s knowledge of pragmatics than a measure of the use of spoken language in social situations). Therefore, there is great value in using the PLOS to augment the results of these tests or of nonstandardized observations. Karen L. Anderson, Director
The PLOS is designed for use with individuals ages 8-0 through 17-11. It was standardized during 2006-2008 on 994 children from 13 states.
Pragmatic Language Observation Scale (PLOS) Manual + 20 Forms
Pragmatic Language Observation Scale (PLOS) Forms only – 50 Forms
The PLOS is a 30-item, norm-referenced teachers’ rating scale that can be used to assess students’ daily classroom spoken language behaviors. The PLOS is normed on a sample of 994 persons in 13 states and has proven reliability and validity (including evidence of sensitivity and specificity). Its items relate to specific spoken language behaviors readily seen in instructional settings (e.g., “pays attention to oral instructions,” “expresses thoughts clearly”). Teachers or other knowledgeable professionals rate the items on a 5-point scale. The PLOS can be used to (a) support a referral, (b) expand the scope of a comprehensive spoken language evaluation, (such as requesting a more thorough exam with the Social Language Development Test) (c) compare teachers’ ratings with test results, (d) help plan interventions, and (e) monitor the effectiveness of interventions. Results are particularly useful when used as part of a comprehensive spoken language evaluation or as a pre-referral/referral tool.