Conduct effective assessment
The RTO implements an assessment system that ensures that assessment (including recognition of prior learning):
- complies with the assessment requirements of the relevant training package or VET accredited course; and
- is conducted in accordance with the Principles of Assessment contained in Table 1.8-1 and the Rules of Evidence contained in Table 1.8-2.
Table 1.8-1: Principles of Assessment
The individual learner’s needs are considered in the assessment process.
Where appropriate, reasonable adjustments are applied by the RTO to take into account the individual learner’s needs.
The RTO informs the learner about the assessment process, and provides the learner with the opportunity to challenge the result of the assessment and be reassessed if necessary.
Assessment is flexible to the individual learner by:
- reflecting the learner’s needs;
- assessing competencies held by the learner no matter how or where they have been acquired; and
- drawing from a range of assessment methods and using those that are appropriate to the context, the unit of competency and associated assessment requirements, and the individual.
Any assessment decision of the RTO is justified, based on the evidence of performance of the individual learner.
- assessment against the unit(s) of competency and the associated assessment requirements covers the broad range of skills and knowledge that are essential to competent performance;
- assessment of knowledge and skills is integrated with their practical application;
- assessment to be based on evidence that demonstrates that a learner could demonstrate these skills and knowledge in other similar situations; and
- judgement of competence is based on evidence of learner performance that is aligned to the unit/s of competency and associated assessment requirements.
Evidence presented for assessment is consistently interpreted and assessment results are comparable irrespective of the assessor conducting the assessment.
Table 1.8-2: Rules of Evidence
The assessor is assured that the learner has the skills, knowledge and attributes as described in the module or unit of competency and associated assessment requirements.
The assessor is assured that the quality, quantity and relevance of the assessment evidence enables a judgement to be made of a learner’s competency.
The assessor is assured that the evidence presented for assessment is the learner’s own work.
The assessor is assured that the assessment evidence demonstrates current competency. This requires the assessment evidence to be from the present or the very recent past.
The RTO implements a plan for ongoing systematic validation of assessment practices and judgements that includes for each training product on the RTO’s scope of registration:
- when assessment validation will occur;
- which training products will be the focus of the validation;
- who will lead and participate in validation activities; and
- how the outcomes of these activities will be documented and acted upon.
For the purposes of Clause 1.9, each training product is validated at least once every five years, with at least 50% of products validated within the first three years of each five year cycle, taking into account the relative risks of all of the training products on the RTO’s scope of registration, including those risks identified by the VET regulator.
For the purposes of Clause 1.9, systematic validation of an RTO’s assessment practices and judgements is undertaken by one or more persons who are not directly involved in the particular instance of delivery and assessment of the training product being validated, and who collectively have:
- vocational competencies and current industry skills relevant to the assessment being validated;
- current knowledge and skills in vocational teaching and learning; and
- the training and assessment qualification or assessor skill set referred to in Item 1 or 3 of Schedule 1.
Industry experts may be involved in validation to ensure there is the combination of expertise set out in (a) to (c) above.
The RTO offers recognition of prior learning to individual learners.
What this Standard means for your RTO
Your RTO must develop and implement a system to ensure:
- assessment judgements are consistently made on a sound basis
- validation of assessment judgements is carried out.
An assessment system includes not only the actual materials used directly in conducting assessment, but also policies, procedures and other supporting documents that inform the way assessment is conducted within your RTO.
For a learner to be assessed as competent, your RTO must ensure the learner demonstrates their:
- ability to perform relevant tasks in a variety of workplace situations, or accurately simulated workplace situations
- understanding of what they are doing, and why, when performing tasks
- ability to integrate performance with understanding, to show they are able to adapt to different contexts and environments.
A learner must:
- be assessed against all of the tasks identified in the elements of the unit or module
- demonstrate they are capable of performing these tasks to an acceptable level.
Through the above process, the learner must demonstrate they hold all of the required skills and knowledge, as specified in the unit or module assessment requirements.
When developing assessment materials use the information from the unit or module elements, performance criteria and assessment requirements to determine what competence looks like. Use this information to set benchmarks for measuring the learner’s performance using ‘observable behaviours’. This will ensure the learner has:
- actually undertaken all the required tasks
- demonstrated their ability to do so in different contexts and environments.
Assessment must always be based on the performance of the individual learner. If assessment tasks are undertaken as a group, each learner must be assessed on each component of the task. Do not assume that because a group of learners completed a task, each of them is competent.
Recognition of prior learning is simply a form of assessment of a learner’s competence. Recognition of prior learning uses evidence from formal, non-formal and informal learning rather than from specific assessment activities directed by the RTO. This evidence is often combined with assessment activities sometimes known as ‘challenge testing’. As such, recognition of prior learning must be conducted with the same rigour as any other form of assessment.
Each unit of competency contains assessment requirements grouped into three areas:
- performance evidence
- knowledge evidence
- assessment conditions.
Performance and knowledge evidence describe what a learner must demonstrate in order to be considered competent. Assessment conditions describe the conditions under which a learner must demonstrate this, including any specific requirements for resources, trainers and assessors and the context for assessment.
Some training packages and courses may not have been updated to this format. In these cases, ‘required skills and knowledge’ and ‘evidence guide’ or similar terms are used.
When planning assessment, ensure you address all of the requirements of the unit or module. This does not mean you have to develop separate assessment activities for each item, but that, as a whole your assessment activities must cover every area required. To achieve a ‘competent’ result, learners must meet all the requirements of the unit.
If your RTO applies any form of grading to learners, ensure that this is applied only after the learner has been assessed as fully competent and is in addition to a determination of competent or otherwise.
As similar requirements are often expressed in multiple units of competency, you can often ‘cluster’ a number of units together for assessment to avoid repeating assessment of the same tasks. If you do this, take care to address all relevant environments and contexts in the assessment process and to meet any pre-requisite requirements for every unit or module in the cluster. Analysis of each individual requirement across the cluster of units will reveal where such assessment methods are appropriate and where discrete assessment activities may be required.
Implementing the principles of assessment
No matter what assessment pathway or methods you use, the principles of fairness, flexibility, validity and reliability must be met.
- At enrolment or prior to commencement of training, make recognition of prior learning available to all learners. Ensure any required adjustments are made to the training and assessment program for each learner.
- Consider the learner’s needs in the assessment process and make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the learner (such as providing oral rather than written assessment). However, don’t compromise the rigour of the assessment process (e.g. if there is a requirement to complete documentation in a unit of competency, oral assessment would not be appropriate).
- Ensure the learner is fully informed of the assessment process and performance expectations before undertaking assessment.
- If a learner is unable to complete the required task to the level described in the assessment requirements, consider whether they need further training before being reassessed. Sound enrolment processes will help to identify the needs of learners and avoid learners being enrolled in a course that they will not be able to complete.
- Have an appeals process to provide an avenue for learners to challenge an assessment decision and to have it reviewed objectively.
- At enrolment or prior to commencement of training, make recognition of prior learning available to all learners. Ensure any required adjustments are made to the training and assessment program for that learner.
- Take the learner into account in the assessment process, and recognise that they may already have demonstrated some aspects of the unit through other means. If individual learners have demonstrated current skills and knowledge, they should not be required to be reassessed in those areas, unless the previous demonstration of skills or knowledge is in a significantly different context or environment.
- Use a range of assessment methods to help produce valid decisions and recognise that learners demonstrate competence in a variety of ways.
- As part of your assessment, require learners to demonstrate skills and knowledge across a range of environments and contexts relevant to the unit or module. Assessing in a variety of contexts shows that the learner is able to apply the skills and knowledge in other situations, and can apply their knowledge in a practical way.
- Ensure that assessment tasks and methods match assessment requirements. For example, if assessing a practical skill such as keyboarding, questions about how a keyboard operates may not be valid as this knowledge is not required in order to carry out the task. Instead, use questions that demonstrate knowledge of why the learner is doing the task in a particular way.
- Make assessment decisions consistently across different learners and different assessors in the same unit or module.
- Have a well-designed assessment system that includes measures to minimise variation between assessors. The same evidence presented by different learners or to different assessors should result in the same decision.
- Develop evidence criteria (i.e. decision-making rules) to judge the quality of performance. This will help assessors make consistent judgements about competence. Evidence criteria could include:
- model answers (where appropriate)
- descriptions of observations needed to assess skills and application of knowledge in a practical activity.
- Benchmarks for practical activities must necessarily be broad enough to allow for variations in the precise task being undertaken and any variations in the context, but must include ‘observable behaviours’—the behaviours which must be exhibited by the learner when carrying out the task.
Implementing the rules of evidence
The evidence used to make a decision about competence must be valid, sufficient, authentic and current.
- Ensure that evidence is directly related to the competency being assessed.
- Ensure there is a direct relationship between the assessment tasks or activities learners undertake, the evidence presented and the assessment requirements.
- Gather enough evidence to make a valid judgement of competence or otherwise.
- The quantity of evidence may vary between learners. Some may take longer or need to complete a greater number of tasks to demonstrate competence. Others may, despite repeated opportunities, not be able to achieve competence.
- Ensure that evidence gathered ‘belongs’ to the learner being assessed and provides evidence of that person’s skills and knowledge.
- Verify that the person you are enrolling, training and assessing is the same person that will be issued with a qualification or statement of attainment. This can be particularly challenging if you deliver distance training, including through online methods, where there are more opportunities for learners to submit the work of others than there are in a ‘traditional’ classroom setting. This does not remove your responsibility to verify the identity of a learner enrolled in a face-to-face course, but it is clearly easier to do this through direct interaction with the learner. Regardless of the delivery method, you must be able to demonstrate how you have verified the identity of the learner.
- If substantial portions of the evidence submitted are gathered through independent study (e.g. assignments or projects) rather than direct observation, consider using online systems to check work submissions for plagiarism and identical content in other submissions.
- Decide how valid the evidence is, given the time that has passed since the evidence was generated. Currency is important in determining if a learner is competent. Currency is a particular risk with recognition of prior learning, as you may be presented with a range of evidence gathered over a number of years. This does not mean evidence that is not recent is not valid; however, you must ensure there is sufficient evidence of the person’s competence at the time you make the assessment decision.
- You must determine whether the evidence is recent enough to show the learner is competent at the time you make an assessment decision. For example, a computer programmer who has 10 years’ experience but has not been directly involved in hands-on programming work for the past three years may not have current skills in or knowledge of contemporary programming methods. However, the programmer may be able to update their skills and knowledge though a ‘gap training’ program. This varies to some extent between industries and, as a person with current industry skills and knowledge, an assessor is well placed to make this judgement.
Validation of assessment
Validation is a review of assessment judgements made by your RTO. Validation is generally conducted after assessment is complete. The process must be undertaken in a systematic way.
Validation may include engagement with industry to confirm your RTO’s assessment system:
- produces valid assessment judgements
- ensures graduates have the skills and knowledge required by industry, as expressed in the training package or accredited course.
The requirement in the Standards to undertake validation of assessment judgements does not prohibit your RTO from undertaking similar activities, such as moderation, or any other process aimed at increasing the quality of assessment. Information in this guide refers only to the validation activity required by the Standards. This activity is a quality review and is not intended to be used to make adjustments or changes to assessment outcomes.
When developing your plan for validation, remember that:
- Each training product on your RTO’s scope of registration must undergo validation at least once every five years.
- You must ensure your plan allows for validation of at least 50 per cent of the training products in the first three years of that cycle.
- You may need to validate certain training products more often where specific risks have been identified, for example, if your RTO’s industry consultation identifies areas of particular risk.
- ASQA may from time to time determine specific training products that must have particular attention paid to them and this advice would be published to www.asqa.gov.au.
Sampling approach to validation
Your RTO must systematically conduct validation activities to confirm assessment judgements are being made correctly. While you are not required to validate every assessment judgement, a valid sampling approach provides a quality review process and allows a reasonable inference to be made that assessment judgements have been valid overall.
Make sure that the sample of assessment judgements selected for validation is random and that it is representative of all assessment judgements. This will allow you to reliably predict the likelihood of any assessment judgement being valid. There are a number of tools available online that can assist you in determining the required sample size—this is likely to be smaller than you would think, particularly where large numbers of assessment judgements have been made. (One such tool is located at www.raosoft.com/samplesize.html. You can find others by searching the Internet for ’statistically valid sample size’.)
People undertaking validation
Choose validators who are independent of delivery and assessment of the training product being validated and, particularly, the assessment judgements being considered to maintain professional distance and integrity.
People involved in validation must have:
- appropriate vocational competencies
- current industry skills and knowledge
- an appropriate training and assessment qualification or assessor skill set
- current knowledge and skills in vocational teaching and learning.
Validation may be undertaken through a ‘team’ approach where, collectively, team members hold the required qualifications, skills and knowledge. Trainers and assessors can be involved in validation activities, as long as they were not directly involved in the particular instance of delivery and assessment of the training product being validated
A guide to compliance
The type of evidence you should retain to demonstrate your assessment systems’ effectiveness depends to some extent on the context in which it is to be used.
- In the case of an organisation seeking to register as an RTO or to add a new qualification to their scope of registration you must provide documentation on the assessment system accompanied by assessment materials fully addressing the relevant unit of competency, module or cluster.
- Where learners have completed the unit being examined you must provide completed assessment items (including the evidence considered when the assessment was conducted, who the assessor was, and the outcome).
At an ASQA audit, an RTO would only be requested to produce those assessment records they are required to retain. ASQA’s General direction—retention requirements for completed student assessment itemsrequires that RTOs retain all completed assessment items relating to each unit or module for six months from the date on which the decision on competence for the individual unit or module was made. If you can’t retain the actual item (e.g. construction projects or perishable items), retain evidence, such as photographs, showing that the standard of the item or work completed justifies the assessment outcome. Completed assessment items such as assignments should not be handed back to learners until the six month period has expired.
You can compare assessment evidence to the requirements of the unit of competency or cluster of units to determine whether:
- the decision was based on sound assessment practices
- the decision was made after consideration of evidence against all of the relevant requirements, including the principles of assessment and rules of evidence.
An RTO with a well-designed assessment system and accompanying validation processes that have been fully implemented will be able to demonstrate that their assessment judgements:
- are valid
- align with the requirements expressed in the unit of competency or module
- comply with the Standards.
Where assessment is completed via recognition of prior learning, the requirements of the standards do not change, although the variety of evidence gathered and considered in making an assessment decision may be greater than when assessment is completed through ‘traditional’ assessment activities. Similarly, distance and online delivery methods may change the type of evidence considered, although the same requirements apply. Regardless of the mode of delivery or engagement, all assessment must meet the same standards.
Part of the evidence that assessment has been conducted adequately will be the evidence criteria that are used by assessors to judge the quality of performance and make their decisions. This could be in the form of model answers or responses, samples of work items that meet specifications or more general guidance for assessors as to what the characteristics of satisfactory responses or behaviours look like. How prescriptive such material is depends on the nature of the unit—units from lower AQF level qualifications will tend to be more prescriptive with ‘correct’ responses, while those at higher levels may have broader guidelines.
When applying to become an RTO, you must demonstrate that your organisation has developed all required assessment systems and materials for the scope of registration applied for.
As no assessment decisions will have been made and the validation activities required by the Standards will not have been undertaken, new RTOs need only be able to demonstrate how validation activities will be undertaken in a systematic way.
Case study: Top marks for JKL Training’s assessment
JKL Training delivers a range of qualifications, mostly through face-to-face delivery at its CBD location. However, assessment via recognition of prior learning is also carried out for some corporate clients who need their staff to hold certain skill sets to meet regulatory requirements.
JKL Training has developed an assessment system containing a range of procedures. The procedures outline:
This system means that:
Because the assessment process is planned and systematic and because sound records are retained of assessment, JKL Training is able to easily demonstrate that all assessment decisions have been made correctly and validation activities are able to be conducted efficiently and quickly. Because all records are stored digitally, JKL Training avoids expensive storage fees and backup copies of all records are made automatically.
Every six months, JKL Training holds a validation workshop. At the validation workshops: