Statements of Best Practice

for Learner Assessment 

The program employs a full spectrum assessment continuum (including placement, ongoing formative feedback/evaluation, summative assessment, and high-stakes assessment) that is fair, valid, and useful to all participants.
52. There are processes in place to ensure the learner’s appropriate placement in the program.
  • Input from learner assessment is used for placement, including assessment of each of the following:
    • The learners’ needs and goals (as individuals, and as members of families, communities, and workplaces).
    • The learners’ proficiency levels in listening, speaking, reading, writing, as determined by, for instance:
      • In-house assessments
      • CLB assessments from assessment centres, such as Calgary Language Assessment and Referral (CLARC) and the Language Assessment, Referral, & Counselling Centre (LARCC) in Edmonton
      • Other language assessment tests (e.g., IELTS, TOEFL, CELBAN)
      • Recommendations from instructors based on a sufficient number of (PBLA)
    • Other needs that may require accommodations (e.g., interrupted formal education; literacy challenges; disabilities related to mobility, vision, hearing, learning, mental health, etc.)
  • There is a process in place for addressing the inappropriate placement of a learner.
  • Specified policies/assessment procedures are in place for determining a learner’s readiness to progress to a new level.
  • Results of assessment/placement activities are communicated and explained to learners as follows:
    • In a timely fashion
    • In language that learners can understand (including first language support when necessary)
  • There is recognition of, assessment of, and provision for diverse learning needs (e.g., literacy, learning disabilities, attention difficulties, anxiety, prior experiences of trauma, vision/hearing/mobility). (See Best Practices for EAL Literacy and Supporting Learners with Diverse Learning Needs)
  • Learners whose needs cannot be met by the program are provided with advice and recommendations regarding other educational options.
53. Ongoing formative evaluation and feedback are meaningful and actionable; they provide opportunities for reflection, are integrated into the teaching/learning process, and inform class direction.
  • Learning objectives, goals, and outcomes (and criteria) of tasks and classroom activities are discussed with learners.
  • Self-assessment and reflection strategies are developed to give learners control of their own learning, better understanding of their own skills, and a clearer focus on goals and objectives. Examples of self-assessment and reflection strategies may include the following:
    • The use of reflective pre- and post-skills checklists (e.g., the CLB Can Do Statements; Essential Skills Can Do statements; Can Do statements related to module tasks)
    • The use of collaborative learning portfolios, along with opportunities to organize, display, reflect on, and talk about their work
    • The use of self-evaluation tools such as rating scales, rubrics, and checklists
    • Comparison of speaking/writing with a model
    • Comparison of speaking/writing against criteria that will later be used for summative assessment, for example:
    • Reflecting on own performance using a self-assessment checklist with the same/similar criteria as the summative rubric
    • Providing peer feedback using a checklist with the same/similar criteria as a summative assessment tool
    • Using a checklist with criteria from a summative rubric to assess strong and/or weak models of a task
    • Opportunities to receive and reflect on feedback from peers (e.g., by posting writing/videos in forums)
    • Reflective/learning logs/journals
    • Automatically marked online learning activities, quizzes, and tests
    • Learning activities, quizzes, and tests with answer keys
  • Formative assessment tasks are accessible and appropriate to the language and literacy level of the learners.
    • See Profiles of Ability and Features of Communication for the different CLB levels in the : English as a Second Language for Adults.
    • See Conditions for Learning for the different ESL Literacy levels in ESL for Adult Literacy Learners (ALL).
  • Formative assessment and feedback prepares learners for success on summative assessments.
    • Formative assessment tasks are similar to summative assessment tasks in content, format, question types, and criteria assessed.
    • Learners receive formative feedback on criteria that are later assessed in summative assessments.
    • Online formative assessments are designed to promote learning, with multiple attempts allowed (e.g., for automatically marked quizzes/activities), the ability to view solutions, and explanatory feedback.
    • To prepare for higher-stakes online summative assessments, learners complete lower-stakes formative assessments using the same platform.
  • Evaluation and feedback is action-oriented (including recognition of the goal, evidence of strengths and gaps, and strategies for “closing the gap”) and is provided formally and informally, at regular, frequent intervals, in a variety of ways to appeal to different ways of learning. Examples include the following:
    • Corrective feedback to the entire class regarding an issue that poses difficulty to many in the class
    • Brief meetings with learners to discuss progress, goals, and recommendations for action
    • Conferences to review portfolio artefacts
    • Individual consultations on initial drafts with opportunities to negotiate feedback
    • The use of rubrics to provide feedback on strengths and gaps in performance of language tasks (completed by peers or instructor)
    • Feedback on performance on weekly quizzes and tests
    • Action-oriented feedback on homework, in-class work, presentations, group work, role-plays, discussions, etc.
    • Specific, detailed written corrective feedback (e.g., using symbols to identify errors; providing correct forms)
    • Global feedback on categories of error (e.g., “There are 6 run-on sentences in this paragraphs. See if you can find and fix them.”)
    • Screencast feedback (e.g., on writing and videoed spoken tasks)
    • Ongoing multimodal feedback during online synchronous classes (e.g., providing both spoken feedback and feedback in the chat bar)
  • Feedback and evaluation are of value to the learners. They meet the following criteria:
    • They are timely.
    • They are in language that learners can understand.
    • They are action-oriented, focused on what the learner can do to improve.
    • They include opportunities for feedback to result in revision, correction, and improvement (i.e., the opportunity to “do it again”).
    • They inform the direction, pace, and content of the class.
  • Where is implemented, instructors and learners are familiar with PBLA, have access to PBLA resources, are allotted time for portfolio management and ongoing reflection, and use portfolios to reflect, set goals, and make plans for learning. (See Best Practice #36 in Best Practices for CLB and PBLA)
  • The program recognizes the time required for assessment and allows instructors time for learner conferences, portfolio reviews, exit interviews, test development, etc.
54. Appropriate summative assessment is meaningful, based on multiple measures, and clearly linked to both the outcomes specified in the curriculum and to class content/activities. Learners know how they will be assessed.
  • Summative assessment is linked directly to the goals and outcomes specified by the curriculum.
  • Course requirements, assignment weightings, and grading policies (e.g., consequences of late submissions) are clearly stated in the course outline, and are explained to learners verbally and/or in the Welcome/Start Here materials in online courses.
  • Learners are informed of deadlines and time restrictions for assignments, quizzes, and tests.
  • Criteria/expectations for success are made clear to learners prior to assessment, in a selection of the following ways:
    • The learning goals and outcomes of tasks and classroom activities are discussed with learners.
    • Expectations and criteria for success on assignments are communicated to (or developed in cooperation with) learners.
    • Learners become familiar with the assessment criteria and assessment tools (e.g., rubrics, rating scales, checklists) by using them for self- and peer-evaluation.
    • Learners view and analyze models/exemplars of tasks that meet (or do not meet) assessment criteria.
    • Learners are involved in designing assessment strategies.
    • Learners are involved in selecting work to include in a portfolio.
  • Summative assessment is appropriate to the language and literacy level of the learners.
    • For descriptions of level-appropriate conditions tasks and texts for English language learners at different levels, see the Profiles of Ability and Features of Communication in the Canadian Language Benchmarks: English as a Second Language for Adults.
    • For descriptions of level-appropriate conditions for tasks and texts for ESL literacy learners at different levels, see Conditions for Learning in ESL for Adult Literacy Learners (ALL).
  • There is a transparent connection between what is done in class and the assessment that occurs:
    • The skills and tasks that are assessed are those that were taught, modelled, and practiced.
    • Assessment activities and tasks resemble the learning activities and tasks that learners engaged in during the class.
    • The language that is assessed is the language that was taught.
    • The themes and content of assessment tasks resemble the themes/content that learners explored during the class.
    • Assessment criteria that reflect what was taught and that were used for peer-/self-assessment are used to assess performance on language tasks.
    • The platform used for online summative assessments is similar to or the same as that used for practice tests/quizzes.
  • Summative assessment tools are clear and easy to follow and use.
    • Instructions are clear, complete, and in language that learners can understand (with first language support if relevant).
    • Tasks/texts/questions are formatted to be clear and easy to read.
    • Audios are sufficiently loud and clear.
    • The number of criteria on rubrics, checklists, and rating scales assessed at one time is small enough to ensure accurate observations.
    • Online assessments have been tried out (e.g., by an instructor, a colleague) to ensure that the questions are not confusing; higher-stakes assessments have been piloted.
  • Summative assessment is sensitive, inclusive, appropriate for adults, and neither culturally nor contextually biased; that is, features that would be unfamiliar, upsetting, offensive (e.g., sexist, stereotyping), or distressful to learners are avoided.
  • Summative assessment is meaningful:
    • There is a transparent connection between what is assessed and the present and future needs and goals of the learners.
    • As far as possible, assessment tasks are engaging and interesting.
  • Summative evaluation is based on multiple and varied measures of assessment, appealing to different learning styles, conducted over time.
  • Summative evaluation is outcome-based, focused on what learners can do.
  • Where PBLA is implemented, learners are aware of the purposes and processes of PBLA assessment; multiple assessment tasks (skill-using and PBLA tasks) provide ongoing feedback on learner progress throughout a course. (See Best Practice #36 in Best Practices for CLB and PBLA)
55(a). Expectations for academic integrity and behaviour during assessments are made very explicit.
  • It is recognized that learners come with widely varying educational experiences and may not have the same understandings as the teacher/program regarding what constitutes academic integrity/honesty, academic misconduct, cheating, group work, collaboration, etc.
  • Expectations regarding academic integrity are introduced, discussed, illustrated, and practiced in an ongoing fashion throughout the course and prior to higher-stakes assessments. For example:
    • When homework or classwork is assigned, clarity is provided as to whether collaboration is expected or encouraged, and what constitutes appropriate collaboration.
    • Practice of test-taking conditions takes place in low-stakes settings (e.g., short quizzes) multiple times before higher-stakes summative assessments.
  • Expectations for behaviour during assessments are made very clear to the learners, as follows:
    • In language that learners can understand (with first language support as necessary)
    • Using multiple modes of communication: written on the test, written on the board, verbalized, and potentially illustrated with visuals for ESL literacy learners
  • Steps are taken to discourage academic misconduct and cheating, for example:
    • Ensuring that assessments are level-appropriate and represent what was learned and practiced in class
    • Spacing students appropriately
    • Having sufficient proctors
    • Using available LMS features to discourage cheating: randomizing answer/question order, using question pools, and varying question types (not just multiple choice)
55(b). The program ensures that assessment is fair and valid for its intended purposes.1
  • When using language proficiency tests to make decisions, the following guidelines are met:2
    • Program staff critically evaluate the test instruments used for decision-making purposes in the program.
    • The program employs tests that reflect current understanding of assessment and language.
    • The program avoids using tests that are based on outdated models of language and assessment.
    • The program employs tests in which stated purposes correspond to program needs.
    • In recognition that the stress and anxiety inherent in high-stakes test situations may have a negative impact on performance, the program avoids relying on a single score or inflexible cutting scores for decision-making purposes.
  • Facilities used for testing purposes are appropriate (e.g., well lit, spacious, quiet).
  • Equipment used for testing purposes is in good working order.
  • Test materials are secure and undamaged.
  • Testers are trained and follow protocol in administering and monitoring high-stakes tests.
  • In-house assessment tools are reliable, valid, piloted, and revised to ensure they are measuring what they are intended to measure.
  • The program supports/encourages collaboration among instructors of the same proficiency levels to ensure inter-rater reliability and validity of rating instruments.
  • The needs of learners with special needs (e.g., learning disabilities, literacy) are accommodated during proficiency, summative, and high-stakes testing, for instance, with extended time, distraction-reduced settings, first language support, assistive technologies, educational aides, etc.
56. Learner progress within the program is documented, and this information is presented in such a way as to be useful and recognized for transfer into training programs, the workplace, and post-secondary education.3
  • Instructors are informed of any program policies, procedures, or expectations regarding the following:
    • Frequency of assessment
    • Methods of assessment
    • Methods of recording and reporting results of assessment
    • Uses of assessment
  • Learners are informed of admittance requirements for relevant courses, training programs, the workplace, and post-secondary education within established programs and/or outside of their programs.
  • Learner progress and assessment results are documented and learners can track their progress throughout the term (e.g., in an online course gradebook).
  • Learner progress and assessment results are used as a basis for making decisions regarding movement within the program, and for referral to other language programs, training programs, and post-secondary education.
  • Where relevant, PBLA/CLB assessments are used to facilitate movement within the program, from program to program, and from program to workplace, within Alberta and Canada.
  • Learner assessment results and progress toward goals are communicated to relevant stakeholders (e.g., funders, administrators).

1 See TESOL (2003), Standard 6E.

2The guidelines are adapted from Ethical Guidelines for the Use of Language Proficiency Tests set by TESL Canada Federation. For the complete list of guidelines, see the TESL Canada website:

3 See TESOL (2003), Standard 6K.


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ATESL Best Practices for Adult EAL and LINC Programming in Alberta by Alberta Teachers of English as a Second Language (ATESL) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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