Laying the Groundwork
The Alberta Reading Benchmarks (ARB) project began in January 2010 when members of the various literacy and adult learning organizations in Alberta, along with relevant government departments, came together to form an advisory committee on adult literacy in the province.
The ARB Advisory Committee depended on the expertise of leaders in teaching, learning, and assessment in adult reading to guide the development of the ARB. This highly consultative approach shaped the nature and direction of the ARB. It began with research and consultations, including:
- a comprehensive survey of adult literacy benchmarks from Canada, and examples from other countries, to help with the initial drafts of the ARB.
See Approaches to Benchmarks Frameworks for Adult Literacy Programming by Mary Norton;
- an extensive round of consultations with community literacy, family literacy, Aboriginal literacy, and college basic-education programs to inform the development of the Alberta Reading Benchmarks.
See Reading Benchmarks Support Resources Consultation by Pamela Crosby; and
- an extensive consultation with community-based Aboriginal literacy programs in both urban and rural areas of Alberta that puts forward a set of “wise practices” for literacy instruction and using benchmarks for Aboriginal learners. See Aboriginal Adult Reading Literacy Benchmarks Consultation by Monica Kreiner;
Creating Practical Tools and Resources
Once the benchmarks were complete, we developed ARB-aligned teaching resources that support practitioners in using the benchmarks. Work was done to develop a methodology for practitioners to use in aligning their own reading materials with the ARB levels and to create a guide of teaching strategies specifically for teaching Indigenous learners but which has broad application to all adult learners.
- Referencing Materials to the Alberta Reading Benchmarks by Lorene Anderson and Shelley Goulet — This is a “how to” guide for aligning reading materials to the ARB.
- Sharing the Journey with Adult Indigenous Learners: A Teaching Reading Strategies Guide by Patricia Pryce — This guide is a teaching companion to the ARB which offers suggestions for teaching/learning activities to help Indigenous adult learners improve their English reading skills.
Read Forward, an informal reading assessment tool, had previously been developed using the same framework as the ARB. Each of the Read Forward assessments aligns with the ARB levels.
- Read Forward: A Series of Easy-To-Use Adult Reading Tests Referenced to the International Adult Literacy Survey
Making the ARB Accessible to Practitioners in the Field
With such diverse program delivery models in Alberta’s foundational learning system, the committee was sensitive about how to approach implementing the benchmarks. The intent was to support and strengthen the current resources, tools, curricula, and assessments that programs already use, not replace them. To determine how the benchmarks could be implemented in literacy programs, eleven literacy practitioners from seven sites participated in a nine-month pilot to identify meaningful applications of the benchmarks in adult literacy programs, family literacy programs, community learning programs, Aboriginal colleges, and community colleges. Following the pilot, an evaluation was conducted to pinpoint the key findings of the pilot and make recommendations.
- ARB Pilot Evaluation Report by Marina Niks and Joy Page
Drawing on the expertise of the pilot practitioners and the findings of the ARB Pilot Evaluation, the ARB underwent a revision and work began on developing an on-line training tool that is accessible to practitioners from across the province.
Practitioners from across Alberta now have access to the materials, instructional videos, and teaching resources on the Alberta Reading Benchmarks website.