Teach Better Now – Where’s the new content for Assessment 5 of the NZCALNE on literacy and numeracy diagnostic?


Kia ora ano and welcome to the next exciting instalment

If you’re reading this it’s likely that you’re up to Assessment 5 in the new and improved NZCALNE (Voc). Well done you…!

Like the other content, it will be live on Pathways Awarua as soon as possible. But as always, you can find it on Graeme’s blog in the meantime.

If you do stop by the blog, make sure you leave a comment if you find something helpful. It’s a useful way of letting us know what’s working for you and what’s not. Your comments help us make the content better for everyone.

The new Assessment 5 has the best of what was in the old qualification as well as some new material. The focus is on diagnostic assessment and all the things that should be in place before you deliver your embedded literacy and numeracy teaching.

Here’s an overview of the four sections:

5.1 What are the tools and processes?

5.2 Just do it: Using diagnostic assessment?

5.3 What does it all mean?

5.4 Using learning plans

There’s a lot of content included in this Collection. And if you already know something or you’re already doing something that’s discussed, then feel free to skip ahead to the next relevant section. You can always come back to it later.

Also, we recommend that you download the assessment template early in the process. This is so that you know what the task involves. That way you can start working on the different sections as soon as you are ready.

What’s Assessment 5 all about?

The idea with this Collection and the assessment task is to make sure that you understand what assessment is and how you can use it in the context of adult literacy and numeracy education.

We need to make sure that you understand some of the different kinds of assessment, including diagnostic assessment. And you need to have a go at using some different tools and processes.

Once you’ve tried some of these different kinds of assessments with your learners, you’ll need to tells us what your results mean. And as part of that, we’ll also have a look at learning plans and how to use them for literacy and numeracy learning.

Follow the links below

Like we said before, it’s a good idea to start with the assessment template. You can always come back and dip into these resources as you need to. Email us if you don’t already have the template and checklist.

Otherwise, here’s the new and revised content for Assessment 5.

5.1 What are the tools and processes?

In this module, we look at the kinds of assessment tools and processes appropriate to your learners. This includes a look at different kinds of assessments including diagnostic. We also talk about how to how to create a more positive environment for assessing your learners.

A brief review of Collections 1 to 4 and an overview of Collection 5

What are our tools and processes?

How do I deal with learners’ stress and anxieties about assessment?

5.2 Just do it: Using diagnostic assessment?

This is where the rubber starts to hit the road. We’ll set you up for this, but you’ll need to conduct literacy and numeracy diagnostic assessment of your learners.

We’ll look at a range of different tools you can use and adapt. Chances are you’ll already know some of this. And you won’t need all of the examples. So just pick and choose the parts that are relevant to helping you complete the assessment.

Things you need to know

The Assessment Tool

Self Assessment

Developing your own contextualised literacy diagnostics

Examples of literacy diagnostic assessments

Developing your own contextualised numeracy assessments

Examples of numeracy diagnostics

5.3 What does it all mean?

In this module, we cover what you need to do to make sense of your learners’ literacy and numeracy diagnostic assessment results. This includes mapping your learners and working out any implications for teaching. You’ll also need to review some aspects of how you administered the assessments to your learners.

5.4 Using learning plans

You’ll learn how to write up learning plans showing goals, strengths, and needs.

If you’re stuck, please get in touch with us by email here: assess@alec.ac.nz or by texting or calling Graeme on 0800-ALEC-1-2

What does a literacy and numeracy-focused learning plan look like?


What does a good learning plan look like?

You’ll need to complete two learning plans for your NZCALNE (Voc). One for each of the two learners that you’re tracking through this project work.

Happily, we have an easy-to-use format for learning plans. And we’ve built this into the template for Assessment 5.

If you’re ready to write up the learning plans you can do this directly in the template for Assessment 5. If you’re not ready, you have a look at the format below. Or 5.4MASTERLearningPlanTemplate.

Individual Learning Plan



Class or group:  


Literacy Focus

What specific literacy goal did you set?

  • The main literacy goal is to …

Which specific literacy progression are you focusing on?

  • We’re targeting the following literacy progression:

How will they know when they’ve achieved the goal?

  • We’ll both know when we’ve achieved this because …

What strategies are you going to use? How are they going to achieve the goal?

  • One strategy that we will use is …
  • Another strategy we might try is …

What’s the timeframe for this?

  • We’re going to try and complete this by …

What changes do they need to make in order to succeed?

  • One change they will need to make is …
  • Another possible change is …

Numeracy Focus

What specific numeracy goal did you set?

  • The main literacy goal is to …

Which specific numeracy progression are you focusing on?

  • We’re targeting the following numeracy progression:

How will they know when they’ve achieved the goal?

  • We’ll both know when we’ve achieved this because …

What strategies are you going to use? How are they going to achieve the goal?

  • One strategy that we will use is …
  • Another strategy we might try is …

What’s the timeframe for this?

  • We’re going to try and complete this by …

What changes do they need to make in order to succeed?

  • One change they will need to make is …
  • Another possible change is …


BEFORE: How do you write learning plans with a focus on literacy and numeracy?


Good work… One final short module and we will have covered everything that you need for Collection 5.

The last thing here is how to write learning plans that focus on literacy and numeracy. Specifically, we want you to use the data that you’re getting from your diagnostic assessments and use it in a constructive way.

Here’s what you need to do next:

  • Write up learning plans showing learner goals, strengths, and needs.
  • Discuss these with your learners as appropriate

You may already have learning plans in place for your learners that focus on the unit standards that they need to achieve or other milestones in your programme.

What we’re after now relates to the next steps for your learners in terms of their literacy and numeracy development.

Why do I have to make learning plans for my learners?

We think that it’s important to do something sensible with the rich information that you’re now getting from the diagnostic questions that you ask. One simple action here is to create literacy and numeracy-focused learning plans for your learners.

You may already have learning plans in place for your learners. If that’s the case, you might want to just add the relevant literacy and numeracy step that your learners need to focus on.

Using learning plans are good practice for any kind of teaching. Here are some guidelines for developing learning plans. You should

Do it together

Develop and negotiate them together with your learners if you can. Not all learners will have the capacity to think about their learning. But it’s a goal you should be working towards.

Set specific goals

These goals need to be SMART. This means that the goals need to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic; and have a sensible
  • Timeframe

Be explicit

We need you to be explicit about which particular progression (or progressions) you are focusing on. For example, “We’re targeting the vocabulary and reading comprehension progressions”.

Begin with the end in mind

Your learner needs to know when they’ve achieved the goal. If it’s too broad they’ll never achieve it. Likewise, if they can’t see a clear end or some way of knowing that they’ve achieved the goal they will lose motivation.

Describe the strategies you’ll use

You need strategies in place if you want to see real gains. You’ve had plenty of time to think about how you’re going to work on this. Say what the strategies are that you intend to use.

Set a clear time frame

This is part of SMART goal setting. Your goals should be specific enough that they are achievable within a relatively short timeframe. For example, three months or less.

The more pushed for time you are, the narrower, and more specific you should be about everything.

Identify changes needed

The specific gains that you want are not going to happen in the timeframe you’ve set without effort. Learning can be fun, but it does require effort from your learner. Identify the changes that your learner will need to make if they want to achieve the goal.

If you think back to the idea that our definitions for literacy and numeracy include observable behaviours then you can highlight some of the behaviours that you expect to see.

How to learn anything part 2: What you need is an operating system for learning…


I started my riff on How to Learn Anything in another post which you can read here.

Basically, what I’m suggesting is that you don’t need to be smart to learn new stuff. What you need is a combination of grit plus a toolbox of tools to help you learn.

A reliable system, in other words, is all you need to learn anything. And this system is not any kind of secret knowledge. It’s in plain view and the tools are accessible to anyone.

But what you might need is someone to help you put all the pieces together. To show you what the tools are that you need in your tool box.

So the next question is… what would this system look like? Here’s the answer:

In broad terms, it’s an operating system for learning. There are specific tools to use at each stage, but as an overview your operating system for learning looks something like this:

  1. Seek to understand context and connections: Try to work out, investigate, and understand the context for what you want to learn. And look for connections within this context between chunks of content as well as outside to other areas, particularly areas that seem – on the surface – to have no relationship to what you’re trying to learn. This is ongoing. It’s not just something you do once.
  2. Work out what you don’t know: This can be difficult. After all, how do you know what you don’t know, right? However, start with the big picture, your broad goals, or  desired skills and then break it down from there. Deconstruct where you want to be – the intended outcome or state – into smaller and smaller chunks. And you have to break this down into specific kinds of learning. e.g. practical skills, vocabulary, being able to read and understand the source material.
  3. Work out where you are now: In order to move forward you need to have a sense of where you are now in relation to where you want to be. You need a way of knowing how much you know about your new learning goal as well a how competent or proficient you are. This might be easier particularly if you’re starting something new from scratch.
  4. Work out what the next steps are: What you want is a sequence of highly focused next steps to take you to your goal. You want to be able to target each of these next steps in your development with the precision and focus of a crack shot military sniper. And in these next steps you need to know what to do. Here you are going to need strategies for learning skills, reading complicated materials, dealing with new language and more.
  5. Have ways of measuring your progress: This is critical. How will you know that you’ve made progress or arrived at your goal? You need clear ways of measuring your progress that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound).
  6. Have ways of measuring your effectiveness: What we’re talking about here is you reflecting critically on what you’re doing and figuring out what has worked and what you need to do differently to keep moving forward.

Next we’ll need to know what some of the practical tools are that you can use at each stage.

Paulo Coelho

Txting lrnrs: Using ALEC’s new SMART phone

hd-android-gingerbread-widescreen-380322Ok, so i bought an android phone… I’m pretty much a staunch apple iphone user and I’ve had pretty much every version of the iPhone since it was released. Mostly it’s been a great experience, but I’ve had some issues with my iPhone 5 recently including battery and lightening dock connector failure. Hopefully, these will get resolved when I upgrade to the iPhone 5S at some stage.

However, I want to write about my new Android phone. Hopefully, I’ve done something clever here… although the jury is still out on that.

In Taupo, we run a local community education programme. It’s funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) with a focus on literacy and numeracy including digital literacy. Our learners come from all walks of life but they are often unemployed or underemployed and many come from the kinds of groups that are over represented in the statistics for low adult literacy and numeracy skills.

And they have issues as well. One of these issues is around technology and using computers. But most of them have a mobile phone of some kind. And what we’ve found is that we can communicate with them by txt messages much more effectively than by almost any other means.

These local learners are sometimes hard to track down. They have to commit to roughly 100 hours of learning with us. But the reality is that we’re dealing with people who find it hard to commit to sometimes just a few hours of anything. This means they often drop in and out of contact with us for every reason you can think of.

They don’t like answering their landlines (if they have them), and often they won’t answer their mobile phones either. If we leave messages, they won’t check them or don’t respond. But… they will often respond to txt messages if we communicate directly with them.

Txt messages are non threatening from their point of view and they can choose to respond in their own time and take some time over their reply if they need to. We like txting as a medium because it’s encouraging our learners to use a written form of communication. We know all the arguments around using txt language, but we still think it’s great. It’s about communication and getting a message across from one party to another. It encourages great communication, so we’ve been using it.

We’ve had some issues though. One is that we often send txt messages from our personal phones. Most of the time this is not a problem. However, we are conscious of how things could go awry and the current legislative changes around cyber bullying (among other issues) have meant we’ve put some thought into how to best leverage this technology moving forward. It’s not perfect, but we’ve been working on it.

So I bought an Android phone to replace our work phone. I had a whole list of demands for my ideal solution. The list went something like this:

  1. I want to dump our land phone and line charge but keep the landline phone number which should divert to the new phone and I want to retain our land line broadband.
  2. I want multiple staff members to be able to send and receive txt messages through one account – the same account – and I want to be able to do this both from the handset of the phone, but more usefully from inside the browsers of our computers.
  3. I want to assign a new 0800 number to the landline which, like the old land number will divert to the new handset.

It seemed like too much to hope for. It’s impossible to do this in the Apple ecosystem at the moment from what I can make out. Apple has iMessage, but this of course only works on apple phones. You can also use Viber, but then you need a phone with Viber installed. Many of our learners have the cheapest phones you can buy and will never own an expensive iPhone.

After a very quick conversation with John, my computer guru, I worked out that I could do what I wanted on an Android phone, and even better I had a list of phones to work with as well as a recommendation for the right software product to make the computer to SMS function work.

Here’s what the shortlist looked like:

  • Has to be a phone with Android 4.0 or higher on board.
  • Needs to be one of the following phones: Sony Xperia, Motorola Droid and Samsung Galaxy. Actually, the Nexus was first on the list but not available in NZ.
  • Try Mightytext for web-based computer to SMS texting.

I went with the Samsung Galaxy 4 in the end mainly because I liked the look of it and had seen it around the most. My first experience with the phone wasn’t great. I couldn’t even figure out how to turn it on or where to insert the sim chip… I’m pretty good at making my iPhone work for me but I was a totally Android virgin and needed some help.

Also, I messed up the set up process. We run everything out of Google Apps and I made the mistake of setting up the phone using my own account. This meant that even if I switched it off, my personal emails were exposed on the phone. This was a security risk, so I uninstalled everything, and then set up the phone again using a generic gmail account that none of us used for anything.

This meant that no one’s personal details were exposed via the handset. This was a high priority for me as one of my main motivations for setting all this up was to create a situation where all of our staff could access the same text messages for the same account for cyber-safety and other reasons.

To make it work we now have two browsers open when we’re working. In one browser, usually Chrome, we stay logged in to our personal Google Apps accounts, and in another browser (either Explorer or Safari depending on who it is and what computer they’re on) we stay logged in to the generic gmail account we’re using for the phone.

I ditched the 0800 idea as it was going to be too expensive for what we needed, and with some help from my local telecom business rep, we diverted the landline number to the new mobile handset. This took 2 days to happen, but it’s working now.

I also found that I had to keep my landline phone charge as it was bundled with the broadband. I also had to sign up to a new mobile phone account. I didn’t mind that but I had been hoping to dump the land line charges.

Then I signed up for a MightyText account linked to the generic gmail account from my computer and a staff member loaded in a bunch of student contact details from her computer. These synched with the handset and we were in business. I could watch the gmail contacts populating the MightyText account on my computer while my colleague loaded them in from hers. Pretty cool…

It’s taken a week to get things working, but we can now all log in to the same MightText account from different computers and browsers and all use the same account to text our learners.

I’m also feeling rather affectionate towards the Samsung. This is usually followed by a moment of guilt where I feel that I’m cheating on my iPhone.

The MightyText application is now tracking all of the txt conversations. It’s still early days, but it’s working pretty well. I don’t tend to send a lot of txts to this group of learners  myself, but I can log in and monitor them. If I needed to I could print or save the dialogues which are currently stored for 90 days. Hopefully, I’ll never have to go down this path. But we’re set up for it if a situation arose where we needed to.

It also means that we can change the kind of conversation we have with our learners at induction. That discussion might sound something like this moving forward:

“Yes, we can txt each other. We’d like to encourage you to txt us and stay in contact. Just be aware that any of us can read your messages and reply. Your messages come to all of our computers so we’re all up to speed about the electronic conversations that we’re having via txt messages”.

I think this adds a measure of safety for staff and learners, and I think it’s a clever business application at a reasonably low cost.

Will I convert to Android for myself? Not sure, but I’m picking up the orange cover for the Samsung on Friday, and I’ve already thought of a name for the phone. I’m going to call it the SMART phone. Perfect for ALEC…

ALEC guiding principles

Let’s have a look at two particular principles that underpin ALEC’s approach to professional development and training. Hopefully, they are principles that you can adopt as your own. We think they really set the scene for the work that we’re about to do.

Maori LN images 014.004Here’s the first one. It’s a Māori proverb or whakatauki. One of our graduates, an experienced Māori educator, suggested this to me awhile ago when we were preparing to present a workshop at a conference.

  • Mā te huruhuru te manu ka rere

We were supposed to be discussing ways in which tutors could use approaches and methods from traditional Māori approaches to teaching and learning. The proverb stuck in my head and helped me rethink what I actually did as a trainer.

There are several ways of translating it, but here are two that we’ve used in English to help with our own understanding of what we do and what this training is about.

  • With feathers, a bird can fly.
  • With the right support and resources, the right skills and strategies, you will succeed.

The first is a kind of literal translation. The second is a more dynamic translation. Both speak about trainers and training, and together they work on a couple of different levels.

On one level, you’re the bird. In fact, we’re all the bird. In seeking out professional or personal development we are acknowledging that we need feathers… We need the skills and strategies in order to succeed at our jobs.

On another level, if you are involved in training others yourself, or you have staff that do training, then your learners are also the bird. Often those we teach and train have been battered by the winds and storms of life, and are in need of a place of calm and rest. Your training might be that place of restoration and growth. Or at least it should be. Have a think about it.

Here’s the second one. This has been another guiding principle for us for many years:


We love training that’s SMART, just about as much as we love word games and puns. But each of these letters stands for something… Perhaps you’ve seen this before somewhere else? If you have, you’ll know that good teaching and learning is always SMART. In other words:

  • Specific, Measurable, Achieveable, Realistic, and Timebound.

This idea of SMART training is really important for embedding literacy and numeracy. The SMART acronym often pops up in connection with goal setting. And goal setting is something that you’ll need to do at various points in your training with us.

This could be in relation to the learning goals that you negotiate with your learners once you have determined their starting point. Or, it could be in relation to the specific learning outcomes that you will formulate to ensure that your teaching is highly focused on addressing the learning gaps of your learners.

Designing purposeful learning that solves problems for people and organizations is among some of the most fulfilling work you can do. Not only is it fulfilling for you as the trainer or teacher, but we know from our experiences that it can be transformative, both for you and for those you work with.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments…