Print

Print


Good stuff, folks!
Of course, i don't know
everything--yet.

Dan Kern
Reading Lab & Emporium
East Central College
Union, Missouri
Where we don't make the reading you read.
We make the reading you read, better.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Linda L. Johnson" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2001 9:21 PM
Subject: Re: Readability level measures


> Right on, Sheila!
> Grade level equivalents are the real problem.  Commonly used readability
> formulas rank passages in difficulty about the same, so don't fear to use
> Word's convenient formulas.  At the CRLA conference several years ago,
> Karen Agee and I presented our analysis of a large number of
> passages  using several well-known formulas.   Our conclusions follow:
>
> 1.      Readability formulas work well on general reading materials, less
well
> on technical writing.  Our research suggests that the formulas work better
> on general periodicals and non-fiction books than on textbooks and
> philosophical writings at the college level.
>
> 2.      Readability formulas use language features to estimate the
difficulty
> readers will have with a text.  They do not take into account additional
> features:  linguistic, conceptual, structural, cognitive and contextual
> features.  At higher levels of difficulty, these features often take
> precedence over sentence length and word familiarity.
>
> 3.      Choice of an optimal readability formula may be a personal
decision.
>         --The Qualitative Assessment of Text Difficulty (Chall, et al.)
works
> beautifully for holistic, global, speedy assessment.  Those people who are
> comfortable with assessment by subjective judgment can evaluate a series
of
> passages in moments.
>        --Computerized formulas are ideal for people who work next to a
> computer.  They can type in samples from the text (or scan in a longer
> selection) and get objective results immediately afterwards.
>        --The Revised Dale-Chall Readability Formula is useful for a
relatively
> fast analysis (five to seven minutes per passage) with objectivity.
>        --The Fry Readability Scale is easy to learn and apply, requiring
three
> to four minutes per passage.
>
> 4.      The readability formulas and scales we examined do permit us to
rank
> passages by difficulty with a high degree of consistency.
>
> 5.      THE FORMULAS DO NOT AGREE AMONG THEMSELVES AS TO THE PRECISE GRADE
LEVEL
> OR DIFFICULTY LEVEL OF THE MATERIAL.
>
> 6.      The readability formulas and scales confirmed our prior subjective
> judgments of the comparative difficulty of the passages.
>
> 7.      Readability formulas and scales rank individual passages less
reliably
> if the passages differ only slightly in difficulty than if they differ
greatly.
>
> The advantage of formulas is that they are objective.  Nic Voge is right
in
> that they do not take into account all the variables that we know
> affect  reading difficulty.  They use two important factors that previous
> researchers have determined explain about 74% of the variance in
difficulty
> of texts:  Word frequency (reflected in word length--in syllables or
> letters) and sentence complexity (reflected in sentence length).
>
> Linda Johnson
> Kirkwood Community College
> Iowa City
> [log in to unmask]
>
> At 10:57 AM 04/24/2001 -0500, you wrote:
> Nic Voge asks: Do readability formulae truly reflect what we know about
> reading, text organization, etc.? And, if not, aren't they inherently
flawed?
>
> I'm not sure readability formulae can tell us anything about "reading" per
se.
> I think they tell us only what they purport to tell us, i.e., the grade
> equivalent of a piece of text as determined by the length of sentences and
> number of syllables in the words contained within. I teach readability
formulae
> to my preservice teachers in Content Area Reading so that they will know
that
> it is a measure that's commonly used to generate a grade equivalent. I
also
> teach them how to use other text assessments that evaluate requisite prior
> knowledge, text organization, cultural bias, etc.
>
> I think it's important that we understand how readability formulae are
used so
> that we can make informed decisions in textbook selection and recognize
how
> publishers will "dumb down" text in order to get it at a certain grade
level.
> To me, the formulae are but one way of analyzing print and therefore not
> "inherently" flawed. It's the notion of grade level or equivalent that is
more
> questionable.
>
> Sheila
>
> Sheila A. Nicholson, Lecturer
> Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction
> Southwest Texas State University