Assessment Barriers in LLN Testing

Assessment Barriers in LLN Testing

Before you can take the right course of action to support a learner who is having language, literacy or numeracy difficulties, you need to work out exactly what the root of the problem is. Often we make judgements based on what we think is happening without taking the time to investigate further.

With such a broad range of factors to consider, how can you make sure you have identified the real reason behind a learner’s poor LLN performance? In most cases when a person is having difficulty correctly answering questions on a proper LLN test the main problem is undeveloped LLN skills, but sometimes a result can catch us by surprise and we need to investigate a little further.

Consider how the following factors could impact the results:

  • The learner’s overall experience in the lead up to and during the assessment.
  • The characteristics, conditions and format of the assessment.

Furthermore, when looking at the LLN skills of a person it is important to ascertain whether or not they are from an English speaking or non-English speaking background. This factor can have a significant impact on using and understanding spoken language.


Non-LLN Factors that Could Impact on the Results of an LLN Assessment

A person’s low literacy score could be the result of something entirely outside of their actual LLN abilities, such as:

  • Digital literacy issues.
  • Technology issues.
  • Nerves or anxiety affecting performance.
  • Misinterpretation of assessment content.
  • Incorrect marking of assessment.
  • Assessment was not properly attempted.
  • Variance in manual marking (lack of clear criteria to make a decision).

By identifying whether or not any of the above factors could have played a part in the end result you can take appropriate action to remedy the situation.


Strategies for Addressing Inconsistent or Unexpected LLN Results

If the learner was extremely nervous you can take some time to speak with them and explain the purpose of the assessment (to support, not exclude them).

If the assessment was not properly attempted (the learner skipped over it without trying) you can again explain, for compliance reasons, why they need to complete the assessment, or find an alternative type of evidence that will demonstrate a sufficient level of LLN ability.

Incorrect or inconsistent marking can be managed through staff training and the implementation of a more rigorous testing and marking process.

Misinterpretation, digital literacy or technology issues can be overcome with some guidance to explain how to interact with the assessment interface (if using an online tool) without giving away the answers.

All of these issues can be overcome with some vigilance and awareness on the part of enrolment and support staff.


This is the third article in a series on foundation skills that will be published over the next few weeks leading up to a presentation on this topic being delivered (by yours truly) at the National VET Conference 2017 in Sydney. You can read the first article, Foundation Skills Explained, here and the second one, What Does ACSF Level 3 Look Like?, here).

This series aims to explore what foundation skills are, how to determine a learner’s needs for developing foundation skills and how to go about supporting them throughout the learning experience. 


David Cunning

David Cunning

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David Cunning is the General Manager of The Learning Resources Group. He has been in the VET sector for 12 years and has spent the best part of the last decade managing the creation of training and assessment resources for over 300 units of competency. He was the driving force behind the LLN Robot System of assessing and supporting vocational education students across the country.

Dave has invested himself in understanding the industry by attaining his Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and also a Diploma of Vocational Education and Training and a Diploma in Training Design and Development.

Prior to working in the VET sector, Dave was a psychology graduate and a graphic artist who ran his own independent publishing house.

Outside of TLRG office, Dave was voted the world's greatest dad by a 2/3 majority of his 3 sons. He is an amateur e-sports participator, avid motorcycle accumulator and aspires to be the single largest consumer of 2-minute noodles in the southern hemisphere.