Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.8, 1384-1389
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Writing Performance, Practices and Locus of Control of the Five
Linguistic Groups in Canada
Yamina Bouchamma1, Catherine Ruel2, Marc Basque3
1Department Foundations and Practices in Education, Laval University, Quebec, Canada
2Department of Studies on Teaching and Learning, Laval University, Quebec, Canada
3Department of Kinesiology and Recreation, Moncton University, Moncton, Canada
Received September 9th, 2012; revised October 12th, 2012; accepted October 25th, 2012
A study with students from the five linguistic groups in Canada were shown to not succeed at the same
level. Francophone students performed better, followed by multilingual, anglophone, allophone, and abo-
riginal students. Allophones tended to use a more internal locus of control. Students who spoke a Native
language were shown to spend the least amount of time writing on the Internet compared to the multilin-
gual and anglophone students who spent the most amount of time, and allophones spent the most time
outside of class hours working on homework unrelated to writing and doing activities associated with
learning to write.
Keywords: Linguistic Group; Writing; Academic Achievement; Locus of Control; Immigrants
Knowing an official language is considered to be essential to
an individual’s economic and social integration (Jedwab, 2005).
Not knowing the language is the primary source of all of the
difficulties in school that lead to academic failure (Blackwell &
Melzak, 2000), cultural and social isolation (Long & Amaya,
2007), or a sense of significant distress (Ditisheim, 1990). In
contrast, mastering the language is the key to any knowledge
acquisition (Loyer, 1987; Moisset, Mellouki, Ouellet, & Diam-
bomba, 1995). Indeed, language is crucial from the start when
welcoming and integrating children who know neither English
nor French.
Reading and writing abilities are particularly important for
children long term, as they contribute not only in ensuring their
self-determination, their social mobility, their successful inte-
gration within society, and their academic achievement, and
also in providing greater economic possibilities in the future
(Carter, Polevychock, & Friesen, 2006).
Canada and other (Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development) OECD countries show significant differ-
ences in performance associated with the language spoken in
the home, even if the level of education and professional status
of the parents is taken into account (OECD, 2007).
Literature Review
In a study of 230,000 newly arrived immigrant children and
adolescents, the Canadian Council on Social Development
found that learning the language (English or French) and the
difficulties with homework represented significant challenges
(Kunz & Hanvey, 2000). A Statistics Canada National Longi-
tudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY, 2001) revealed
that, on average, immigrant children succeeded as well as did
children of persons born in Canada in every aspect of academic
performance (reading, writing, mathematics, and overall aptitu-
de). Immigrant children whose first language was English or
French obtained high outcomes in reading compared to those
for whom the language spoken at home was neither English nor
French. However, after a certain number of years in the Cana-
dian school system, the level of achievement of these children
in reading was shown to come close to that of children of Ca-
nadian-born parents. The findings show that on almost every
aspect, 13 year-old immigrant children generally scored as well
as did children born in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2001).
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
later showed that Canada figured among the countries in which
performance differences were relatively non-significant between
immigrant students and those of the host country who had gen-
eral access to established linguistics programmes with clearly
defined standards and objectives (OECD, 2006).
The results were similar in the province of Québec where the
number of immigrant students in difficulty in school (all lan-
guages combined) steadily decreased from 30.3% (1994-1995)
27% (1997-1998), 24.6% (2000-2001), and 21.7% (2003-2004)
and that these difficulties were predominant in high school
years rather than primary school. In fact, the early problems for
at-risk students were shown to increase over time (Marchesi,
1998). Other smaller studies have also shown various risk fac-
tors that affect the academic achievement of immigrant students
(Van Ngo & Schleifer, 2005). These factors are numerous, such
as individual, socioeconomic, and cultural characteristics (fam-
ily income, country of origin, religion, language spoken in the
home, education level of the parents, etc.) (Marchesi, 1998) and
school-related factors (ethnic composition of the school and the
means employed by each school to facilitate learning (Moisset
et al., 1995).
Writing Performance
Literacy is defined as being more than just the ability to read,
write or calculate, but also the ability to understand and use
appropriate information to function (National Literacy Secre-
tariat, Human Resources Development Canada and the Organi-
sation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1997).
The individuals who master reading and writing can change
and adapt to new situations as well as demonstrate overall bet-
ter health (Public Health Agency of Canada). In a school setting,
writing performances appear to be a prerequisite for learning
other subjects. The Thayer & Giebelhauss study (2001) showed
the positive effect of writing skills on mathematic performances.
Therefore, the literature shows that successful writing de-
pends on several factors such as individual, academic, and so-
cial, more specifically the strategic behavior of the student,
knowledge, motivation, socio-economic level (Graham, Harris,
& Mason, 2005), and language status (minority or majority), as
is the case in Canada where the Francophone minority performs
less well than Anglophones (Childs & Denomme, 2008; Bou-
chamma & Lapointe, 2008).
The Locus of Control
How we explain success and failure influences practices and
decisions (Bandura, 1986; Pajares, 1992). These causal expla-
nations are subjective and vary according to four attribution
variables: 1) locus of control (Heider, 1958; Rotter, 1966); 2)
stability (Weiner, Heinz, Meyer, & Cook, 1972); 3) controlabil-
ity (Heider); and 4) globality (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale,
1978). Locus of control, the most studied dimension of the attri-
bution theory (Bell-Dolan & Anderson, 1999), was chosen for
the present study. In essence, the causes may be internal (per-
sonality factors) or external (circumstances of the situation),
and how an individual interprets success/failure may vary de-
pending on their own characteristics, including culture (Berry et
al., 1997).
Academic Achievement and Student Attributions
In Canada, the School Achievement Indicators Program (SAIP,
Sciences, 1996) revealed a positive relationship between per-
formance and the fact of attributing success to hard work. Re-
search in this area has also shown a positive link between aca-
demic achievement and attribution style (Cortes-Suarez, 2005).
Participants and Data Collection Instrument
The present study used data collected through the School
Achievement Indicators Program—Writing Assessment III (SA-
IP, 2002) developed by the Council of Ministers of Education
of Canada (CMEC). This program gathered information on
23,680 13- and 16-year-old students from a total of 17 differ-
ent populations representing all ten Canadian provinces, the
Northwest Territories, and Yukon on writing achievement. Stu-
dents completed the Student Questionnaire which was admin-
istered in one of the two official Canadian languages (English
and French). For the purpose of our study, only the 13-year-
old students (12,708; 6062 boys) were used in our sample. A
large majority of these students (95.1%) are Canadian-born. Se-
venty-six percent of the 13-year-old students completed the as-
sessment in English. The SAIP student questionnaire contains a
total of fifty-five questions. For the present study, specific ques-
tions pertaining to language spoken at home (question 8), locus
of control (question 23), school practices (questions 32, 36 - 42),
and extracurricular practices (questions 19 - 20) were selected.
First, a new variable was created based on the four presented
items (English, French, Aboriginal language, and Other) of
Which of these languages is (are) spoken in your home?”
(question 8). This question required students to answer “often
spoken” or “occasionally spoken” for languages specific to
them. Students were assigned to a specific language group ac-
cording to which language they answered “often spoken” (1-
Anglophones, 2-Francophones, 3-Aboriginal language, 4-Al-
lophones). Next, a fifth category, called Multilingual has been
added in order to dispatch students who answered “often” to
two or more languages. Then, 8512 students were assigned to
the Anglophones group; 1895 to the Francophones group; 53 to
the Aboriginal language group; 362 to the Allophone group;
and 1028 to the Multilingual group. This distribution is consis-
tent with the Canadian linguistic distribution obtained through
the 2001 Census (
The locus of control concept was represented by a group of
15 statements. The students were asked to respond to each
statement on a scale of A to D (A: strongly disagree, B: dis-
agree, C: agree, and D: strongly agree). A factorial analysis
enabled us to identify two dimensions: internal and external.
The internal locus of control dimension consisted of eight items
(one of which was eliminated to improve internal consistency),
such as “To write well, I must... work hard”, “When I get an
exceptionally low score on a French paper, its mainly be-
cause... I didnt study enough”, and “When I get an exception-
ally high score on a French/English paper, its mainly be-
cause... the course was well taught” (α = .64). The external
locus of control dimension consisted of seven items, including
When I get an exceptionally low score on a French paper, its
mainly because... the teacher was too strict”, “When I get an
exceptionally high score on a French paper, its because... the
course was easy”, and “When I get an exceptionally high score
on a French paper, its mainly because... I was lucky” (α = .68).
Two questions (19 and 20) used to measure the variable “ex-
tracurricular practices” were respectively ranged on a scale
from A to F (A: no time, B: less than 1 hour, C: 1 - 2 hours, D:
3 - 4 hours, E: 5 - 6 hours, and F: more than 6 hours) and on a
scale from A to D (A: rarely or never, B: a few times a month,
C: a few times a week, and D: almost every day). Factorial
analyses were performed on the statements pertaining to extra-
curricular practices so as to construct six new independent
variables: learning-related activities outside of class hours (a19),
homework unrelated to writing (b19), using a computer outside
of class hours (c19), writing different literary genres (poetry,
letters, etc.) outside of class hours (a20), writing on a computer
on the Internet (b20), and reading for different reasons outside
of class hours (c20).
Regarding the variable “school practices”, eight questions
were used in our analysis (32, 36 - 42). Question 32 consisted
of 14 statements on a scale of A to D (A: always or almost al-
ways, B: often, C: occasionally, and D: rarely or never). Ques-
tions 36, 37, 38, 41, and 42 were also compiled on a scale of A
to D (A: rarely or never, B: a few times a month, C: a few times
a week, and D: almost every day), while questions 39 and 40
were respectively measured on a scale of A to E (A: more than
10 pages, B: 6 to 10 pages, C: 1 to 5 pages, D: almost none, and
E: I am not currently taking English Language Arts) and A to D
(A: more than 10 pages, B: 6 to 10 pages, C: 1 to 5 pages, D:
none or almost none). Following multiple factorial analyses, the
school practices items were grouped in order to reduce the
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1385
quantity of independent variables to eighteen. The independent
variables related to school practices will be the following: using
metacognitive strategies in writing (a32), using metacognitive
strategies in writing II (b32), discussion with others about my
text (c32), usefulness of the text (d32), basic writing exercises
(a36), choice of text subjects and genres (b36), choice of sub-
ject and literary genre (c36), teamwork in writing the text (d36),
writing of different literary genres (e36), explanation related to
learning to write (a37), class climate (b37), reading of texts by
the teacher or the students (c37), use of different resources by
the student for writing (a38), use of different resources for
teaching (b38), amount of writing in French class (a39), amount
of writing in courses other than French (a40), writing at length
in all of the courses (a41), and writing explanation and evalua-
tion (a42).
The dependent variable in this study was determined as “stu-
dent achievement in writing”. This variable was based on the
results of a student essay used to measure the students’ writing
performance. Students were assessed on their writing skills and
the knowledge they expressed through their writing. According
to the specific criteria for each performance level, 13 year old
students were expected to perform at a level 2 or better. There-
fore, an assignation to level 2 or upper meant that they success-
fully achieved the writing assessment while an assignation to
level 1 indicated that they did not achieve properly the assess-
ment (failure). For the purpose of this study, students who per-
formed at level 2 or better were all assigned to create the suc-
cessful group. A chi-square test was conducted to assign stu-
dents into each writing achievement level while controlling for
their language group attribution.
All of the analyses were performed using SPSS software, ver-
sion 13.0. A preliminary chi-square test was performed to ver-
ify whether the percentage of students who passed/failed dif-
fered among the different linguistic groups. Thereafter, ANO-
VA variance analyses were undertaken to identify any differ-
ences between the groups in terms of locus of control, school
practices, and extracurricular practices.
Writing Achievement
Figure 1 presents the proportion of students who succeeded
and failed the writing assessment, according to linguistic group.
Overall results indicate that 83.2% of 13-year-old students (all
linguistic groups combined) successfully achieved the writing
assessment while 16.8% did not. The chi-square test revealed
significant differences between success and failure in the dif-
ferent linguistic groups, [χ2 = 51.039, p < .001]. Specifically, in
the francophone group, the proportion of students who suc-
cessfully achieved the assessment (85.3%) was significantly
higher than expected. On the other hand, fewer students than
expected did not achieve it properly (14.7%). Nevertheless, the
opposite pattern was observed for the students who spoke an
aboriginal language (success: 49.0%; failure: 51%). Our find-
ings show no significant difference in the proportions obtained
by the anglophone students (success: 82.8%; failure: 17.2%),
allophones (success: 82%; failure: 18%), and multilingual stu-
dents (success: 84.6%; failure: 15.4%).
AnglophoneFrancophoneAboriginalOthers (Spanish)Multilingual
% students
Linguistic groups
% success
% failure
Figure 1.
Success and failure levels of the five linguistic groups.
Locus of Control
An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed to deter-
mine whether the internal or external factors attributed to a
successful or a failed performance differed depending on the
language spoken at home. Table 1 illustrates the results of this
analysis. Our results show significant differences with regard to
the internal factors attributed to the success or the failure of the
assessment and the language spoken at home by students,
[FWelch (4,357,380) = 16.560, p < .001]. Compared to the four other
linguistic groups, the allophone students (M = 3.01; SD = .45)
displayed a stronger tendency to attribute their success or their
failure to internal factors (anglophone: M = 2.92; SD = .42;
francophone: M = 2.83; SD = .47; aboriginal: M = 2.81; SD
= .62; multilingual: M = 2.92; SD = .48).
Extracurricular Writing Practices
An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to deter-
mine whether the students’ extracurricular practices differed
according to their language spoken at home. Table 2 presents
the results observed in terms of the time each linguistic group
spent on the different extracurricular writing activities, for which
significant differences were noted. Generally speaking, all of
the students (all linguistic groups combined) revealed spending
an important amount of time in activities involving a computer
and spending far less time on extracurricular practices involv-
ing writing different literary genres such as poetry, letters, and
songs compared to other writing activities such as stories and in
a journal. Specifically, the aboriginal students (M = 2.33; SD =
1.08) answered spending the smallest amount of time writing
on the computer on the Internet while the multilingual students
(M = 2.82; SD = 1.00) and anglophone students (M = 2.80; SD
= 1.04) reveal the highest scores on this category. Finally, the
allophone students reported spending much more time outside
of class hours doing activities associ- ated with learning about
writing (M = 2.98; SD = .98) and to doing homework unrelated
to writing outside of class hours (M = 2.12; SD = 1.09) compare
to the other four linguistic groups.
Writing Practices in School
An analysis of variance (ANOVA) determined whether there
were significant differences between students in terms of the
number of hours they reported spending on each writing prac-
tice in school, depending on the language spoken at home. Ta-
ble 3 presents the results of this analysis. Our findings reveal
significant differences through answers of the multilingual,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1387
Table 1.
ANOVA of internal and external locus of control for each linguistic group.
Anglophones Francophones Aboriginals Allophones Multilingual
Dimension M (SD) M (SD) M (SD) M (SD) M (SD) F Df
Internal 2.92 (.42) 2.83 (.46) 2.81 (.62) 3.01(.45) 2.92(.48) 16.560*** 357.380
External 2.32 (.48) 2.32 (.50) 2.18 (.48) 2.31(.52) 2.30(.51) 1.694 781.732
Note: ***p < .001.
Table 2.
ANOVA of time spent on extracurricular practices according to the linguistic group.
Anglophones Francophones Aboriginals Allophones Multilinguals
Independent variables M (SD) M (SD) M (SD) M (SD) M (SD) F Df
a19 2.69 (.92) 2.59 (.87) 2.12(.86) 2.98(.98) 2.88 (.99) 29.787*** 832.402
b19 1.89 (.94) 2.11 (.99) 1.85(1.05) 2.12(1.09) 2.14(1.04) 29.351*** 627.875
c19 3.26 (1.08) 3.18 (1.12) 2.91(1.28) 3.35(1.14) 3.42 (1.11) 10.064*** 11 720
a20 1.49 (.58) 1.53 (.59) 1.60(.61) 1.55(.59) 1.58 (.63) 6.474*** 673.983
b20 2.80 (1.04) 2.61 (1.03) 2.33(1.08) 2.77(1.00) 2.82 (1.00) 15.705*** 591.412
c20 2.26 (.72) 2.17 (.68) 2.11(.80) 2.30(.73) 2.36 (.75) 11.246*** 544.331
Note: ***p < .001.
Table 3.
ANOVA of the average time spent for school practices.
Anglophones Francophones Aboriginals Allophones Multilinguals
Independent variables M (SD) M (SD) M (SD) M (SD) M (SD) F Df
a32 2.37 (.59) 2.12 (.59) 2.56 (.66) 2.32 (.60) 2.20 (.60) 81.556*** 11 704
b32 2.47 (.59) 2.34 (.54) 2.69 (.68) 2.47 (.58) 2.36 (.59) 25.248*** 437.180
c32 2.84 (.70) 2.86 (.67) 2.96 (.72) 2.85 (.69) 2.77 (.72) 3.057* 622.786
d32 3.19 (.64) 3.19 (.62) 3.16 (.69) 3.09 (.69) 3.07 (.70) 8.072*** 634.933
a36 2.65 (.78) 3.04 (.74) 2.67 (.83) 2.80 (.80) 2.81 (.80) 94.239*** 576.291
b36 2.60 (.62) 2.59 (.67) 2.44 (.69) 2.68 (.65) 2.65 (.67) 3.045* 602.911
c36 2.03 (.59) 2.03 (.61) 2.06 (.54) 2.07 (.59) 2.09 (.62) 2.641* 868.407
d36 2.10 (.75) 1.75 (.73) 2.10 (.82) 2.15 (.81) 2.07 (.79) 76.016*** 573.555
e36 2.16 (.63) 1.97 (.65) 2.24 (.63) 2.26 (.65) 2.19 (.68) 37.393*** 744.206
a37 2.81 (.62) 2.90 (.57) 2.79 (.61) 2.82 (.58) 2.83 (.63) 8.985*** 655.583
b37 2.78 (.84) 2.27 (.86) 2.56 (.82) 2.61 (.82) 2.67 (.88) 141.050*** 11 607
c37 2.57 (.71) 2.35 (.73) 2.65 (.89) 2.61 (.75) 2.52 (.73) 30.532*** 418.591
a38 2.05 (.66) 1.86 (.63) 2.16 (.88) 2.05 (.69) 2.07 (.70) 29.291*** 365.081
b38 2.04 (.75) 1.84 (.74) 2.12 (.85) 2.04 (.83) 2.00 (.77) 25.709*** 531.658
a39 3.91 (.98) 3.95 (.95) 3.78 (1.11)3.87 (.97) 3.97 (.95) 1.847 465.974
a40 3.13 (.91) 3.25 (.88) 2.78 (1.12)3.10 (.90) 3.24 (.88) 10.999*** 391.172
a41 2.35 (.73) 2.28 (.68) 2.14 (.87) 2.39 (.71) 2.46 (.75) 10.850*** 420.870
a42 2.57 (.80) 2.40 (.79) 2.55 (.81) 2.71 (.77) 2.60 (.81) 22.671*** 11 605
Note: ***p < .001. ** p < .01. * p < .05.
francophone, and anglophone students to the writing practices
bloc “discussion with others about my text” (c32) [FWelch (4,622,
786) = 3.057, p < .05], and “usefulness of the text” (d32) [FWelch (4,
634,933) = 8.072, p < .001]. Francophone and anglophone stu-
dents reported a greater tendency on these two dimensions
compared with their multilingual peers. Noticeable differences
were also identified between groups on “class climate” (b37).
Anglophone students revealed spending more time on writing
tasks in class than their francophone and allophone counterparts
[F(4,11 607) = 141.050, p < .001]. Nevertheless, allophone stu-
dents still report spending more time on writing tasks in class
than their French counterparts, who reported occasionally spen-
ding time on in-class writing activities.
Significant differences were also revealed on the two follow-
ing variables: “reading of texts by the teacher or by the other
students” (c37) and “use of different resources by the student
for writing” (a38). Indeed, francophone students reported the
lowest frequency of out loud readings in their class compared to
the four other linguistic groups, [FWelch (4,418.591) = 30.532, p
< .001]. Among all five linguistic groups, francophone students
revealed referring less frequently to other resources such as
Internet, a computer, and the library, [FWelch (4,365.081) = 29.291, p
< .001].
Finally, the results showed significant differences between
the linguistic groups on the variable “writing explanation and
evaluation” (a42), [F(4,11 605) = 22.671, p < .001]. Allophone
students reported requiring more frequent explanations and
evaluations related to their writing in their “courses other than
French” compared to their francophone, anglophone, and multi-
lingual counterparts.
Discussion and Conclusion
This study was conducted using the cross-country data ob-
tained from the the School Achievement Indicators Program—
Writing III (SAIP, 2002). Our findings show that the five lin-
guistic groups in Canada do not perform at the same level. In
order, the francophone students achieved the highest scores,
followed by the multilingual, anglophone, allophone, and abo-
riginal students.
Similar achievement levels were observed between allophone
students and the other groups, with the exception of the abori-
ginal students, who failed in approximately 60% of cases. This
observation concurs with results of other studies showing that
immigrant children who initially have weak outcomes in Cana-
dian schools catch up to non-immigrant children in reading, wri-
ting, and mathematics around the age of 13 (Worswick, 2001).
Regarding the locus of control, we found that compared to
the other linguistic groups, the allophone students had a ten-
dency to refer to a more internal locus of control. Studies indi-
cate that an internal locus of control increases the level of mo-
tivation. This aspect was mentioned by the OECD who noted
the motivation and positive attitude of immigrant students with
regard to school and who recommended that schools take the
necessary actions to facilitate learning for this specific student
population in order to help them succeed (OECD, 2006).
As for the extracurricular practices, allophone students were
shown to spend the most amount of time outside of class hours
doing activities associated with learning to write and to home-
work unrelated to writing outside of class hours.
A more recent Programme for International Student Achieve-
ment (PISA) showed that Canada was one of the countries in
which performance differences were relatively non-significant
between immigrant students and those of the host country who
generally benefited from established language support pro-
grams with clearly defined objectives and norms (OECD, 2006).
However, this same organization stated that Canada, along with
other OECD countries, showed significant performance differ-
ences associated with the language spoken in the home, despite
the education and professional status of the parents (OECD,
Moreover, if we examine the practices teachers must adopt to
improve the academic achievement of allophones—which is so
close to that of the other linguistic groups (with the exception
of aboriginal students), we may conclude that no “universal”
solution exists for immigrant students. Immigrants in Canada
are a heterogeneous ensemble whose paths differ from one
group to another. The effectiveness of teaching these students
therefore depends on target programmes (McAndrew et al.,
Regarding the allophone students who participated in this
study, their characteristics are unknown (number of years since
their arrival in Canada, whether they went through preparatory
programmes), thus we ultimately question whether this sample
is representative of all immigrant students, including those with
learning difficulties.
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