Feature Article: Cheat sheet for validating assessments prior to use

Feature Article: Cheat sheet for validating assessments prior to use

Validating your RTO’s assessment materials pre-use ensures the tools are fit for purpose and meet the requirements of the specific units of competencies and the evidence collected from students meets the principles of assessment and rules of evidence.

Validation before assessment: 

The process of validating your assessment tools before implementation should involve assessors and other parties such as members of your quality team or staff such as literacy and numeracy specialists working collaboratively to focus on the following aspects:

  • Interpreting the unit/s of competency
  • Determining what a competent person would ‘look like’ and the standard to be achieved 
  • Designing the assessment process including identifying what evidence needs to be collected, how it needs to be collected and how many times 
  • Developing the assessment tools using your RTO’s approved templates which includes all student assessment tasks and assessors’ documents including evidence guides
  • Consulting with industry and seeking feedback on the assessment process required

Assessment Mapping:

A mapping document should be developed with your assessment materials for each unit of competency that shows where unit of competency requirements have been addressed in the assessment tasks. A mapping evidences that you have checked the validity of the assessment tool when created and confirms its compliance. It is a useful document to refer to when validating assessment tools before implementation. 

Common non-compliances to look for when validating assessments:

  1. Assessment tools do not meet all the requirements of the relevant unit of competency resulting in the evidence to be collected not being adequate or sufficient.
  2. Practical assessment tasks do not contain sufficient benchmarks for each skill / behaviour to be demonstrated as required by the unit of competency’s performance evidence
  3. Practical assessment tasks have insufficient instructions for assessors and students in conducting role plays / scenarios to ensure consistency in assessment conditions
  4. Assessment tool instructions do not sufficiently detail performance benchmarks to be demonstrated or reflect required observable behaviours 
  5. Assessors have not been provided with clear instructions to ensure evidence collected of each student’s performance is sufficient
  6. Assessment tools do not make provision for the assessors recording of judgement of competency






Feature Article: The do’s and don’ts’ of creating an internal audit programme for your RTO

Feature Article: The do’s and don’ts’ of creating an internal audit programme for your RTO

If you want to achieve quality rather than just ensuring that your RTO meets its regulatory and contractual requirements, then putting the effort into effective internal auditing is essential.


Develop a proper risk-based audit programme

You audit programme should reflect risks identified in your management systems. Your RTO should not be auditing everything at the same frequency else you will be reviewing some areas too much and others not enough. You should apply risk ratings to areas of concern that determines their priority in the schedule. Ultimately, it’s just a poor use of your resources if not done correctly and you are just auditing for the sake of it and ticking some boxes!

Clearly define audit objectives

Your RTO’s audit objectives define why the audit is being done and what it’s purpose is.  You need to carefully consider why your auditors are actually conducting their reviews; what is the value of them and what outcomes do you want from them? Some objectives to consider are:

  • To check if organisational controls are being adhered to and are in alignment and fit for purpose
  • To determine if staff have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities
  • To identify areas for improvement
  • To determine levels of consistency across processes and departments

Clearly define audit scope

Your RTO’s audit scope should define the extent and boundaries of the proposed audit. These considerations include:

  • The size of the audit?
  • What breadth does it cover?
  • What teams; processes; locations are included?

It is important to be specific with your scope and not make vague references such as “all processes”. A well written scope will clearly define the boundaries of the audit for both auditors and auditees.

Clearly define the audit criteria

Your audit criteria is what the audit is checking against; for RTO’s generally this is likely to be the SNR’s from the SRTO’s 2015 or clauses from funding agreements or other contracts. Similar to the scope the audit criteria helps keep the auditors on track and is used to determine whether evidence complies or does not comply against the audit criteria stated. Your auditors need to be familiar with the requirements of the audit criteria. Audit findings are only valid when referenced back to the criteria, not auditors opinions. 

Use auditors with the right vocational background

Even if your auditors have appropriate qualifications in auditing they still need to know what they are looking at and have knowledge of the VET sector.  Ideally your auditors should be dual qualified / experienced in auditing and training and assessment to ensure they have a broad understanding of what they are auditing.


Use inexperienced or unqualified auditors

Your auditors whether internal staff or external contractors need to be appropriately trained. Training ensures that the auditors do their job correctly; that they use a consistent approach, and that they are skilled in communicating well with auditees. Experienced auditors understand how to conduct effective opening and closing meetings and how to gather and review evidence. They also provide feedback and audit reports that are brief, concise and factual. They do the job right. 

Audit the same things repeatedly: 

It is pointless continuing to audit the same areas and raising more non-compliances when the underlaying causes are not being addressed. There is no value in reviewing areas you know you are going to find the same issues as you did in previous audits.  Your RTO needs to ensure you are following up on outstanding rectifications from previous audits to ensure actions have been taken. This could also mean systemic issues previously identified have been addressed to prevent recurrence.






Why the Negative Views of the VET Sector Need to Change

The VET fee help scandal left hundreds of people in debt for many thousands of dollars. The ‘students’ never even started the courses AND the training providers that claimed to be running these courses, were non-existent.

The VET sector is the option for young people who possibly didn’t achieve the ATAR they wanted and don’t have any other post school options.




But is this fair? The fact is, we’re looking at a generation that for the first time are going to be worse off than their parents in terms of key social and economic measures. Half of our Australian 25 year olds are still not working full time. 60% of those 25 year olds hold some kind of tertiary qualification, including many who have university degrees.

Every year we lose approximately $15.9 billion in potential tax revenue from young people who are still job hunting.

Of those who are working full time at 25, 1 in 10 are working more than one job to get those full time hours. This suggests that even with so many students with a higher education qualification, the education system is failing to prepare students for the workplace. Meaning the VET sector could be the answer.

These are skills that are often taught at a higher level in a VET qualification, rather than through a university degree. The FYA has found that work integrated learning (WIL) is crucial to making people employable. Something vet providers offer through their tertiary education and vocational training.




The Australian government is predicting that more than 990,000 new jobs will be created by 2020, from Victoria to New South Wales and Queensland. Almost half of those jobs will require a certification from VET courses or TAFE schools in the form of a Certificate, Diploma, or Advanced Diploma.

Knowing all of this, why has the education sector flourished in university degrees but seen TAFE enrolments fall over the past five years?

“TAFE and VET enrolments are down by almost 23%”

– Megan O’Connell of the Mitchell Institute

Without policymakers joining the conversation and making decisions, the labour market will continue to stagnate. There will be an oversupply of workers not qualified for the jobs we need done.

The Victorian state government recently announced a series of free TAFE courses to help workers get training that will hopefully in turn, get them a job. More does need to be done on a commonwealth government level, as well as in other states and territories if we want to see a higher employment rate and address industry needs.

“VET is in the perfect position to make a real difference in this country by creating workers that employers want to hire.”

– The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)

Plus, the discussion around TAFE and VET needs to change. Registered training organisations need to be seen as an option for more than just school leavers who didn’t achieve their desired ATAR score.

They need to also be recognised as a valid option for anyone looking to further their qualifications. Which in turn, will make them more likely to be employed than a university graduate.


Plibersek warns unis on standards risk from international student boom

The woman who appears on track to be Australia’s next education minister has delivered a stark warning to universities, declaring a major funding boost comes with an expectation that the sector prioritises the national interest and does not allow the international student boom to damage educational standards.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said the party intends to deliver “transformative” changes to universities and vocational education and training, but she hosed down renewed calls for the sectors to be brought under one national system.

Deputy Labor leader and education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek.
Deputy Labor leader and education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek.CREDIT:LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI

“We are prepared to uncap places again. It’s a $10 billion investment over the decade. And what we want in return is for universities to consider the interests of their local communities and the national interest when they are making decisions about how they expand, how they attract students, the sort of educational offering they make,” she said in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Ms Plibersek said reports of “students being passed with lower than you would expect English proficiency really affect the reputation of all Australian higher education providers”.

“We need to be very vigilant about maintaining our standards because we don’t want to rip people off, but also we don’t want to develop a reputation as a hit and miss provider of university education,” she said.

Australia has experienced explosive growth in international education over recent years — 14 per cent in 2018 — and it is now the nation’s third-largest export. In 2018, about 400,000 foreign students were enrolled in Australian universities, pumping $34 billion into the economy.

The boom has led to concerns about foreign students being treated as cash cows, the impact on teaching standards, and potential complications stemming from the heavy reliance on Chinese students, who account for a third of international enrolments.

Ms Plibersek praised international education as an important export for Australia but cautioned that emerging competition from other countries, including China itself, underlined a need to diversify source countries.

Faced with repeated hits to government funding for research and domestic undergraduate education, many universities have become increasingly reliant on the lucrative revenue from international students.

With Labor widely tipped to win government on May 18, Ms Plibersek has flagged that new funding agreements with universities would outline certain expectations, including higher entry standards for teaching degrees and addressing sexual assault on campus.


“There’s no notion that we just go back to an uncapped system and universities can just let rip,” she said.

“The extra funding has to give us higher graduation rates, better university experience and meet the needs of our nation. It’s a very serious investment of taxpayer funds and universities need to demonstrate the benefit of that investment.”

The former Labor government uncapped places in 2012. The Coalition then froze demand-driven funding at the start of 2018 and has indicated it would be indexed to population growth from 2020.

A Labor government would initiate a comprehensive review of tertiary education in Australia, and Ms Plibersek said she wanted it to transform university and TAFE education, ensuring that both are performing, there is more flexible movement of students between the two and “more sensible” ways of paying for TAFE courses.

“The fact that universities will be funded on a demand-driven basis and TAFE is budget-funded and has the Commonwealth-state overlap has really meant that vocational education has suffered from the vicissitudes of government policy. It has been much more brutal on TAFE,” she said.

While Ms Plibersek acknowledged some in the sector were calling for a single, nationally administed tertiary education system that takes charge of state-based TAFEs and said she wouldn’t pre-empt the inquiry’s findings, she is not yet convinced by the idea.

“I don’t see a great advantage in having one united system, but I think there definitely needs to be more ability to move between the systems and to design the sort of education that meets your employment needs,” she said.

On Monday, Labor is expected to announce 5000 fee-free TAFE places targeted at the digital economy, including IT and software development.

Labor digital economy spokesman Ed Husic said the Coalition had failed to address “crippling” skills shortages and Labor was “determed to make sure that we get Australians skilled up and ready for the jobs ahead”.



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