ARIK-A Provides Adult Educators With Much Needed Feedback

Less than 5 percent of educators teaching adult basic education classes have a degree in adult education, and 17 percent of participants in those classes read at or below the 6th grade level. Working off that statistic and the knowledge that older adolescents and adults learn to read very differently than do children, Sherry Bell, Steve McCallum, and Mary Ziegler of UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences set out to help adult educators better meet the needs of those adults.

The result was the creation of ARIK-A. The Assessment of Reading Instructional Knowledge – Adults (ARIK-A) is a multiple choice test that assesses a teacher’s mastery of teaching reading to adults in five areas: Alphabetics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Comprehension, and reading assessment. ARIK-A has two alternate forms, allowing a group-administered pre- and post test format so it can be administered in continuing education workshops and other professional development contexts. Also, it can also be individually administered, even self-administered, to provide professional improvement information. Once completed, examinees earn a score that is based the overall percentage of correct answers (total percent mastery) and also independently for each of the five subject areas. Additionally, examinees can compare their performance to their peers based on a national standardization.

The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) has licensed ARIK-A to Psychoeducational Associates, a private company owned by two of the developers, and it became available for purchase in January 2013. This is the first licensing deal from UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences in the history of the college.

The idea for ARIK-A sprung out of joint research Bell, McCallum and Ziegler were conducting at the University of Tennessee. Their mutual interest in teaching reading led to creation of the assessment tool.

"This all came about through joint research. I specialize in measurement and test development, Sherry has a background in special education and reading instruction, and Mary is an adult educator, so our interests naturally lent themselves to creating an assessment tool for adult educators’ proficiency in reading instruction," McCallum said.ARIK-A Test Booklet

The development of the assessment was funded in part by the U. S. Department of Education and the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL). The grant was received after their initial research findings were published in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and noticed by the professionals at NIFL. The grant money enabled the researchers to hire a doctoral student to aid in gathering results from adult educators nationwide, which were needed to standardize the assessment.

NIFL was eliminated a couple of years after the 2008 presidential election, prior to completion of the ARIK-A project. After navigating some red tape, the intellectual property related to ARIK-A was released to Bell, McCallum and Ziegler and to UT for completion. Although work on ARIK-A began in 2007, it wasn’t completed until 2012, though most of the development work was completed in two years.

"We finished the development of the assessment in about two years," said McCallum. "It took us quite a bit of time to create the nationwide standardization, but the longest part of the whole project was getting permission from the U. S. government to use the patent since it began as a government funded project."

Once the rights to ARIK-A were conveyed to the authors and to UT, the next challenge was getting the assessment into the hands of adult educators where it could start making an impact on how adult literacy was taught. After meeting with UTRF’s Maha Krishnamurthy, it was decided that the best way to get ARIK-A into the marketplace was to license it to a start-up company for marketing. McCallum and Bell already operated Psychoeducational Associates as a consulting business, so licensing the assessment to their company made the most sense.

From there, the researchers worked with a local company, Graphic Creations, Inc., to design the test form, instruction manual and scoring sheets. Once they had a finished product in hand, they began advertising the assessment through their company’s website (, making it available for sale in mid-January of this year.

"We’ve already made our first sale, and we’re about to give a presentation at the Commission on Adult Basic Education Annual Conference in New Orleans, so that will be good exposure with our target audience," McCallum said.

As for other projects, McCallum says they’ve been working on a couple of additional assessment instruments, but without the means to gather nationalized standardization data, there is no immediate timeline for those becoming available.

For more information on ARIK-A, please visit