The purpose of any assessment needs to be clear to both the tutor and the learner. Tutors also need to have a method for recording assessments and for making decisions based on their assessments.
If you are not sure where to start, the resources that support the learning progressions provide guidance for assessing learners’ strengths and needs in literacy and language. They show how you can establish a learner profile that can then be used as the basis for teaching and learning. Specifically, see the “Knowing the learner” sections in:
- Teaching Adults to Read with Understanding: Using the Learning Progressions
- Teaching Adults to Write to Communicate: Using the Learning Progressions.
If you have already used these assessment tools and found that the Read with Understanding and Write to Communicate progressions do not adequately account for a learner’s initial level of development (that is, the learner is not yet able to work at the first step of some of the progressions), then consider the starting points in this resource. You will find further suggestions for assessment with each of these to help you make decisions about instruction.
These are brief suggestions only: they are not intended to be used as assessment tools but should supplement other methods of assessment.
For some learners, mastery of some of these skills (the precursors to reading and writing) may make them appear to be more proficient than they really are, masking their reading difficulties. For example, some adults with learning difficulties often make use of compensatory strategies that draw on long-term memory of letters, words and signs, and that are more apparent in familiar contexts4. It is important to investigate closely and with sensitivity if you feel a learner may be using this kind of approach.