Clauses 1.8 to 1.12—Conduct effective assessment
The RTO implements an assessment system that ensures that assessment (including recognition of prior learning):
Table 1.8-1: Principles of assessment
Table 1.8-2: Rules of evidence
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:
For the purposes of clause 1.9, each training product is validated at least once every five years, with at least 50 per cent 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:
Industry experts may be involved in validation to ensure there is the combination of expertise set out in a) or b) above.
The RTO offers recognition of prior learning to individual learners.
What clauses 1.8 to 1.12 mean for your RTO
The Standards ensure graduates meet industry expectations as expressed in training packages and VET accredited courses. The Standards require providers to deliver training and assessment that allows students both the opportunity and the time to develop their skills and knowledge—and to practice and demonstrate their skills in a holistic and meaningful way.
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 and tools that inform the way assessment is conducted within your RTO.
For a student to be assessed as competent, your RTO must ensure the student has:
- absorbed the knowledge
- developed the skills
- can combine the knowledge and skills to demonstrate:
- ability to perform relevant tasks in a variety of workplace situations, or accurately simulated workplace situations
- consistency in performance and a consistent ability to demonstrate skills when performing tasks
- 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 student 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 student must demonstrate they hold all of the required skills and knowledge 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. Ensure that assessment tools are contextualised (or can be contextualised) to the student cohort to produce valid skills that are relevant to the student’s industry or work context.
Use this information to set benchmarks for measuring the student’s performance using ‘observable behaviours’. This will ensure the student 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 student. If assessment tasks are undertaken as a group, each student must be assessed on each component of the task. Do not assume that because a group of students completed a task, each of them is competent.
Recognition of prior learning is simply a form of assessment of a student’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 evidence and knowledge evidence describe what a student must demonstrate in order to be considered competent.
Assessment conditions describe the conditions under which a student 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 includes the performance criteria of each unit or module. This does not mean you have to develop separate assessment activities for each item, rather that as a whole your assessment activities must cover every area required.
If your RTO applies any form of grading to students, ensure that this is applied only after the student 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 prerequisite 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 which 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 students. Ensure any required adjustments are made to the training and assessment program for each student.
- Consider the student’s needs in the assessment process and make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the student (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 student is fully informed of the assessment process and performance expectations before undertaking assessment.
- If a student 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 students and avoid students being enrolled in a course that they will not be able to complete.
- Have an appeals process to provide an avenue for students 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 students. Ensure any required adjustments are made to the training and assessment program for that student.
- Take the student into account in the assessment process, and recognise that they may already have demonstrated some aspects of the unit through other means. If individual students 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 was in a significantly different context or environment.
- Use a range of assessment methods to help produce valid decisions and recognise that students demonstrate competence in a variety of ways.
- As part of your assessment, require students 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 student 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 student is doing the task in a particular way.
- Ensure skills are assessed by observing the student actually carrying out the relevant task in an appropriate environment. It is not appropriate to assess a student’s ability to carry out a task by simply requiring them to describe how they would do the task.
- Make assessment decisions consistently across different students and different assessors in the same unit or module.
- Provide an assessment system that details the context and conditions of assessment for assessors (in order to ensure consistency in the application of assessment across different assessors and different student cohorts).
- Have a well-designed assessment system that includes measures to minimise variation between assessors. The same evidence presented by different students 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 student 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 task or activity the student undertakes (including assessment of practical application of skills); the evidence presented to the student; and the assessment requirements.
- Gather enough evidence to make a valid judgement of competence or otherwise.
- The quantity of evidence may vary between students. Some may take longer or need to complete a greater number of tasks to demonstrate competence. Others may not be able to achieve competence despite repeated opportunities.
- Ensure that evidence gathered ‘belongs’ to the student being assessed and provides evidence of that person’s skills and knowledge. For example, group assessments may not provide authentic evidence for each student involved in the group assessment.
- 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 students 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 student enrolled in a face-to-face course, but it is clearly easier to do this through direct interaction with the student. Regardless of the delivery method, you must be able to demonstrate how you have verified the identity of the student.
- Where portions of the evidence submitted are gathered through independent study (e.g. assignments or projects) rather than through 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 student 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 student 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. This engagement aims 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.
Validation in the Standards for RTOs 2015
The Standards define validation as the quality review of the assessment process. Validation involves checking that the assessment tools produce valid, reliable, sufficient, current and authentic evidence to enable reasonable judgements to be made as to whether the requirements of the training package or VET accredited courses are met. It includes reviewing a statistically valid sample of the assessments and making recommendations for future improvements to the assessment tool, process and/or outcomes and acting upon such recommendations.
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. However, 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:
Validation and TAE products
If you are validating any Training and Education (TAE) Training Package products, the validation must be conducted by an independent validator and be conducted in accordance with clause 1.25.
If you are applying to add TAE Training Package products to your RTO’s scope of registration, you are required to submit evidence showing the outcomes of the independent external validation of your RTO’s assessment system with your application. For more information, please refer to clause 1.25 and ASQA’s advice on applying for TAE Training Package products.
Independent validation of the TAE training products must be conducted by one or more persons who collectively:
Where independent external validation is required, validators must not
Sampling approach to validation
Your RTO must conduct validation activities systematically 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 you to infer that, overall, your RTO’s assessment judgements have been valid.
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. ASQA’s validation sample size calculator 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.
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.
Your RTO may choose to take a ‘team’ approach to validation, in which the validation team members collectively 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 (Except for validation of TAE Training Products—refer to the previous page for guidance on choosing TAE validators.).
A guide to compliance
The type of evidence you should retain to demonstrate your assessment system’s effectiveness depends to some extent on the context in which it is to be used.
- If your organisation is seeking to add a new qualification to your 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. If you are applying to change your scope of registration, ASQA will still be seeking evidence of practice and may look at your practices in relation to delivery of other training products.
- Where students have completed the unit being examined, you may be required to provide completed assessment items (including the evidence considered when the assessment was conducted, who the assessor was, and the outcome).
How can my RTO demonstrate and provide evidence of compliant practice?
ASQA’s regulatory experience shows that many RTOs continue to struggle to demonstrate compliance with Standard 1, in particular with clause 1.8. This calls into question the integrity of the qualifications issued and in the long term can have a detrimental effect on student and employer confidence in the outcomes of the training system.
You need to show that your RTO’s practice aligns with your assessment system and validation plan. Consider what information sources will confirm that your RTO practices and assessment methods—including your validation activities—support this alignment. An example of this might be ensuring actual completed student assessments are retained in the appropriate student files, aligned with the appropriate assessment tool. You will need to retain sufficient assessment evidence to be able to validate assessment judgements.
ASQA’s general direction, retention requirements for completed student assessment items requires 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 students until the six-month period has expired. At audit ASQA will only ask you to produce those assessment records your RTO is required to retain.
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 considering the evidence against all of the relevant requirements, including the principles of assessment and rules of evidence.
If the assessment is completed via recognition of prior learning, the requirements of the Standards do not change. However, you may need to collect and consider a greater variety of evidence when making the assessment decision than when assessment is completed through ‘traditional’ assessment activities. Similarly, the same requirements of the Standards apply to distance and online delivery methods, but you may need to change the type of evidence considered. Regardless of the mode of delivery or engagement, all assessment must meet the same Standards.
Part of the evidence that determines whether assessment has been conducted adequately is the evidence criteria that your assessors use to judge the quality of performance and make their decisions. Evidence criteria could be in the form of:
- model answers or responses
- samples of work items that meet specifications
- more general guidance for assessors about the characteristics of satisfactory responses or behaviours.
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.
You need to maintain evidence showing:
- that your validation plan has been actioned
- what the outcomes were
- how lessons learnt from validation have been acted upon (for example, what improvements have been made to assessment tools, processes and practices and how staff have been involved in understanding and implementing the outcomes).
Tips on compliant practice—Effective assessment
Where third-party reports are used
In relation to validation of assessment
In relation to work placements and workplace assessment
If you are seeking registration
You must demonstrate that you have developed all required assessment systems and materials for each training product outlined in your application. For more information, refer to ASQA’s general direction Resourcing requirements—for applicants seeking initial registration or change to scope of registration. If your organisation will be using purchased assessment materials, you must demonstrate that:
As no assessment decisions will have been made and validation activities required by the Standards will not have been undertaken, new RTOs need to demonstrate how they will systematically undertake validation.
Case study—Top marks for JKL Training’s assessment
JKL Training delivers a range of qualifications including TAE training products, mostly through face-to-face delivery at its central business district 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 how to:
This system means that:
Because the assessment process is planned and systematic and because sound records of assessment are retained, 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:
Case study—Ensuring authenticity in online assessment
Your Mac Training is an RTO that provides training and assessment in graphic design through the qualification CUA50715 Diploma of Graphic Design. As its target student group is located in a remote location, Your Mac Training provides an online delivery mode option.
Your Mac Training uses the following technologies to conduct online training and assessment:
The virtual classroom is used to provide training in relation to assessment of the required knowledge. Students communicate with the trainer and assessor through their headphones/microphones during the virtual classroom sessions. In order to ensure authenticity, the student is required to hold their driver’s licence up to the webcam at the beginning of each virtual class. After the virtual class, the webcam takes photos of the student at random intervals while they are completing the online assessment questions.
For the demonstration of practical skills, photos and videos of the student performing the practical task are taken by a third-party. A third-party report is completed to record the tasks performed by the student. The student holds up their driver’s licence to the camera at the beginning of each practical demonstration video to confirm that the student performing the task is the student enrolled.
Finally, the trainer and assessor calls the student after the submission of completed assessments and asks questions relevant to the assessment.