Types of Assessment
There is no one “right way” to conduct an assessment; it
must be appropriate to the learners’ needs and goals. What is important,
however, is that the results of the assessment can be understood by the
literacy agency, by the learner, by the volunteer tutor and by agencies
involved in the student’s next step, if appropriate.
Literacy agencies across the province approach assessment in different
ways. In some areas, the Literacy Services Planning Committee has developed
an assessment tool that is used by most or all of the literacy agencies
in the community. Elsewhere, each individual literacy agency conducts
initial assessments using methods and tools they have gathered over the
In other places, there is a common assessment centre where all initial
assessments take place and learners are then referred to the most appropriate
delivery agency. An example of this is in the south end of Literacy Network
Northeast’s region (http://www.literacynet.ca/). Thanks to a Trillium
Grant, an assessment and referral centre has been established. It is staffed
25 hours per week; clients can be referred by agencies or simply come
in on their own. All clients complete an assessment tool developed by
the network’s member agencies, and all literacy agencies have agreed
that the results of this assessment reliably and validly reflect LBS literacy
levels. You can find out more about the assessment tool used for this
project by referring to The First Step
on the Network’s website.
Project READ Literacy Network in the Waterloo-Wellington region (http://www.projectread.ca)
provides an initial intake and referral assessment for literacy agencies
in its service area. Adults or other service agencies contact the network
and the assessor meets with the potential learner. The adult is then directed
to the agency that will best meet his or her needs, based on the assessment
conducted at the time of the interview. Project READ also developed a
common assessment protocol that includes an agreement that agencies will
respect the initial assessment done by other literacy programs and not
re-test adults unnecessarily. For more information, refer to their 2000
publication, Developing a Common Understanding of Assessment which is
available on loan from the AlphaPlus Centre (http://alphaplus.ca).
The two examples above represent some of the innovative work going on
in assessment across the province. Other networks and programs provide
a variety of assessment services designed to meet local needs.
Regardless of how the assessment is actually carried out, in general
there are three commonly used types of assessments:
The Canadian Adult Achievement Test (CAAT) and the Test of Workplace Essential Skills (TOWES) are examples of this type of assessment.
Standardized tests are always given and scored in the same way. Test
results for each learner are compared to the performance of a group that
has been declared the norm. Standardized assessments can be used to place
a learner in a particular program or class. This type of assessment is
useful in that it accurately places each learner in relation to the norm
but it doesn’t consider individual needs or goals. They can be used
for placement purposes (provided the student doesn’t have test-anxiety
issues), but they are not very helpful in trying to identify specific
Maurice Taylor has written an information sheet
about a variety of standardized tests; you can find it
on the National Adult Literacy Database (NALD) website.
Competency-based assessments seek to determine what a
learner knows and can do in specific contexts. Results
are then compared to criteria within a matrix or rubric.
This type of assessment is directly related to outcomes-based
learning and is frequently used in LBS agencies in Ontario.
The Common Assessment of Basics Skills (CABS) (https://www.lleo.ca/col/cabs_online.html)
is an example of a competency-based assessment. It was developed by Literacy
Link Eastern Ontario in the 1990s and has been revised regularly to reflect
changes in the literacy field.