Writing Skills: A Comparison of Canadian Language Benchmarks and HRDC’'s Essential Skills

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Link: http://www.language.ca/pdfs/comparison.pdf
Org: Skillplan
Date: 2002

This paper compares two Canadian Internet-based resources: Canadian Language Benchmarks and Human Resources Development Canada's (HRDC's) Essential Skills. The comparison focuses on how each resource addresses writing skills. The intent of this comparison is to assess how the resources differ, how they agree, and how they might complement each other as tools for educators and for learners.


The Canadian Language Benchmarks resource assists practitioners and learners of English as a Second Language in determining writing proficiency and in developing and evaluating curriculum. It focuses on what the individual - the learner can do. The Essential Skills resource focuses on describing skills in everyday use. Teachers, trainers, career counsellors, and individuals entering the work force might use the HRDC resource to identify the frequency and complexity of writing tasks for specific occupations.

Although these two resources differ in this way, there are many areas where they are similar in nature. Both describe writing skills as moving from simple to highly complex tasks with similar descriptions at each step along the continuum. Both describe writing skills as covering a range of text lengths, from brief notes to long reports. Within its description of writing competencies, the Canadian Language Benchmarks resource addresses purposes similar to those identified in an HRDC Essential Skills profile. Both resources provide users with opportunities to explore real world examples of writing in the workplace.

There are some clear areas where these two resources complement each other as tools for educators and for learners. Because of the focus on the individual and proficiency, Language Benchmarks can provide a career educator or learner with a well-organized set of standards to determine proficiency in writing skills. When focusing on workplace global descriptors and performance conditions, those individuals for whom English is their first language will find the proficiency descriptors to be of value.

Even clearer are the areas where the HRDC Essential Skills resource complements Canadian Language Benchmarks. To supplement CLB's purpose as a descriptive scale of writing proficiency, Essential Skills could prove to be a valuable instructional tool. While the Language Benchmarks resource suggests tasks to use in determining proficiency, the examples are general descriptions of business documents in hypothetical situations. Essential Skills provides actual workplace examples from specific occupations. TESL practitioners could search the Essential Skills database for specific examples of Benchmarks tasks. They could then focus on occupations that may be of particular interest to their students. The Essential Skills database might also provide additional inspiration for practitioners preparing lesson plans and instructional activities. With this injection of current, workplace writing activities, the result might be a richer, more relevant learning environment for ESL students.

This report is available for download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (220 KB, 10 pages).