Literacy Measurement: A Holistic Framework

Program Performance

This section focuses on the measurement of literacy program performance, or, the quality and quantity of inputs and activities. The dimensions contained here are general components of literacy program, based on best practices and research around what works with regards to literacy development. Your individual program may include some or all of these, or additional components as well.
Make sure to have a look at our helpful framing question here.

Developing a culture of reading

The term, "reading culture" refers to the widespread habit of reading within an institution, community or home, as well as in individual inclination to or love of reading.  This dimension refers to activities that support the development of a reading culture.  These may include activities related to the engagement of caregivers and communities, reading campaigns, or school-based reading promotion activities.

Quality reading materials

This dimension refers to access to reading materials and print, and includes resources on how to assess the quality of these materials.
Why is this important?
Research shows that having access to engaging reading materials, at the right level, in the right language, both in school and at home, is critical to literacy development, particularly for emergent and early grade readers, but also for more experienced readers as well (1).
Considerations & Limitations
The definition of quality will vary depending on the level of the readers you are working with, however broadly, we define quality reading materials as:
-At the right level
-Visually appealing
-Interesting / relevant
-Accessible (particularly to those with sensory disabilities)

Additionally, quality texts often include elements that are not typical of spoken text such as: implied/abstract ideas, layers of meaning, diagrams, tables and images that contain key ideas, a wide range of sentence structures include some complex structures, some complex grammar (such as tense changes, etc), references a diversity of organisational structures (reflecting text types and mixed texts), less common vocabulary (especially where the meaning is supported in context)

It's also important to note that target age group and reading level are not the same when it comes to reading materials. For example, adult readers who are at a beginning level generally will not want to read the same materials as young readers.  Thus, both reading level and age are important to consider.

Instructional practices

This dimension covers best practices in measuring, observing and evaluating teachers on instructional methods with regards to teaching literacy.

Why is this important?
Pedagogy has been shown to have a significant effect on literacy outcomes. Generally reading instruction should provide a range of practices to accomodate different student needs, explicit instructions around comprehension, and be grounded in established research and best practices in literacy.  Less interactive methods (such as rote instruction, teacher-led recitation) may be prevalent in resource-constrained environments and schools with large class sizes, due to the logistical constraints of deploying more interactive and activity-based methods. While these methods may have some use, deploying a wider range of instructional methods has been shown to be effective.

Teacher coaching & training

This dimension covers the quality teacher training, recruitiment, and ongoing support of teachers, so that they can carry out evidence-based instructional practices.  Whereas the instructional practices dimension is focused on what's happening in the classroom, this dimension is focused on the activities that support teachers and instructors in effectively engaging in their classrooms.

Language considerations

This dimension covers the measurement of appropriateness of the language of instruction for students, including the concepts of language of instruction, mother tongue instruction, and oral language.

Why is this important?
An assessment of the appropriateness of the language used in the program is necessary for measuring program performance. For the majority of students in multilingual contexts, the amount of time required to learn the language of instruction (which may be their third or fourth language) is often greatly underestimated.
(1) The Brookings Institution (2011), First Step to Literacy: Getting Books in the Hands of Children,

Framing Questions

What are the components of your program?

Are you working with learners directly?  Working with teachers or administrators? Working through informal education systems or the community at large? Developing new materials or working with existing materials? Your measurement activities should be aligned with your programmatic approach. Making sure you have a firm understanding of the components of your program and how they link with your intended outcomes will help inform your measurement approach.

What is the linguistic context of the community you are working in?  

Are learners learning a second or third language?  Is the language of instruction the same as the one spoken at home? Are multiple languages prevalent in the community? Understanding the linguistic context will help you better design your measurement approach with regards to both program performance and literacy outcomes. The linguistic context is relevant for program performance specifically, because this will help you measure and understand the appropriateness of your intervention (the quality of your inputs and activities) with regards to language.

Download our handy worksheet to guide you through these questions.
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