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EDTEC 561, SDSU, Spring 2007  
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Reflection to 'Designing Instructional and Informational Text'
Chapter 34, Hartley, J. (2004). Handbook of research on educational communications and technology. Second edition.

In 34.5, the article discusses about expert-based measures, reader-based measures, and text-based measures. Expert-based measure is referred to the methods that use experts to make assessments. Reader-based measure is referred to the methods that use actual readers to make assessments of the text. Both measures are depended on people’s judgment. I am particularly interested in the text-based measures that include computer-based technologies as tools for evaluating text readability.

The first computer-based tool the article introduces is readability formula, a complex formula that can calculate to predict the age at which people would have the necessary reading skills and abilities to understand a particular text. According to the article, readability formulas typically combine average sentence length and average word length to predict the difficulty of text. Its output is an approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text. A sample readability formula (Flesch Reading Ease formula) looks like this:
RE = 206.835 – 0.846w – 1.015s       means readability =
Research Article #3

There are several other popular readability formulas available such as:

  • Gunning fog index is widely adopted by newspaper and periodicals.
  • SMOG is another popular readability formula. The author even provides free calculator in his web site.

My concern is when I worked for Chinese newspaper, the readability formula we used contained more factors than sentence length and word length. Readability formula for Chinese will calculate more factors such as proportion of words in Chinese basic word list and average number of stroke of characters (Tak Pang Lau, & King, I. 2006). The difference should be caused by different attributes in different characters.

During the past decade, web page readability has attracted greater attention. The International Reading Association has being conducting continuing research and has created a workable product, Live Link, now available for subscription or free trial. They have created different criteria for assessing the readability for online reading.

I think readability is not only important for teachers and writers of Children and adolescences but also a critical issue for people who are often required to communicate with their audiences in written form via paper or web pages.

Reference
Tak Pang Lau, & King, I. (2006). Bilingual Web Page and Site Readability Assessment. www2006. Retrieved from http://www2006.org/programme/files/xhtml/p34/pp034-lau/pp034-lau.html.