Learner-Centred Assessment Tips and Tools

Corrie Rhyasen Erdman, Community Learning Network

1 2 2 December 2015

Assessment is a word that can instill fear in the best of us – learner and practitioner alike. The truth is, assessment is simply a way of finding out what a learner knows so we can choose the next steps for learning and to measure what they have learned.

Assessment starts from the first moment we meet a learner and talk to them about why they have come to our program. In those first conversations we have with learners we are learning about their learning goals, their supports and limitations, and about the skills and knowledge they bring to the learning. This is all part of a learner assessment.

These conversations are a key part of making assessment a learner-centred process for foundational learners. It ensures that learners are partners in the learning process and not directed solely by an instructor. It informs learners about what they know and what they need to know. It gives them language and tools to assess their own learning – an important life-long learning skill.

There are multiple points in the learning process that learner assessment is used.

It takes place:

  • At the beginning of a program to clarify the goals of learning and set a baseline
  • Continues throughout the program to inform instruction and content
  • And is repeated at the end of the program to reflect on learner progress and
  • provide information for instructional and program modifications.

-Alberta Reading Benchmarks

Assessments can be done in many ways – from observation, asking reflective questions to learners, informal assessment activities, formal written assessments, surveys, to name only a few. When we conduct assessments to identify learner skills and gaps it is important to keep the most important partner in the learning informed – the learner. Learner-centred instruction and assessment is critical for supporting foundational learners who have barriers to learning. To keep learners at the centre of the assessment process here are some simple strategies:

  • Involve learners. Learners need to be part of the assessment process right from the beginning. Explain the purpose of the assessment as part of the learning process. For example, assessments can be used to help learners know what skills to work on and can be a baseline to measure their learning.
  • Share the results. Learners’ awareness of their own learning process plays a role in improving their skills. Having feedback from the assessment gives them an understanding of the skills they have competency in and the skills they need to work on.
  • Use language your learner understands. Giving learners language to talk about their learning is powerful. Make sure learners can understand the feedback from the assessment by framing it using language they can understand and use. It gives them the ability to be reflective about and discuss their own learning.
  • Focus on strengths. Learners come to the learning with skills, strategies and knowledge that they can build on to achieve their goal. Help them see their strengths and how they will help them.
  • Use assessment to inform learning. Assessment helps clearly define what skills need to be learned. Use the assessment as the basis to plan learning activities that build the skills and knowledge the learner needs.

There are many tools and strategies for assessing learning and there is no one “right one” for every learner in our CALP programs. If you are looking for some learner-centred resources and ready-made tools to get you started here are a couple suggestions:

Assessment in Community Learning settings:



English Language Learning (ESL):

If you know of other great resources, leave a comment and share your favourites.

Corrie Rhyasen Erdman
Regional Support Staff
West-Central Alberta


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