Assessment frameworks are developed to identify what should be assessed and how it should be assessed. Thus, the PIRLS framework defines reading literacy, describes the purposes for reading and the processes for comprehension that are assessed by the paper-based PIRLS test materials and the computer-based ePIRLS materials.
PIRLS defines reading literacy as “the ability to understand and use those written language forms required by society and/or valued by the individual. Readers can construct meaning from texts in a variety of forms. They read to learn, to participate in communities of readers in school and everyday life, and for enjoyment.”
Reading purposes relate to why pupils read – usually to acquire information or for literary experience. Therefore, half of the PIRLS test content is based on literary-type texts and half on informational-type texts.
Processes of comprehension relate to how readers construct meaning from what they read. The PIRLS framework outlines four main processes:
- Focus on and retrieve explicitly stated information.
- Make straightforward inferences.
- Interpret and integrate ideas and information.
- Evaluate and critique content and textual elements.
Each of the four processes is assessed by a number of questions in the test booklets.
In addition to the paper-based assessment, ePIRLS is a computer-based assessment focusing on the informational reading purpose and designed to assess pupils’ ability to use the Internet in a school context. It requires all of the reading comprehension skills and strategies assessed by PIRLS, but in a different environment containing much more information. Looking for and learning information from the Internet involves comprehension of information arranged within a complex non-linear reading environment. Online readers create their own path through a network of texts.
ePIRLS assesses pupils’ skills using a simulated Internet environment.
The PIRLS framework also establishes the national and home contexts to be covered in the PIRLS 2016 Encyclopedia, and outlines what should be included in the questionnaires to be completed by pupils, parents, teachers, and school principals. The full framework can be accessed here: http://timssandpirls.bc.edu/pirls2016/framework.html