Examining Problem Solving Strategies on Multiple-choice Science Items Among English Language Learners Through Cognitive Interviews

This paper introduces a coding system used to compare the ways English language learners (ELLs) and mainstream students make sense of multiple-choice science items administered in English. Thirty-nine native Spanish-speaking ELLs and thirty-nine monolingual, mainstream students participated in cognitive interviews in which they were asked to report their thinking during and after responding to science items. The coding system was developed based on the analysis of the transcriptions invoking theories of bilingualism, sociolinguistics, and reading comprehension. The coding system allows comprehensive examination of the ways in which each group of student makes sense of items and makes it possible for test developers to investigate the wide range of cognitive resources students use to understand items.