n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - Reasoning for reading : an error analysis of oral reasoning skills of rural Zulu-speaking children

Volume 33, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-5986



Oral reasoning is a well-documented precursor to text-based reasoning, and is a skill fundamental to successful text analysis, and hence academic progress (Hanson & Pearson 1983; Shiro 1994). This study aimed to analyse errors in the oral reasoning of rural Zulu-speaking children, using an adapted version of McCormick's (1992) model of error analysis for text-based reasoning. A culture-fair test, The Test of Ability to Explain for Zulu-speaking Children (TATE-ZC) (Solarsh 2001) was developed and administered to 292 rural Zulu-speaking primary school children, 7 - 12 years in KwaZulu-Natal. This test analyses oral / verbal thinking skills in terms of five categories, namely, ability to explain inferences, ability to determine cause, ability to answer a negative why-question, ability to determine a solution and ability to give an answer to avoid a problem. Results were analysed in terms of statistically significant stages of development in thinking skills, as well as in terms of the types of errors made by the children. Statistical results of the TATE-ZC indicated that rural Zulu-speaking children did not progress annually in the development of abstract thinking skills during the primary school phase. In addition, errors most frequently made related to processing the question, responding to only a portion of the question, failure to use background information to infer and difficulty with pronoun referents. These patterns were noted to be similar to children identified as poor readers'. It was concluded that verbal reasoning is a precursor to text-based reasoning which is fundamental to academic progress.

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