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Survey Instruments -> Background Questionnaire

Of Special Note
Targeted questions were not unique to the 2003 NAAL background questionnaire. Although the 1992 background questionnaire was given using a hard copy (and not CAPI), interviewers were still trained to target questions based on responses to prior questions. However, in the 2003 assessment, the use of CAPI allowed for more complex targeting of questions while also simplifying the interviewer's job and decreasing human error.
Identifying adults with disabilities. The NAAL background questionnaire included questions on learning disability diagnosis, and difficulty in hearing or seeing, as well as health problems, impairments, or disabilities that hampered participation in work, school, and other activities. In addition, interviewers recorded reasons for noncompletion (i.e., why a participant did not complete the assessment). This type of information sheds light on understanding the relationship between literacy and disabilities.

The 2003 NAAL Background Questionnaire collected data on a variety of background categories, many of which obtained valuable information not collected in the 1992 survey. It served three purposes:

  • to provide descriptive data on respondents;
  • to enhance understanding of the factors that were associated with literacy skills used at home, at work, or in the community; and
  • to allow for the reporting of changes over time.

The questionnaire was orally administered to every participant by an interviewer who used a computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI) system. The questionnaire took about 28 minutes to complete.

Unlike the 1992 NALS in which the background questions were read aloud from a printed questionnaire, in 2003 interviewers read the questions from laptop computer screens and entered the responses directly into the computer. CAPI then selected the next question based on responses to prior questions. Because the questions were targeted, a respondent did not answer all of the background questions (i.e. inapplicable questions were skipped).

The State Assessment of Adult Literacy (SAAL) background questionnaire was the same as the one used in NAAL. However, a separate questionnaire was administered during the prison assessment in order to address issues of particular relevance to the prison population.

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