Literacy practices and the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC): A conceptual critique

Kristen H. Perry, Donita M. Shaw, Sara Saberimoghaddam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) assesses key skills in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving in technology-rich environments, as well as their relationship to other social outcomes for adults. PIAAC’s developers claimed to better account for adults’ literacy practices than earlier international studies such as the International Assessment of Literacy Study (IALS). Through the sociocultural lens of literacy as social practice, the authors explore the tension between PIAAC’s cognitive orientation and its attempt to factor in meaningful literacy practices. Specifically, they analyse PIAAC’s conceptualisation of literacy practices as instantiated in the background questionnaire given to adult participants. They conclude that PIAAC’s conceptualisation does not align well with current theoretical understandings of literacy practice, as evidenced by (1) its conflation of several key literacy terms, including text, genre and practice, and (2) its erasure of context, purpose and social interaction from literate practice. Thus, the authors found considerable room for improvement in the assessment of adults’ actual literacy practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-28
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Review of Education
Volume66
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and Springer Nature B.V.

Keywords

  • Adult literacy
  • Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)
  • assessment
  • literacy practices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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