THE INTERNATIONAL ADULT LITERACY SURVEY: HOW WELL DOES IT REPRESENT THE LITERACY ABILITIES OF ADULTS?

Thomas Sticht
unpublished
In the mid-1990s nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted the first International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS). The IALS used two different methods for assessing adult literacy. One method used performance scales to measure prose, document, and quantitative literacy. The second method measured perceived abilities by having adults rate the extent to which their literacy and numeracy skills met their work and daily life requirements for these skills.
more » ... for these skills. This paper reviews evidence that challenges the validity of the IALS standardized performance scales, including the construct validity of the measurement scales (the question of just what it is that the IALS scales measure), the standards validity (the question of how good is good enough to be considered competent at whatever the scales measure), and the use validity (the extent to which the findings are useful for various purposes and do not produce social harm). The author concludes that in future assessments more attention should be given to the use of self-perceptions of skills so those who believe they are in need of additional literacy development can be identified and provided with information about educational opportunities. Resume Au milieu des annees '90, les pays membres de I'Organisation de cooperation et de developpement economique ont mene, selon deux methodes distinctes, une premiere enquete Internationale sur le niveau d 'alphabetisation des adultes. L 'une des methodes choisies a utilise des echelles de performance pour evaluer de maniere quantitative la prose, I 'argumentation et I 'alphabetisation. Le seconde methode a mesure les habiletes percues en demandant aux adultes eux-memes d'evaluer a quel point, chaque jour, Us etaient confrontes a leur analphabetisme ainsi qu'a leurs difficultes avec les nombres. Cet article remet en question la validite de ces echelles de performance standardises pour les adultes, de meme que lafacon dont ces echelles ont ete bdties, c'est-a-dire; leur objet de mesure et la justesse des criteres utilises. En d'autres mots, a quelle competence correspond un niveau donne sur cette echelle et quelle utilisation sera faite de ces mesures ulterieurement et enfin, si ces decouvertes seront-elles utiles a d'autres usages et n 'entraineront-elles pas de consequences negatives ? On y conclut que lors deprochaines evaluations, il faudra faire plus attention
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