The first stage of developing an instructional action plan is to collect assessment information about the adults. This information is critical for the next stage of determining the best curriculum options(s) for the adult. Figure 2.1 shows the types of assessment information you will need to create a learner profile.
Placement tests are sometimes administered when an adult first enters a literacy program. They are used to determine skills and knowledge levels in areas such as reading, writing, and mathematics. The results of these tests provide general information about achievement. If a learner has been formally diagnosed as having a learning disability, it is likely that in addition to the assessment for learning disabilities, some placement testing has been included in the diagnostic process.
Because placement tests generally provide broad information about the skill levels and knowledge of the learner, additional diagnostic assessments may be necessary for planning instruction. A qualified professional frequently administers specific diagnostic tests. For example, if a placement test indicates that the learner has significant difficulty in math computations, a diagnostic test may be given to determine exactly what types of math computations are problematic for the individual. Diagnostic tests are used for making curriculum decisions, planning instruction, and profiling a learner’s strengths and literacy challenges.
Trial Teaching and Progress Tests
Many people in the field of learning disabilities believe that the best type of assessment for instruction involves trial teaching and frequent progress testing; that is, once an area of instruction has been targeted, systematic instruction begins, and learning and performance are evaluated as part of almost every practice session. These assessments are often informal and provide you and the learner feedback on how the learner is progressing. If the learner’s progress begins to plateau or decline, you need to seek a solution that will enhance progress.
Many informal sources of information can be used to help you decide what to teach. Sources include:
- your observations as the learner completes tasks (i.e., refusal or reluctance to complete some tasks, difficulty in concentrating on tasks, noticeable distraction by surrounding activity or noises, or increasing frustration demonstrated while completing tasks);
- work samples that the learner completes (i.e., marked differences in the level of achievement in some areas, erratic error patterns, or trouble following procedures);
- informal conversations with the learner in which the conversations have breaks as a result of misperceptions, limited vocabulary, inappropriate humor, or listening comprehension errors;
- observations about the learner’s work habits (i.e., difficulty following a sequence or organizing work to get started); and
- comments from other learners or significant others about the learner’s performance or work habits.
The learner is an important source of information. A variety of surveys and questionnaires can be used to probe the learner’s perceptions. The learner’s responses to the following questions will assist you in determining the learner’s preferences and needs:
- What prompted you to seek literacy assistance or become interested in our program?
- What problems are you currently experiencing in your life that you feel may be related to problems with reading or writing?
- How comfortable do you feel in social or public situations, interactions, and relationships?
- Are you always able to express your wishes and ideas with others as you would like to?
- What do you feel you need to learn to meet your needs and fulfill your goals?
- What specific types of learning problems and situations have you
encountered, and in what settings?
It is important to remember that test scores alone do not indicate what needs to be learned. You need to talk with the learner about his or her goals, learning abilities, and learning history, and provide an opportunity for the learner to volunteer information about any relevant disabilities. All of the findings associated with these discussions, together with those from test scores, then become a part of the information process as you plan specific goals or outcomes to share with the learner.
Incorporating Assessment Information
Delia is a 47-year-old woman who came to the Community Learning Center (CLC) to improve her reading and writing skills in order to advance in her work at the Green Thumb Nursery. Her intake interview and initial placement tests indicated that she needed to develop her skills in word attack, spelling, and recall. A vision and hearing screening ruled out any vision or hearing problems as a likely explanation for her difficulties in recognizing and applying word endings. After a few weeks of working together, the CLC staff got permission from Delia to screen her for a possible learning disability. Screening results indicated that Delia probably has a learning disability. In a discussion involving Delia and the staff, Delia decided that she did not need to continue with formal assessment to determine whether she had a learning disability. (Guidebook 2 describes the process the CLC staff followed to develop and implement an LD-appropriate assessment and screening process.) After the assessment information was collected by program staff and shared with Delia, she and Jan, her tutor, started their next session by reassessing her personal literacy goals in light of the new information. They worked together to list her goals, learning strengths and preferences, and which instructional adaptation seems to work best for her. Next, they listed skill, strategy, and knowledge areas for improvement.
Creating a Learner Profile
A learner profile is a summary of the adult’s current assessment information. It should include demographic, educational, and work information, as well as specific assessment information. An essential part of this report is the discussion of what the learner thinks are his or her strengths and literacy challenges (information that the adult realizes needs to be learned).
The learner profile is a summary report of the current situation. It will be used often as you and the learner work together to develop an instructional action plan. (For more information on creating a learner profile, refer to Guidebook 2: The Assessment Process.)
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