Academic journal article Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling

Screening Reading Comprehension in Adults: Development and Initial Evaluation of a Reading Comprehension Measure

Academic journal article Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling

Screening Reading Comprehension in Adults: Development and Initial Evaluation of a Reading Comprehension Measure

Article excerpt

Abstract

Reading comprehension in adults is a rather neglected variable in the practice of psychological assessment. We propose a new screening instrument for adult reading comprehension based on a pragmatic definition of reading comprehension as the textual understanding of the text read. Using data from a calibration sample (n = 266) and a replication sample (n = 148) for cross-validation, we tested the model fit for the 1-PL model (Rasch-model; graphic model test, Anderson's Condi-tional Likelihood-Ratio test). Model fit was established and verified in the replication sample after the stepwise exclusion of three (out of 16) items. Correlations with a test for memory and the exter-nal criterion reading proficiency were in the expected direction. The comparison of a sub-group of putatively highly skilled readers (n = 59; University students and lecturers) and putatively low skilled readers (n = 122; participants undergoing psychological assessment for having their driving license reinstated after a ban) showed that a percent rank < 10 in the measure might indicate insuf-ficient reading skills for practical purposes. Pending further research, the instrument seems to be a useful instrument for the screening of reading comprehension skills in adults.

Keywords: Computer Aided Testing, Item-Response Theory, Reading Comprehension, Test devel-opment

Reading comprehension is a central prerequisite for many communication processes in the everyday life of adolescents and adults. One needs to read and comprehend written information in official forms, contracts at work, leaflets informing important decisions (e.g., when voting or when buying something) as well as health and care related infor-mation; see e.g., Doak, Doak, & Root, 1985). Reading comprehension is also an im-portant factor in the process of psychological testing because often assessment instruc-tions, questionnaire-items and test-tasks are presented in writing and have to be read and comprehended to perform. However, given the results of international studies on reading comprehension (e.g., Schwantner, Toferer, & Schreiner, 2013) it cannot be taken for granted that all test takers fully comprehend the content and meaning of each question-naire item, of verbally given instructions or the verbal materials in ability tests. Further-more, not all test takers ask the instructor for further explanations in case of comprehen-sion problems.

This is a problem, when an individual's reading comprehension level impacts test results on constructs being associated with reading comprehension (e.g. memory, grammar or vocabulary knowledge) and on constructs not being associated with reading comprehen-sion (e.g., extraversion, attention). Persons low in reading comprehension may have difficulties to follow detailed instructions or to understand an items' meaning, thus they may give responses arbitrarily with negative impact on their test scores and even serious implications for the test taker (e.g., in traffic psychology when evaluating adults with a record for risky driving).

In practice, the basic skill of reading comprehension is frequently not explicitly assessed objectively in adults (see also Baghaei, & Grotjahn, 2014; Messick, 1989; Vellutino, Scanlon, & Tanzman, 1998). Test takers are either assumed to have a sufficient level of reading comprehension, or it is assessed unsystematically by observing the test-taker's behavior during the completion of questionnaires and tests.

From an assessment practitioner's perspective we would benefit from considering read-ing comprehension by assessing it objectively prior to psychological testing. However, we experienced difficulties in finding appropriate instruments on reading comprehension in adults fitting in tight time schedules of a routine psychological assessment. The cur-rently available tests on reading skills in adults typically use a compound-model of read-ing and comprehension to give a detailed picture on a set of reading related variables. …

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