The development of Hong Kong norms for students’ grammatical knowledge of written Chinese and its application in assessing the competence of deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students

Kun Man Chris YIU

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


With limited access to spoken or signed languages, many deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) struggle with language acquisition and literacy development regardless of their communication modality (Spencer & Marschark, 2010). For more than three centuries, the reading achievement of DHH students has been consistently lagging behind that of their hearing peers, a phenomenon being characterized as the “fourth-grade ceiling”, i.e., high school DHH graduates show a consistent result of an average reading level of fourth grade or below (Babbidge, 1965; Qi & Mitchell, 2012) though more evidence has begun to show that DHH students are able to surpass this ceiling in their reading levels (Mayer, Trezek, & Hancock, 2021).

Grammatical knowledge of DHH students is considered an essential building block in reading development (Kelly 1996). However, DHH students’ knowledge of morphosyntax involving functional categories, which function as an essential component of grammar, are extremely vulnerable. Consequently, students’ difficulties in reading comprehension affect their academic performance (Spencer & Marschark, 2010). Teachers and speech therapists need validated assessment tools that help understand DHH students’ grammatical development and design effective interventions to cater for students’ individual needs (Cannon, et al., 2011).

The sociolinguistic context in Hong Kong is unique. While a great majority of children speak in Cantonese, the written language they use and learn at school is written Chinese, which follows the grammar of Mandarin Chinese (Wang, 2019). No tool is available for measuring HK Cantonese-speaking DHH children’s grammatical knowledge in written Chinese. There are only a few oral language assessments in Hong Kong include some items specifically assessing Cantonese morphosyntax, for example, the Hong Kong Cantonese Oral Language Assessment Scale (HKCOLAS) (T’sou et al., 2006) and the Hong Kong Test of Preschool Oral Language (TOPOL; Wong et al., 2019).

The study is part of a larger project that aims to develop a tool to measure the grammatical knowledge of DHH children in written Chinese. In this study, the psychometric properties of the original 172-item profiling tool, namely the Chinese Grammatical Assessment (CGA), was thoroughly reviewed through Rasch analysis based on a dataset with 963 typically hearing students and 40 deaf and hard of hearing students. An expert panel with ten subject matter experts (SMEs) were set up to conduct content validation for CGA. The representativeness of the grammatical categories, and the appropriateness and relevance of the test items of CGA were thoroughly reviewed by the SMEs.

Regarding the findings and recommendations through content validation and the psychometric review, alternate forms with 46 items were established to develop two CGA short tests. With further confirmation of the validity and reliability of CGA, the norms for the two CGA short tests were set up in percentile ranks and applied in a group of deaf and hard-of-hearing students as a case study, aims to further review the reliability and validity of the assessment. Finally, CGA scores collected from the two short tests were found highly correlated with the academic performance of both typically developing (TD) and DHH students. CGA scores can also significantly predict students’ academic performance in Chinese Language. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • YUEN, Chi Pun 袁志彬, Supervisor
  • KAM, Chi Shan 甘志珊, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Written Chinese
  • Grammatical knowledge
  • Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (DHH)
  • Assessment
  • Standardization
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2023.


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