Leveraging a Sorting Task as a Measure of Knowledge Structure in Bilingual Settings

Hengtao Tang, Roy Clariana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This descriptive exploratory study considers whether a simple sorting task can elicit readers’ knowledge structure in learners’ first and second language. In this investigation, knowledge structure is considered from a symbolic connectionist viewpoint as the fundamental pre-meaningful aspect of knowledge, where structure is the precursor of knowledge acquisition and the underpinning of meaningful activity. Chinese–English (C–E) bilingual participants (n = 23) were assigned to one of four counter-balanced conditions to complete two presorting tasks, read an English expository text passage, and then complete two post-sorting tasks including: CE-read-EC, CE-read-EC, EC-read-EC, and EC-read-CE. Data analysis focused on the knowledge structure measures elicited by the four sorting tasks. Results show that both the reading and the sorting elicitation task itself differentially influenced knowledge structure; the Chinese post-sorting task immediately after reading the English text led to a relatively more relational structure than did the English post-sorting task. Individual’s knowledge structure elicited by the sorting tasks was not much like those of other students, but each individual’s self-to-self structure in Chinese and English were somewhat alike before reading (r = .35, 13 % overlap) and moderately alike after reading (r = .62, 39 % overlap). These findings add to the evidence base that sorting tasks can elicit knowledge structures in dual language settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-35
Number of pages13
JournalTechnology, Knowledge and Learning
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications


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