Understanding Adult Functional Literacy: Connecting Text Features, Task Demands, and Respondent Skills, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Understanding Adult Functional Literacy

Connecting Text Features, Task Demands, and Respondent Skills, 1st Edition

By Sheida White


280 pages

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pub: 2010-09-28
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"This is a genuinely scholarly work … It is based on [analysis of] the most up-to-date quantitative surveys that we have on adult literacy. These surveys are the gold standard in terms of documenting adult literacy in the United States …The author analyzes these extensive surveys and puts them into a theoretical context in a way that has not been done before."Rosemary J. Park, University of Minnesota

"I don’t know of any book providing the same information. There is a shortage of literature in this area and the book is an excellent contribution."Dolores Perin, Teachers College, Columbia University

"The contribution of the theory is important – not only to adult literacy but to our understanding of the reading process at nearly every level … Additionally, the application of multidimensional item response modeling to the new TTR theory offers a tantalizing view of how the predictive validity of a theory might be tested and used to provide practical results."Larry Mikulecky, Indiana University

Very often, individual differences in literacy performance are understood exclusively in terms of the characteristics of the reader. Drawing on a rich array of empirical research, the author presents a detailed and highly integrative new theory of functional literacy. The text-task-respondent (TTR) theory of functional literacy offers improved understanding of how successful performance on everyday literacy tasks involves a dynamic relationship among the text, the task, and the reader.

This book will appeal primarily to assessment developers who wish to select tasks and texts of varying difficulty to yield more precise estimates of adult literacy; to researchers who study cognitive, linguistic, and discourse processes; and to teachers who want to find new ways to increase text comprehension among students, including English language learners and struggling readers. The text is appropriate for an advanced course in adult education, discourse analysis, educational measurement, educational psychology, literacy, or linguistics – or as a reference work for those interested in literacy.

Table of Contents



1. Introduction

2. Cognitive and Linguistic Demands of Literacy Tasks

3. Skill Sets Used to Meet Literacy Task Demands

4. Text Features That Influence Task Ease or Difficulty

5. The Text–Task–Respondent Theory of Functional Literacy

6. Progress, Limitations, Considerations, and Practical Implications


Appendix A. Document Types and Definitions

Appendix B. Comparison of NAAL and NALS Task Demands

Appendix C. Fluency Addition to NAAL

Appendix D. NAAL Adult Literacy Supplemental Assessment

Appendix E. NAAL Functional Writing Assessment

Appendix F. Vocabulary Framework for NAAL

Appendix G. Research Supporting Text Features Specified in the Text–Task–Respondent Theory of Functional Literacy

Appendix H. Inter-rater Reliability Study: NAAL and NALS

Appendix I. Technical Description of the Theory-Consistent Item Response


Appendix J. Taxonomy of Factors Affecting Task Difficulty by Skill Dimensions: NAAL and NALS

Appendix K. Full Parameter Estimates from the Theory-Consistent Item Response Model: NAAL and NALS

Appendix L. Glossary of Acronyms

Appendix M. Glossary of Technical Terms




About the Author

Sheida White is Director of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) and Technical Director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Writing Assessment.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Adult & Continuing Education
FOREIGN LANGUAGE STUDY / English as a Second Language