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

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. And although they include reading comprehension measures they often require too much testing time. For example, Richter and van Holt's (2005) instrument requires a total testing time of more than 30 minutes to give seven different indicators of reading ability, based on the microstructural and macrostructural processes of reading as proposed in the Dijk and Kintsch model (1983; for other measures in adults see e.g., Jastak & Wilkinson, 1984; Jones, Long, & Finlay, 2006; Leslie & Caldwell, 2001; Woodcock, 1998). By way of this study, we provide a suggestion for a short screening measure of reading compre-hension that can be used to assess reading comprehension in adults in routine practice.

Development of the reading comprehension measure: Theoretical background

The inventory was developed based on a simple definition of the construct: Reading comprehension is the textual understanding of the text read (e.g., Grissemann, 1986) similar to the subtest text understanding ("Textverstehen") by Richter and van Holt (2005). We acknowledge that this is a pragmatic approach to test development and that a broad range of literature exists that provides a much more fine-grained understanding of what reading comprehension is and how it develops (e.g, Frith, 1985; Verhoeven, & van Leeuwe, 2008). …

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