While there have been remarkable strides in assessment and accountability tools in recent years, the tools needed to understand the learning processes in adult literacy have not yet been created. There are some key ideas pointing the way, such as benchmarks, demonstrations, and individual learning plans, but they have not yet been built into an inclusive and reliable systematic approach.
It is becoming clearer what those tools might be. There is a need for an instrument to develop standardized system-wide data to represent unequivocally the contributions of the field. There is a need for diagnostic tools and sensitive approaches to progress measurement, and for a way to capture the broader outputs of adult literacy programs. There is also a requirement for these tools to deal with the diversity of learners in a sophisticated and informed way. Even though there is an emerging list of helpful instruments, the process of developing them will require commitment and resources.
One key development in each jurisdiction would be a means to demonstrate competence in relation to self-defined goals. If the idea of learner-centeredness is taken seriously then the goals of learning will vary substantially, and this creates a significant challenge for mapping onto some consistent method for recording progress. Radically learner-centred approaches can be vulnerable to criticism because accountability and assessment data ends up being a collection of eclectic and non-comparable achievement.
Yet demonstrations of competence are an effective way to create links between individualised learning and overarching program frameworks. Portfolios of demonstrations are strong evidence of learning, and have many applications. It would be helpful to have further development of demonstrations so that they can become more reliable as a key component in systematic approaches to accountability.