Community Adult Literacy Benchmarks

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The Community Adult Literacy Benchmarks (CALB) help literacy practitioners in BC monitor adult learners’ progress in community-based adult literacy programs.

International researchers have developed a list of core competencies people need to be successful. BC’s Community Adult Literacy Benchmarks (CALB) are based on this research.

The benchmarks were developed to provide literacy instructors with a meaningful and sustainable approach to monitoring and assessing learner progress.

The benchmarks are intended as a guide to learning; they do not assume a standardized curriculum.

Community Adult Literacy Programs (CALP) funded through BC’s Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills are required to use the CALB to measure progress in their programs.

Community Adult Literacy Benchmarks

There are six domains, or categories, in the CALB:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Information Technology
  • Math
  • Oral Communication
  • Participation

Each domain is expressed as a matrix and divided into four levels with the cognitive processes, or competencies, expected at each level.

Core competencies involve cognitive and practical skills, creative abilities and other psychosocial resources such as attitudes, motivation and values – skills that support learning throughout life.

Click a domain below to learn how its matrix was developed and the cognitive processes involved. You can also download the related competencies and checklists for that domain.

The Reading matrix is based on the interactive model of reading developed by David E. Rumelhart in 1977. The model describes the way the brain processes and interprets language.

Readers use both word structure and background knowledge to interpret text. For example, a learner who encounters an unknown word might use letter-sound knowledge to decode the word. A different learner might find it easier to use meaning and vocabulary to decode the same unknown word.

Each learner makes connections in different ways. The interactive model of reading validates and supports both methods of understanding.

Cognitive processes:

  • Analyze
  • Interpret
  • Monitor

Competencies and Checklists:

Reading Competencies

Reading Competencies Compilation

Reading Checklist

The Writing matrix is based on the cognitive process theory of Flower and Hayes. The theory states that the writing process is made up of distinct thinking processes organized within a hierarchical structure. Any of these thinking processes may occur at any time in the composing process.

This is a departure from the stage model of writing (pre-writing, writing, revising, editing) which emphasizes the growth of the written product, rather than the writer.

Cognitive processes:

  • Attend
  • Compose
  • Monitor

 Competencies and Checklists:

Writing Competencies

Writing Competencies Compilation

Writing Checklist

The Information Technology matrix was updated in 2013 to reflect IT developments since the original benchmarks were created in 2007. The matrix shows levels of competency for a variety of digital devices.

Cognitive processes:

  • Communicate
  • Generate
  • Find Information
  • Monitor

Competencies and Checklists:

Information Technology Competencies

Information Technology Competencies Compilation

Information Technology Checklists

The Math matrix is based on the mathematical reform initiative by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and adopted by the developers of the Western Canada Protocol/Alberta Program of studies in 1962.

The matrix outlines key themes in math: statistics and probability, shape and space, patterns and relations, numbers and the skills associated with each.

Many educators view math as part of the suite of communication domains, contending that math means communicating with numbers and using math to communicate with society.

Cognitive processes:

  • Number Sense
  • Patterns and Relations
  • Space and Shape
  • Statistics and Probability

Competencies and Checklists:

Math Competencies

Math Competencies Compilation

Math Checklists

The Oral Communication matrix is intended for English-speaking learners. The Canadian Language Benchmark system is designed for use with English as an additional language learners.

Cognitive processes:

  • Comprehend
  • Generate
  • Interact
  • Monitor

Competencies and Checklists:

Oral Communication Competencies

Oral Communication Competencies Compilation

Oral Communication Checklists

The Participation matrix includes two of the three broad categories of key competencies (interact in diverse groups and act alone) identified by the DeSeCo Project (Organization for Economic Co-operation, Definition and Selection of Key Competencies, Executive Summary 4).

These categories include the ability to relate well with others, to cooperate, and to form and conduct life plans and personal projects.

Cognitive processes:

  • Set Goals
  • Organize
  • Problem Solve
  • Reflect
  • Engagement

Competencies and Checklists:

Participation Competencies

Participation Competencies Compilation

Participation Checklists

The benchmark crosswalk document helps compare the CALB levels to the Canadian Language Benchmarks and to the Essential Skills, Adult Basic Education and K-12 measurement systems.

Adult Literacy Benchmark Crosswalk 

Core, or key, competencies involve using cognitive and practical skills, creative abilities and other psychosocial resources such as attitudes, motivation and values. These core competencies  support learning throughout life.

At the centre of the framework of key competencies is the ability of individuals to think for themselves as an expression of moral and intellectual maturity and to take responsibility for their learning and for their actions. – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Definition and Selection of Key Competencies, Executive Summary 8

Cognitive processes help us to read, write, listen, speak and use math. They are the operations within the brain system – such as attending, reasoning and monitoring – that underlie each essential competency. Cognitive processes are usually inter-related.

The cognitive process model, first introduced by Edmund Huey, emphasizes the development of the person and has been widely accepted among academics and practitioners for the past 30 years.

For more information about the Community Adult Literacy Benchmarks contact