OALCF Assessment Strategies
The OALCF uses two assessment strategies – 1) Learner Gains and 2) Goal Completion. These strategies determine:
- if learners are increasing their skills, knowledge and behaviours
- if learners are making progress and moving towards and/or achieving their goals
- if LBS programs help learners improve targeted skills
At the time of writing this module, the first strategy – learner gains – and the tools to determine learner gains were in development.
The second strategy – goal completion – measures the learners’ success at achieving everything that was identified on their LBS learner plans.
Assessing Different Aspects of Literacy to Determine Goal Completion
To truly determine goal completion within the OALCF, assessment needs to look at more than just the skills attained by learners. Instead, OALCF assessment also explores how the acquired skills will be used to complete tasks at the learning centre, how the learner puts the skills into everyday practice and how the learning has changed lives. Therefore, we need to assess four aspects of literacy learning:
- skills development
- task performance
- social practice
Skills development is fundamental to literacy learning. Therefore, assessment of skills and skills development is important before, during and at the end of LBS training. Examples of skills may range from basic skills (such as recognizing words) to skills learners use at the end of an OALCF Task Group Level. Some of these skills can a be found in the OALCF Performance Descriptors. An example would be “Adds, subtracts, multiplies and divides whole numbers and decimals” in Task Group C1 Manage Money Level 1. However, significant research has shown that skills development out of context is rarely transferable to applications required for the learner’s goals and life. Assessing skill acquisition alone would not tell us if the learner could use the skills in other situations.
By assessing how learners use skills to complete tasks, we can consider how they would apply literacy learning for different purposes. The task puts the skills to work to complete an activity. Further to our C1.1 example for Skills Development, we might use “Calculate change from a purchase” as a task to be assessed.
Tasks used to assess performance should be relative to the individual learner’s life and goal path. This approach enables us to reflect how literacy learning will be useful and thereby have meaning to the learner. To assess task performance, LBS practitioners use task-based assessment tools and, where possible, authentic materials.
To look at literacy in social practice we assess how literacy and numeracy are used in the learners’ lives. What experiences have the learners had? How do learners use the skills they have acquired in their day-to-day activities? Is the literacy learning applicable to the learners’ lives and to society? Considering literacy practice involves implementing skills to complete integrated, multi-competency tasks. This type of assessment often includes learner reflection and may deal with how the learners’ feel about using or being able to use their literacy skills to complete tasks in their lives. It may involve how much they value their learning. To take our examples further, we might ask the learners if they were able to check their change when they are shopping. We might ask how it makes them feel, when they know that they are getting the right cash back.
From assessing learning as a practice, we move to considering learning as an agent of change. Here we assess how the learners and the learners’ lives have changed as a result of their learning. These changes can be individual, dealing with the learner’s educational attainment, employment or independence. The changes can also affect families and even communities. Assessment of change is usually done through interviews or other evaluation processes. “Change” assessment may start while learners are still enrolled in LBS programs, but more often will be experienced at exit or during follow-up evaluation. Our example might be that 6 months after leaving the LBS program, a learner reports getting a job which required counting out cash.
For more information on aspects of OALCF literacy learning see OALCF: Foundations of Assessment (www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/eopg/publications/OALCF_Foundations_of_Assessment_March_2011.pdf ) and OALCF: Selected Assessment Tools) (www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/eopg/publications/OALCF_Selected_Assessment_Tools_Mar_11.pdf).
- Think of real-life illustrations that could exhibit each of the four aspects of literacy learning:
- skills development
- task performance