Original Research

A survey of communication supports in Grade R classrooms in the Western Cape, South Africa

Harsha Kathard, Prianka Parusnath, Lehana Thabane, Mershen Pillay, Zheng Jing Hu, Jane le Roux, Michal Harty, Shelley O Carrol, Rizwana B. Mallick
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 69, No 1 | a871 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v69i1.871 | © 2022 Harsha Kathard, Prianka Parusnath, Lehana Thabane, Mershen Pillay, Zheng Jing Hu, Jane le Roux, Michal Harty, Shelley O’Carroll, Rizwana B. Mallick | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 November 2021 | Published: 28 October 2022

About the author(s)

Harsha Kathard, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Prianka Parusnath, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Lehana Thabane, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
Mershen Pillay, Department of Speech and Language Therapy, Institute of Education, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand; and, Department of Speech-Language Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, New Zealand
Zheng Jing Hu, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
Jane le Roux, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Michal Harty, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Shelley O Carrol, Wordworks, Cape Town, South Africa
Rizwana B. Mallick, Division of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Early classroom communication supports are critical in influencing oral language development and emergent literacy skills. It is both support from peers and adults, as well as the environment that impacts the quality and efficacy of language learning. Schools in particular play a key role in communication development, which will be further explored in this article.

Objectives: To describe how communication was being supported in the classroom by teachers in the areas of language-learning environment (LLE), language-learning interactions (LLIs) and language-learning opportunities (LLOs) to focus on classroom communication supports to strengthen literacy outcomes for Grade R learners.

Method: A cross-sectional descriptive survey of classrooms was conducted using a structured observation method in 136 classrooms. The Communication Supporting Classroom Observation Tool was used to make 223 observations across classrooms of LLE (19 items), LLI (20 items) and LLO (5 items). A descriptive analysis of frequency of occurrence of items was conducted for each domain.

Results: Language-learning environment had more frequently occurring observations, with 12 out of 19 items being observed with a frequency of occurrence greater than 65%, indicating that the environment had adequate basic resources (e.g. good light). Language-learning interactions scores indicated that 3 out of 20 items were observed frequently, while 17 out of 20 items were observed less frequently (56.5%), including interactive strategies (e.g. turn-taking). Language Learning Opportunities scores indicated that teacher-led behaviours (e.g. including children in small group activities) were infrequently observed on all items.

Conclusion: While the physical environment was generally supportive, the behaviours in the interactive domains of LLI and LLO were observed less frequently. There is potential for speech–language therapists to work collaboratively with teachers to develop communication supporting classrooms as a critical primary-level intervention for language-literacy learning.


Keywords

communication; pre-school; literacy; language; Grade R

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