Qualitative Assessment of Text Difficulty


Qualitative Assessment of Text Difficulty
A Practical Guide for Teachers and Writers

Jeanne S. Chall, Ph.D., Harvard University; Glenda L. Bissex; Sue S. Conard; & Susan H. Harris-Sharples

This important reading materials assessment tool provides exactly what classroom teachers and curriculum supervisors have wanted. Professor Jeanne S. Chall and her three collaborators offer an easy and straightforward qualititative method for the quick and accurate assessment of the reading difficulty of written materials in literature, social studies, and the sciences.
Whereas quantitative readability measures are based only on two or three particular text features, the assessment method presented in Qualitative Assessment of Text Difficulty is sensitive to the complete range of variables that differentiate the relative difficulty of written texts. This method is based on matching portions of the text to be assessed with text exemplars that have been rigorously tested and scaled for comprehension difficulty. Each of the six subject-specific sets of scaled exemplars ranges in difficulty from first-grade to college-graduate level: Literature, Popular Fiction, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Narrative Social Studies, and Expository Social Studies.

“A qualitative assessment, because it is based on a total reaction to the text, can take account of these and other factors known to be associated with difficulty. Further, when quantitative assessments focus on different content areas, they make more transparent what actually happens as writing becomes more difficult to read and understand. Thus, use of this procedure educates the user while assessing the text.”
— from the book

Jeanne S. Chall is emeritus professor, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education. She founded the Harvard Reading Laboratory and directed it for 25 years.

ISBN 1-57129-023-0, 1996, paper, $24.95

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