Differential contributions of component skills to reading comprehension for adult literacy students and postsecondary developmental education students

Differential contributions of component skills to reading comprehension for adult literacy students and postsecondary developmental education students

First Author: Amani Talwar -- Georgia State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Daphne Greenberg; Joseph Magliano
Keywords: Reading comprehension, Adults With Low Literacy Skill, Adult Students, Vocabulary, Regression models
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: This study focused on the explanatory factors underlying reading comprehension for students in adult literacy (AL) programs and students in postsecondary developmental education (DE) programs. Although both groups struggle with reading comprehension, DE students are likely to be more proficient readers than AL students. Our goal was to investigate the component skills that account for variability in reading comprehension performance across the two groups.

Method: Participants included 168 adults enrolled in AL classes and 182 adults enrolled in postsecondary DE classes. All participants were native English speakers. Participants completed the Study Aid and Reading Assessment (SARA) battery, which includes subtests of word reading and decoding, vocabulary, morphology, sentence processing, and reading comprehension.

Results: A t-test confirmed that DE students (M=11.36, SD=4.41) outperformed AL students (M=9.23, SD=3.51) on reading comprehension (t=5.032, p=<.001). Regression analyses were conducted with reading comprehension as the dependent variable and the other subtest scores as the independent variables. The regression model explained 52% of reading comprehension variance for DE students but only 32% for AL students. Significant predictors of reading comprehension were vocabulary and sentence processing for DE students, but only vocabulary for AL students.

Conclusions: While vocabulary contributed to reading comprehension for both groups, sentence processing was important only for DE students. As such, proficiency in word-level processing may be a pressure point for AL students (Perfetti, 1985). Building stronger word knowledge may help AL students automatize word meaning retrieval and focus attentional resources on processing meaning at the sentence level (Perfetti & Stafura, 2014).