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Using PIAAC data to learn more about the literacy practices of adults

The present article connects a secondary analysis of quantitative data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) with the theoretical approach of ‘literacy practices’ and related research results from the so-called New Literacy Studies (NLS) tradition, which follows a cultural practices paradigm. According to the literacy as social practice approach, the analysis of adults’ literacy and numeracy practices could provide relevant policy information about how to address target groups in adult literacy and basic education. Thus, a Latent Class Analysis was carried out with the German PIAAC dataset in order to differentiate the adult population by their uses of literacy, numeracy and ICT. As a result of this procedure, three subgroups of adults can be distinguished by the frequency in which they use selected skill-related activities. Surprisingly, an adult’s individual literacy level does not clearly predict group membership. A further interesting result is that participants in one of the groups seem to compensate for the few chances they have to use their skills at work by using them more often in their everyday life. Both results contribute to the need to draw a more differentiated picture of adults with lower literacy skills.