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Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency

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  • 0:03 Challenges for Students
  • 0:52 CALP
  • 2:56 Improving CALP
  • 3:36 Example of CALP
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

In this lesson, you'll learn about cognitive academic language proficiency, how it affects student learning, and what can be done to improve student outcomes. An example is provided and a short quiz follows.

Challenges for Students

School can be challenging for many students, but imagine the difficulties faced by students for whom English is not their first language. These learners, commonly referred to by the acronym ESL for English as a Second Language or ELL for English Language Learners, face an extra barrier in attempting to learn material that may be challenging even without the added language barrier. Many teachers see students who are able to converse fluently with their friends in English but face difficulties learning in class or understanding the instructions for their homework. Unfortunately, many of these students fall behind or are misdiagnosed with learning disabilities. The answer may not be dyslexia or ADD but rather a lack of understanding by their teachers of their students' cognitive academic language proficiency.

CALP

Cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) is the term used to discuss the formal language used in academia, which is often decontextualized. This language often involves large and uncommon words used with little face-to-face reinforcement and non-verbal communication. Lessons written in academic language require a deep understanding of the writer's native language, which an ESL student lacks. Examples of this include the usage of metaphors and similes, scientific terminology, and colloquial expressions. Research has shown that ESL learners can take up to seven years to be considered fluent in academic language.

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