VET Discussion Paper

Quality of Assessment in VET

Some thoughts on the discussion paper questions

Karen Squire-Ryan

Format of TAE40110: electives and qualification outcomes

Whilst students can gain a skill set or individual units from TAE10, it has long been the case that some students and some employers want a whole qualification (TAE40110).  This leads to students doing the Cert IV TAE who only want and need some units,  usually it is the assessment design units and sometimes the training design units which are unwanted.  Students  are then compelled to do a lot of design work that won’t be used in their job and in a format which is different to their workplace style.  They also may work in an industry with its own standards and competencies (not national competencies) and find it very frustrating to need to design and map to tga competencies when, at work, they need to map to a different set and often in a different layout.

There should be a Certificate III in training delivery as has been mentioned many times since BSZ98 days (1998-2004). This should include some basics of design and planning for delivery materials and resources, and, some basics of assessment in so far as carrying out activities which assess learners’ performance during and at the end of workshop sessions and to review trainer performance and content suitability.  This will suit those who are provided with session plans and simple assessment tools who need only deliver them with nil or minor adjustments.  The material they produce during this qualification will then be readily able to be used at their workplaces rather than hypotheticals “just to gain their Cert IV TAE” which is sometimes the case at the moment.

The Cert IV TAE should have the unit TAEDES402A as an elective and amend the wording to “or industry/workplace standards” instead of “competency standards” in the assessment units so that those who need to design and deliver training and assessment material can do so to either tga standards or the ones relevant to their organisation and industry.  There is a feeling amongst some participants that the program is designed for “TAFE trainers and assessors” because of the focus on national competencies and training packages as defined by tga and ignoring industry versions which are often of a high standard.

RTO Limitations

RTOs  should be discouraged from issuing TAE to their own staff trainers and assessors, if circumstances make this the most practicable solution,  then they should be required to bring in a co-assessor from another RTO.

RPL should continue as is – if done robustly then the process and result will be valid.  Inclusion of RPL assessments in validation and moderation helps review the individual decisions as well as process  – this will strengthen RPL integrity, along with regular professional development for RPL Assessors (collaborative opportunities and discussions).

The RTO’s assessment policies,  procedures and tools need to be well designed and in the spirit, as well as to the letter, of the standards – whether embedded in class-room or flexible delivery or in assessment-only mode.  If the RTO does not have this correctly designed and accompanied by detailed guides for assessors (including model answers and acceptable variances) then the individual skills, experience, qualifications and professionalism of the assessors makes little impact.  If an assessor assesses work which meets the criteria as specified by the RTO yet the assessor feels the evidence is insufficient it is an extremely difficult situation.  The student may have “done what was asked” but it may be that the assessor believes what was asked was not sufficient.  In that case the assessment tool has proved insufficient and this is no fault of the student’s and it is hardly fair to the student if the assessor “changes the rules” on what is acceptable after the fact.   Assessor may raise this with the RTO but that doesn’t alter the fact that the student’s work and the assessment decision may not hold up to scrutiny.  RTOs should involve assessors in review of assessment material before first piloted and periodically throughout assessment use to invite collaboration between assessor and assessment-designer.   The responsibility for assessment rigour is both the assessor’s and the RTO’s.

The issue of a practicum often comes up (or the restriction of all-in-class assessment).  There are drawbacks to a workplace practicum or mandated post-course tasks. Just one drawback being the fact that there is no current barrier against entry into TAE for those who are not currently working.  If not working (and doing the TAE as part of a plan to become employable) the barrier to completion of the Cert IV TAE will be high – unless the RTO becomes involved in organising placements.  Placements require a lot of organisation and additional compliance and WHS factors.  It would suit some RTOs more than others (favouring large public RTOs and disadvantaging some private RTOs and any RTOs in an area with limited workplace practical placement opportunities due to distance or depressed local economic environment) and alter the pricing and turnaround time for the qualification.  It can also be seen as a quasi- teaching degree which is beyond the original purpose of TAE (to hone skills of a workplace {vocational with a “small v”}  trainer not a tertiary educated teacher in academic mode).

 The role of industry in assessment

Many industry leaders do not see the necessity of their involvement in assessment validation.  Many see the RTO as the provider and themselves as the consumer, rather than a partner or collaborator.  So whilst a diner in a restaurant for instance may be pleased to be asked if they enjoyed their meal and the service and even what they might like to see done differently next time or for a different group of dining companions, they don’t necessarily want to be asked to go in the kitchen and go through the fine points of the recipe; its ingredients, quantities, duration and method – that detail is too fine and over-the-head and interest level of the consumer/diner. It’s the same with industry and validation.

 Establishing a VET Professional Association

A national VET association would have benefits;  trainers and assessors for their own development and currency, RTOs for opportunities to validate and moderate and, it could also boost industry and public confidence.  We now have the USI so it would be sensible to also have a national registry of assessors also – although as previously mentioned, the assessor is also dependent on the quality of the assessments by the employing RTO.    Considerations and potential barriers may be; reluctance of RTOs to share information and resources during validation (protection of their IP), setting up of rules and consequences for registration and infringements and working out where the responsibility lies in cases of weak training or assessment practice.

tga = which is the National VET Registry