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Understanding Document Literacy: Variables Underlying the Performance of Young Adults NAEP

Kirsch, Irwin S.; Mosenthal, Peter B.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Adult Literacy, Cognitive Processes, Literacy, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Reading Comprehension


The purpose of this study was to identify a set of critical variables that underlie the performance of a national sample of young adults on a diverse set of document literacy tasks. The identification of these variables provides an important first step toward building a theoretical model that would systematically account for the constructs of document processing. With such a theoretical model, document designers and instructional-program developers could use their understanding of document-processing constructs in ways that could strategically address the production and processing of documents. The sixty-one tasks (and their associated documents) that make up the document scale of the NAEP Young Adult Literacy assessment were parsed using a specially devised grammar. Based upon the parsings, variables were identified to account for the probability of success for the total population and for major subgroups of interest. The findings of this study are discussed in terms of the need to provide a more general framework for describing, comparing, and researching documents than has been the case in previous document studies. (71pp.)

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