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Compatibility of Training Materials and Trainee Reading Skills by TDdocs

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									Suggestions for Effective Railroad Tank Car
Loading/Unloading Training Programs:
Compatibility of Training Materials
and Trainee Reading Skills



                                                                         Proper training is an important
                                                                         factor in preventing non-accident
                                                                         release (NAR) of hazardous mate-
                                                                         rials from railroad tank cars. The
                                                                         effectiveness of a training program
                                                                         can be compromised if the written
                                                                         materials used in the program are
                                                                         not consistent with the reading
                                                                         skills of the trainees.

                                                                         A recent FRA-sponsored study
                                                                         found some level of inconsistency
                                                                         between the reading skills of the
                                                                         trainees and the instructional
                                                                         materials used at four chemical
                                                                         companies. Some substances are so
                                                                         hazardous, and the potential con-
                                                                         sequence of a serious NAR is so
                                                                         great, that chemical companies
                                                                         should consider assessing their
                                                                         programs and making any neces-
                                                                         sary modifications to their training
                                                                         materials. This document provides
                                                                         guidance to chemical companies
                                                                         wanting to review and improve
                                                                         their written training materials.




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                                                                                                                                         How to Assess Trainee’s Reading
                                                                                                                                         Skills
                                                                                                                                         The number of years of schooling
                                                                                                                                         provides a rough indication of a
                                                                                                                                         trainee’s reading skills. Because
                                                                                                                                         attained educational level is not a
                                                                                                                                         reliable predictor of actual reading
                                                                                                                                         skill, the recommended method for
                                                                        Average number of syllables per 100 words
                                                                                                                                         assessing a trainee’s reading skills
                                                108- 112 116 120 124 128 132 136 140 144 148 152 156 160 164 168 172 176 180 182+        involves use of a test instrument along
                                            25.0+                                                                                25.0+
                                            20.0                                                                                20.0     with years of schooling.
                                            16.7
                                            14.3
                                                       1
                                                                                                                                16.7
                                                                                                                                14.3
                                                                                                                                             The Multidimensional Aptitude
                                            12.5                                                                                12.5     Battery (MAB) is suitable for this
                                            11.1                                                                                11.1
                                            10.0
                                                       2
                                                                                                                                10.0     purpose. Administration of the
Average number of sentences per 100 words




                                             9.1                                                                                  9.1
                                             8.3                                                                                  8.3
                                                                                                                                         comprehension and vocabulary verbal
                                                         3
                                             7.7
                                             7.1
                                                                                                                                  7.7
                                                                                                                                  7.1
                                                                                                                                         subtests takes 15 minutes and will
                                                           4
                                             6.7
                                                              5
                                                                                                                                  6.7    provide an adequate measure of
                                             6.3                                                                                  6.3
                                             5.9
                                                                  6
                                                                                                                                  5.9    reading skill.
                                             5.6                                                                                  5.6
                                             5.2                                                                                  5.2
                                                                                                                                             The MAB produces an IQ score,
                                             5.0
                                                                            7
                                                                                                                                  5.0    which is a standard score relative to
                                             4.8                                                                                  4.8
                                             4.5                                                                                  4.5    the individual’s age. Divide the MAB
                                             4.3                                                                                  4.3
                                                                                     8                                                   score by 100 and then multiply the
                                                       AP




                                             4.2                                                                                  4.2
                                                        PR




                                                             O
                                             4.0
                                             3.8
                                                              XI
                                                                 M                      9
                                                                                                                                  4.0
                                                                                                                                  3.8
                                                                                                                                         result by the individual’s years of
                                                                   AT                     10
                                             3.7                      E
                                                                        GR                   11    12
                                                                                                                                  3.7    schooling. The result is an estimate of
                                             3.6                           AD                                                     3.6
                                             3.5                              E
                                                                                LE
                                                                                   VE
                                                                                                       13    14    15 16
                                                                                                                           17+
                                                                                                                                  3.5    reading skill level. This adjusted
                                             3.3                                      L                                           3.3
                                             3.0                                                                                  3.0    educational level is referred to as an
                                             2.5
                                             2.0-
                                                                                                                                  2.5
                                                                                                                                  2.0-
                                                                                                                                         individual’s instructional reading level.
                                                108- 112 116 120 124 128 132 136 140 144 148 152 156 160 164 168 172 176 180 182+        For example, an individual with an
                                                                                                                                         MAB IQ of 90 and 12 years of
                                                                                   Fry graph                                             schooling would have an instructional
                                                                                                                                         reading level of 10.8.

                                                                                                                                         How to Evaluate Readability of
                                                                                                                                         Training Materials
                                                                                                                                         A readability formula is a mathemati-
                                                                                                                                         cally obtained rating of the grade read-
                                                                                                                                         ing level of written materials. The Fry
                                                                                                                                         method is a widely used method to as-
                                                                                                                                         sess the readability of adult level text
                                                                                                                                         and is suitable for training materials.
                                                                                                                                             The Fry estimation method requires
                                                                                                                                         that the average number of syllables
                                                                                                                                         and the average number of sentences
                                                                                                                                         be determined for three 100-word




2
passages taken from a text selection.          rough measure of the compatibility       be acceptable. Similarly, if demonstra-
The Fry procedure involves the                 of the trainees and written training     tion and supervised practice
following steps:                               materials.                               re-enforce what is covered in written
                                                   If results of the MAB or another     materials, then some degree of incom-
1. Select three 100-word passages
                                               standardized verbal skills test are      patibility may be tolerable.
   from different parts of the material.
                                               available, then compare the MAB-
2. Count the number of sentences in            adjusted estimate of reading skills,     Guidelines for Improving the
   each 100-word passage, rounding             the instructional reading level, with    Readability of Text
   to the nearest tenth of a sentence.         the Fry Index of the materials.
   Average these three numbers.                Again, compute the percent of            Both physical attributes of text materi-
                                               trainees whose reading skill level       als and the composition of those ma-
3. Count the total number of syllables                                                  terials contribute to their readability.
                                               falls below the Fry Index.
   in each passage. Compute the                                                         The following guidelines offer ways to
   average number of syllables for the      • If the training program involves          improve readability.
   three passages.                            considerable self-study, it may be
                                              appropriate to adjust the instruc-        Physical attributes of text materials
4. Plot the word and syllable averages
                                              tional reading level. When the need       • Text lines of equal length (justifica-
   on the Fry graph, shown in the ac-
                                              arises for students to read materials       tion) have no demonstrable ben-
   companying figure, to determine
                                              independently, instructors typically        efit. Conventional, left-justified text
   the corresponding grade level for
                                              select reading materials that are at        reduces reading errors and may
   the document.
                                              least two years lower than the in-          assist in comprehension.
    If the three selections vary consid-      structional reading level. The result
erably in grade level, analyze addi-          is called the independent reading         • The use of headings and underlin-
tional 100-word sections until the            level. To compute the independent           ing to indicate central and impor-
variability is reduced.                       reading level of each trainee, simply       tant concepts can increase learner
    Jamestown Publishers, Lincoln-            subtract two years from the                 retention and reduce errors.
wood, IL, offers a copy of the graph in       trainee’s instructional reading level.
                                                                                        • Readers prefer double columns on
slide rule form.
                                            • Some adjustment to the Fry Index            a page.
                                              is possible. Statements of objectives
                                                                                        • Generous use of open space in page
Comparing Trainees’ Reading Skills            and self-study questions embedded
                                                                                          layout can aid comprehension.
with Readability of Materials                 in the training materials increase
                                              reading comprehension by focusing         • Variations in layout design, includ-
Depending upon the nature of the
                                              the reader’s attention. Subtract            ing text blocking and the use of
training program and the availability
                                              one-half year from the Fry Index            color, do not seem to hinder com-
of data on trainees’ reading skills, sev-
                                              for each of these features that are         prehension, although low text to
eral types of comparisons are possible.
                                              present in the text.                        background color contrast can
The following steps are recommended:
                                                  Once again compare the years            reduce reading accuracy.
• At a minimum, compute the per-              of schooling, instructional reading
                                              level and independent reading level       • Avoid use of all capitalization
  cent of trainees whose completed
                                              with the adjusted Fry Index.                (“Caps”) as this decreases text read-
  years of schooling is below the Fry
                                                                                          ability. Bolding, italics and under-
  Index. This analysis provides a
                                                The instructional designer must           lining can be used for emphasis.
                                            decide what level of incompatibility is
                                            acceptable. If resources are available to
                                            assist students whose reading skills fall
                                            below the level of the materials, then a
                                            higher degree of incompatibility may




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                                                                                        Composition of text materials
                                                                                        • The keys to reducing the reading
                                                                                          level of training materials involve
                                                                                          employing straightforward sen-
                                                                                          tence structure and using vocabu-
                                                                                          lary that is familiar to the reader.
                                                                                          (See Guidelines: Writing For Adults
                                                                                          With Limited Reading Skills by
                                                                                          Nancy Gaston and Patricia Daniels
                                                                                          on www.cyfernet.org/writeadult
                                                                                          .html.)
                                                                                        • Presentation of instructional objec-
                                                                                          tives at the start of each section
                                                                                          helps to improve comprehension.
                                                                                        • Self-study questions interspersed in
                                                                                          the text can focus reader attention
                                                                                          and influence comprehension.

                                                                                        References
                                                                                        D. Jackson, Multidimensional Aptitude
                                                                                        Battery Manual, Research Psycholo-
                                                                                        gists Press, Inc., 1984.
                                                                                        E. Fry, “A Readability Formula That
                                                                                        Saves Time,” Journal of Reading, 1968,
                                                                                        V11, 513-16, 575-78.
                                                                                        J. Gertler, S. Reinach and G. Kuehn,
                                                                                        Non-Accident Release of Hazmat from
                                                                                        Railroad Tank Cars: Training Issues,
                                                                                        FRA/ORD-99/05, July 1999.




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                                    For further information, contact:
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                                    William Schoonover at 202-493-6229
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