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Canadian Language Benchmarks CLB Assessments


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Title: Canadian Language Benchmarks CLB Assessments

Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) Assessments
  • Presented by
  • Elena Durette, Kerry Louw and Bonnie Nicholas
  • EDPY 593
  • March 3, 2008

L2 Assessment in Canada before the CLBA
I have a student who just moved from Ontario. He
was in an intermediate class there, but here hes
a high beginner.
At our school, if students know the past tense,
we put them in an intermediate class.
What are the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB)?
  • 1991 Immigration Canada report to Parliament
  • 1992 Consultation workshops
  • 1993 National Working Group on Language
  • 1995 Draft CLB document field-tested
  • 2000 CLB 2000 published
  • Ongoing CLB are used for Language Instruction
    for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classes, Stage I,
    Benchmarks 1 through 4
  • Stages II and III are used at higher levels

Schematic Structure of the Canadian Language
  • 12 benchmarks, divided into three proficiency

The benchmarks are . . .
  • a descriptive scale of communicative proficiency
  • a framework of reference
  • a national standard
  • competency-based
  • criterion-referenced
  • learner-centred
  • on a continuum
  • task-based
  • subjective
  • analytical

The competency-based approach
  • Focuses on what learners should be able to do
  • Is concerned with attainment of specific
  • criterion-referenced not norm-referenced
  • Was first adopted in vocationally-oriented
    education and later
  • accepted by policymakers and leaders in
    curriculum development as a state-of-the-art
    approach to ESL
  • A CLB competency statement contains a task and a
    number of of how well or standard statements
    (example of Writing Benchmark 3)
  • Task Write a short text about a personal or
    familiar situation.
  • Performance Indicators Conveys the message,
    reader can follow, uses appropriate language and
    content, describes time and location with
    precision, makes few errors in grammar,
    punctuation and spelling
  • Source Integrating CLB Assessment into your ESL
    Classroom (2005).

Development of the CLB Assessment Tools
  • 1995 Peel Board of Education (Ontario)
    contracted to develop assessment instruments
    (Pierce and Stewart)
  • 1996 CLBA kit developed
  • 1998 Federal funding for the CCLB
  • 1998 - present ongoing development of new
    assessment tools by CCLB
  • 2002 CLBPT developed
  • Now free online assessment PD offered from CCLB

CLB Tests and Assessment Tools for Adult ESL
CCLB Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks
Centre for Education and Training (CET)
CLBPT (Canadian Language Benchmarks Placement
CLB Classroom Assessment
CLBA (Canadian Language Benchmarks Assessment)
CLB Summative Assessment (SAM)
LPT (Literacy Placement Tool)
WLA (Workplace Language Assessment)
CLBLA (Canadian Language Benchmarks
Literacy Assessment)
CELBAN (Canadian English Language Benchmarks
Assessment for Nurses)
CanTEST Canadian Test of English for Scholars
and Trainees
CLB Assessment in Edmonton
LARCC (Language Assessment, Referral
and Counseling Centre) at Catholic Social Services
Pre-screening by intake workers
CLBA (non-LINC client higher stakes)
Less than 6 years of education in home country
More than 6 years of education in home country
Literacy Placement Tool LPT (LINC low-stakes)
CLB Placement Test CLBPT (LINC low-stakes)
Source Annette Kreider, Catholic Social Services
An example of the streaming process
CLBA was designed to be
  • Accountable to stakeholders
  • User-friendly (efficient, reliable,
  • CLB-compatible
  • Able to place learners on a continuum
  • Culturally accessible (not culture-free)
  • Sources Norton Pierce, B. Stewart, G. (1997).
    The Development of the Canadian Language
    Benchmarks Assessment. TESL Canada Journal, 14,
  • Norton, B. Stewart, G. (1999).
    Accountability in Language Assessment of Adult
    Immigrants in Canada. The Canadian Modern
    Language Review, 56, 2, 223-244

What is the CLBA?
  • a task-based assessment instrument
  • assesses English proficiency from Benchmark 1 to
    Benchmark 8
  • tests English Listening / Speaking through
    one-on-one interview
  • tests Reading by means of passage and response to
    short answer / multiple choice questions
  • tests Writing by means of authentic,
    life-applicable tasks
  • The CLBA is recognized by language and adult
    training providers cross Canada and has attracted
    international interest.
  • Source http//

  • CLBA materials
  • CLBA kit is task-based
  • Tests all four skills in three separate
  • Administered individually (writing component can
    be done in a group)
  • Can take up to 4 hours to complete
  • No cost to client at federally-funded centres

  • streamlined placement test maximum 80 min
  • can be administered in a group setting
  • used to place adult learners in ESL programs
  • 4 parallel versions
  • task-based
  • has been validated
  • to the CLBA scores

The CLBLA and the LPT
  • Assessment tools for literacy learners
  • Both measure the degree of literacy in the
    learner's first language, and are used to place
    clients in literacy classes
  • CLBLA is available in 26 languages

Original use of the CLBA
  • . . . there has never been any suggested purpose
    for the CLBA other than ESL classroom placement.
  • Source Stewart, G. Cohen, C. (2001). A
    response to a Critical Review of the CLBA.
    Contact, Spring 2001, p. 24

Current uses of the CLBA
  • The following are uses for the CLBA endorsed by
    the CCLB
  • to allow learners to understand their progress in
    learning ESL
  • As a proficiency test for
  • eligibility determination for language training
  • needs assessment,
  • referral to appropriate training
  • facilitating initial placement into programs or
  • development of programming to meet specific
    language skills needs
  • to provide teachers, program administrators and
    funders with a potential program effectiveness
    indicator (Note applicable only if the program
    has a CLB-based curriculum or curriculum
  • to provide assistance to employers in the
    development of appropriate training programs for
    their ESL learner employees
  • Source http//

Reliability and Validity Measures
  • The final (CLBA) tests are sufficiently
    reliable. . . In a low-stakes placement test,
    these findings were deemed satisfactory. If this
    had been a high-stakes, gatekeeping test for
    college entrance. . . We could not have been
  • Source Norton Pierce, B. Stewart, G. (1997).
    The Development of the Canadian Language
    Benchmarks Assessment. TESL Canada Journal, 14,

Assessing the CLB Assessment Tools
  • CLBA takes up to 4 hours and measures what a
    client can do
  • CLBPT takes less time and measures what a client
    cannot do well¹
  • CLBPT is not as reliable as the CLBA. It has
    not been sufficiently validated.²
  • CLBPT is validated to be reliable within 1
    benchmark 95 of the time but the study on the
    test is not a public document. ³
  • ¹http//
  • ²http//
  • ³private correspondence with Jennifer McKay,
    Project Manager, Assessment, CCLB

CLB Assessor Qualifications
  • Knowledge of second language acquisition
  • 300 hours ESL teaching experience and
  • ongoing PD and
  • formal training or professional portfolio
  • Experience in adult ESL assessment
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Interview skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Proficiency in English
  • Source http//

CLB Assessor Training
  • CLBA certification requires 5 days of intensive
    instruction, skill application and coaching
  • CLBLA (Literacy Assessment) requires CLBA
    certification, and is an additional 1.5 days of
  • CLBPT requires a one-day training workshop.
  • Cost 750 for a license and material for 1
    assessor 325 for each assessor

Summative Assessment Manual for Teachers (SAM) at
  • Measures student achievement only after exposure
    to thematical and functional instruction
  • For ESL teachers with adult learners in publicly
    funded programs (LINC and non-LINC)
  • Based on the CLB framework, standards and
  • Piloted for reliability, validity and
  • Easy to use and administer
  • Learner and context-sensitive
  • Photocopiable
  • NOT TO BE USED FOR literacy students, placement
    purposes or general proficiency testing, or for
    testing without prior instruction in the theme

SAM is not for
  • Students with literacy needs in their first
  • ESL learners who are literate in a non-Roman
    alphabet/script (i.e. Russian, Chinese, Arabic,
    Punjabi) who are in the early stages of applying
    their literacy skills to English
  • Administering SAM to literacy learners is not a
    fair assessment practice. They should be
    assessed separately with a literacy-oriented
  • p. 3

Key Concepts in SAM Assessment
  • Reliable designed to produce consistent results
    if all the teacher-assessors use the scoring
    criteria on the same tasks in the same way
  • Valid designed to measure what it claims to
    measure - the achievement of selected CLB
    standards demonstrated through familiar topics
    and discourse/text formats.

SAMs Security Considerations
  • Validity depends on the security of its formal
    (standardized) assessment tools.
  • All teachers must ensure the security.
  • Care must be taken that the test is not
    compromised by rote memorization.
  • Not to be viewed by unauthorized people
  • Should be stored in designated locked units
  • Integrity rests on a firm commitment of teachers
    to securely handling and disposing of task copies
    and to safe record-keeping.
  • (BUT . . . if you have 100, you can purchase a
    copy from the CCLB.)

Administering a formal SAM 5-task sequence
  • Task 1 Speak-Listen Student/teacher
    interview (7 8 minutes)
  • Task 2 Listen (15 minutes)
  • Task 3 Speak (2 3 minutes)
  • Task 4 Write (20 minutes)
  • Task 5 Read (20 minutes)
  • ______________
  • 65 minutes

You be the ESL test-taker
  • .

You be the ESL assessor. . .
  • .

SAM Reporting
  • Language Competency Report reports what the
    learner can do at Benchmark level and is issued
    at the students request for reference purposes
    outside of ESL programs.
  • Teacher Recommendations A form for office use
    to record the assessing teachers comments.

The greatest challenge using the CLB is assessment
  • It is important to me that what we do in the
    classroom is relevant and meaningful to learners.
    I dont want to teach to a test. How can I
    assess learners based on the kinds of activities
    we do in class on an everyday basis?
  • I teach in an academic bridging program that has
    begun to use the CLB. Weve always had end of
    semester tests that include reading, writing, and
    grammar. How can I develop ongoing assessment
    related to the CLB that is relevant to learners
    academic goals?
  • Ive just started teaching in a program that uses
    the CLB standards. This CLB document looks
    overwhelming. How will I know whether learners
    are achieving what is expected at Benchmark 2?
    Where do I start? (Integrating CLB

Integrating CLB Assessment into your ESL
Classroom (2005)
  • Helps teachers with assessment practices
  • Integrates teaching and learning activities into
    the classroom
  • Relates to the CLB standards (CLBPT and CLBA)
  • Meets program goals and the needs and interests
    of learners.
  • Formative assessment
  • - ongoing feedback about how learners are doing
  • - identifies what they need to work on
  • - assists teachers with planning activities
  • Summative assessment
  • - measures achievement of specific CLB outcomes

Assessment for Learning Principles
  • Clear outcomes and assessment criteria
  • How students learn along with what they learn
    is embedded in teaching
  • Emphasizes progress and achievement
  • Shared understanding of goals (CLB CanDO posters
    explain expectations)
  • Constructive guidance on how to improve
  • Self-assessment leads to self-management

Effective Assessment Practices Lead to
Significant Improvements in Learning
  • Sharing expectations and criteria with learners
  • Focusing on comments-only feedback
  • Encouraging self assessment
  • CLB Assessment improves learning and motivation.
  • Teachers become focused in giving feedback.

An Assessment Process Model
Planning for Learning and Assessment
Setting Up Tasks and Collecting Information
Using Information for Planning
Analyzing Information and giving Feedback
Back to Who uses the CLB 2000?
  • TESL professionals in educational institutions
  • Adult ESL learners are the primary intended
  • Learners become aware of the CLB mostly through
    their ESL instructors who share and interpret the
    main ideas and can help them achieve a CLB
  • ( CLB 2000 )

ESL schools use the CLB 2000 for teaching and
  • 12 levels of English listening, speaking, reading
    and writing.
  • Level 1 students have little or no English
  • Level 12 students are fluent speakers of English
  • Level 9 or above usually have enough English for
    university, college or professional
  • Post-secondary institutions and employers refer
    to CLB levels. 
  • The CLB tells what people can do in English in
    daily communication.
  • Can you answer questions about your name, address
    and phone number?
  • Can you fill out an application form or write a
  • Can you listen to a news report on the radio?
  • Can you write a report for your boss?
  • The CLB summary checklists at each level help
    ESL learners mark language-learning progress and
    articulate goals.

CLB Resources for the Teacher
  • The CLB framework helps teachers plan units of
    work that support learners to develop their
    communicative language skills through real world
    tasks and activities.
  • Classroom teaching resources referenced to the
  • CLB 2000 A Guide to Implementation (2001)
  • CLB 2000 Additional Sample Task Ideas (2002)
  • LINC Classroom Activities Books 1 4 NorQuest
  • Canadian Snapshots Level 3 and 6 Longman
  • CLB 2000 ESL for Literacy Learners (2001)
  • CLB publications and resources

CLB / CLB Assessments IPros Cons
  • teaching to the test
  • restricts the language learning to functional
  • teachers lack training and power to administer
  • There are no objective means for deciding that
    one functional item is more complex than another
  • many LINC classes have non-literate in L1 as L2
  • CBLT supports our social order and need for a
    working class is designed to teach compliance
  • Has become high-stakes testing for some
  • national standardization
  • accountability to funders
  • survival-English skills
  • Teacher-friendly assessment tool in SAMs
  • Functions can be expressed in
  • many different ways and at many different levels
    of complexity
  • CBLT (competency-based language teaching) is a
    rational approach to adult education
  • CBLT is geared towards adult learners
    successfully functioning as equal members in a
    changing society

CLB / CLB Assessments II Pros Cons
  • CLB drives the market
  • Complexities of funding issues
  • Reliability and validity issues
  • Themes can be restrictive for teachers
  • CLB can be overwhelming for beginning teachers
  • Few testing centres assessment training is
  • Reliability and validity issues
  • ESL schools often retest students who have been
    assessed at testing centres
  • Disconnect from ESL learners in the K-12 system
  • Readily-available resources, and more being
    published (books and online resources)
  • Thematically-based, context-embedded
  • CLB gives a framework for beginning teachers

Transformative Education
  • While not perfect, it is possible that
    competencies become tools in service of a
    transformative education, rather than a
    constraining framework for instruction.
  • Auerbach (1988)

  • Auerbach, E. R. (1988). Competency-based ESL
    one step forward or two steps back? TESOL
    Quarterly, 20.
  • Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks.
  • CLB 2000. Centre for Canadian Language
    Benchmarks. Citizenship and Immigration Canada
  • Centre for Education Training. (CLBA website)
  • Cohen, Carolyn. (2003). From Art to Science with
    Art LINC Assessor as ESL
  • Professional. Association of Teachers of English
    as a Second Language of Ontario, Contact, Vol.
    29, No. 2, Spring 2003.
  • Fox, J. Courchêne, R. (2005). The Canadian
    Language Benchmarks (CLB) A Critical Appraisal.
    Contact, Vol. 31, No. 2, Special Issue 2005.
  • Hudson, T. (2005). Trends in Assessment Scales
    and Criterion-Referenced Language Assessment.
    Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (2005) 25,
  • Integrating CLB Assessment into your ESL
    Classroom (2005). Centre for Canadian Language
    Benchmarks. The Government of Alberta and
    Citizenship and Immigration Canada

  • Norton Pierce, B. Stewart, G. (1997). The
    Development of the Canadian Language Benchmarks
    Assessment. TESL Canada Journal, 14, 2.
  • Norton, B. Stewart, G. (1999). Accountability
    in Language Assessment of Adult Immigrants in
    Canada. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 56,
    2, 223-244
  • Rossiter, M. J., Pawlikowska-Smith, G. (1999).
    The use of CLBA scores in LINC program
    placement practices in western Canada. TESL
    Canada Journal, 16, 39-52.
  • SAM (2004). Centre for Canadian Language
    Benchmarks. The Government of Alberta and
    Citizenship and Immigration Canada
  • Stewart, G. Cohen, C. (2001). A response to a
    Critical Review of the CLBA. Contact, Spring
    2001, p. 24. (Note we were unable to locate a
    copy of the original article.)
  • Watt, D.L.E. Lake, D.M. (2001). The CLBA-TOEFL
    Comparison Study.Contact, 27(2), 10-13.
  • Thanks to Annette Kreider, LINC team Leader,
    Catholic Social Services
  • and Jennifer McKay, Project Manager, Assessment,
    Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks.

Selected online resources
  • This is the home page of the Canadian Language
    Benchmarks. The site can be a bit confusing to
    navigate, but there is a wealth of information
  • http//
  • This is the homepage of the CLBA and the CLBLA.
  • http//
  • This link will take you to the CLBA Projects,
    Benchmarks Competency Assessment training A
    Guide to Assigning Benchmarks.
  • http//
  • This is the CLBA information package published
    by SAIT for its students.
  • http//
  • A comparison of which proficiency tests the U of
    Calgary accepts and the cost of each test.
  • http//
  • This page shows equivalencies among CLBA, TOEFL
    and other standardized tests accepted by NorQuest
  • http//
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) was the
    impetus behind the development of the CLB. This
    is a summary of a 2004 government report on linc,
    including a very interesting section on The
    Adequacy of the Assessment Tools.
  • http//
  • Proceedings of the Immigration, Integration and
    Language Public Policy Conference, held in
    Calgary in 2006.
  • http//
  • This is an annotated bibliography on assesment
  • http//