[Assessment 1332] Re: Tests vs. Self Assessments of Literacy

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Anthony Berry aberryesq at hotmail.co.uk
Mon Jun 9 08:27:41 EDT 2008


Unfortunately, the link to Inge Henningsen's document does not work. Any ideas?

Anthony Berry> Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2008 14:45:18 -0700> From: tsticht at znet.com> To: assessment at nifl.gov> Subject: [Assessment 1331] Tests vs. Self Assessments of Literacy> > June 8, 2008> > The Great Adult Literacy Skills Debate: Tests vs. Self Assessments> > Tom Sticht> International Consultant in Adult Education> > In 2006, Inge Henningsen of the Department of Statistics in the University> of Copenhagen presented a paper entitled: "Adults just don't know how> stupid they are: Dubious statistics in studies of adult literacy and> numeracy."> (online at www.alm online.org/ALM13/programma%20alm13.pdf ).> > In this paper Henningsen comments on the many problems, conceptual,> methodological, and statistical, with the International Adult Literacy> Survey (IALS) of the mid-1990s and the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills (ALL)> survey of 2003-06. One of the major factors in these assessments that> Henningsen addresses is the finding in various nations of a wide gap> between the literacy and numeracy> skills of adults when the literacy test scores are taken as indicators of> people's skill, and the skills that adults assign to themselves when asked> to self-assess their literacy or numeracy skills.> > Though Henningsen focuses primarily on the data from these international> adult literacy surveys for Denmark, similar gaps are found in various other> nations. For instance, in Australia, based on the IALS test scores the> report writers declared some 46 percent of adults to possess low literacy> skills, whereas only 4 percent of the adults themselves thought they had> low skills.> > In Canada and the United States, similar discrepancies were found, with 42> percent of Canadians and 47 percent of U.S. adults being declared low in> literacy based on the test scores, while only 5 percent of Canadian and 7> percent of U.S. adults rated their literacy low.> > In New Zealand, using just the numeracy data from the ALL, 51 percent of> adults were declared low in numeracy based on test scores, while only 19> percent rated their numeracy skills as low. Finally, in England, using a> special test developed for the Skills for Life strategy in that nation, 16> percent of adults were declared low in literacy based on their test scores> but only 4 percent thought they had low test scores.> > Henningsen noted that the discrepancy between the self assessed proficiency> and the conclusions based on test scores is not treated seriously in the> reports and asks, "Is it ethically defensible to disregard the opinions and> statements of the adults regarding their own skills and "narrate" big groups> of adults in the labour market as excluded from society and lacking in basic> skills." Answering this rhetorical question, Henningsen goes on to say, "I> find it disturbing that the reports send the message that the experiences> and assessments of the test persons themselves have no validity compared to> the test results. Is it a viable for the adult education community to let> surveys convey the impression that "adults just don't know how stupid they> are."?> > One important consequence of adults' thinking that their literacy and> numeracy skills are pretty good is that they will choose to not participate> in language, literacy, and numeracy (LLN) provision to improve their skills.> For instance, from various sources I can make rough estimates of the> percentage of adults that the government says are in need of LLN provision> that actually take part in LLN provision in a given year. In Australia the> percentage of those the governments say are in need of LLN provision who> actually enroll in LLN provision in a given year is around 4%, in Canada> 10%, England 5%, New Zealand 11%, and the U.S. 3%. These (admittedly> roughly estimated) percentages of participation are more in line with the> self assessed needs of adults than the needs based on the paper and pencil> tests.> > In the United States, the National Center for Education Statistics reports> in the 2008 Conditions of Education that the percentages of adults aged 16> or older who participated in adult education activities consisting of basic> skills, English as a second language, or apprenticeships in 1995, 1999, 2001> and 2005 were 3, 4, 4, and 3 percent respectively. Without the category of> "apprenticeships" the percentages would be even lower. These low> percentages of self reported participation in LLN are again more in line> with the self assessments of adults regarding their literacy and numeracy> skills than with the percentages declared to be "at risk" for low literacy> based on the adult literacy survey tests.> > The large discrepancies between the percentages of adults needing basic> skills education as given by governments based on the international adult> literacy surveys, and the much smaller percentages of adults who perceive> their literacy and numeracy skills to be so low that they are unable to> progress in the societies in which they live pose problems for adult> education. Some have suggested that adults may be too embarrassed to admit> that they have a literacy or numeracy problem and that is why there is a> large discrepancy between the adults' test scores and their self> assessments of literacy. If this is so, then research is needed to> establish that this is so. In general, major efforts are needed to better> understand the genuine needs of adults for LLN provision, what sorts of> educational programs would best meet these needs, and the sorts of> activities that are needed to let> adults understand the educational opportunities available to them.> > > Thomas G. Sticht> International Consultant in Adult Education> 2062 Valley View Blvd.> El Cajon, CA 92019-2059> Tel/fax: (619)444-9595,> Email tsticht at aznet.net> > > > > -------------------------------> National Institute for Literacy> Assessment mailing list> Assessment at nifl.gov> To unsubscribe or change your subscription settings, please go to http://www.nifl.gov/mailman/listinfo/assessment> Email delivered to aberryesq at hotmail.co.uk

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