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

References: 

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment/clauses-1.8-to-1.12

https://www.asqa.gov.au/faqs/what-difference-between-validation-and-moderation-clauses-19-111

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment/clauses-1.1-to-1.4-2.2

https://www.tac.wa.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/2018-13795.pdf

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.

Do:

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.

Don’t:

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.

References: 

https://www.iia.org.au/technical-resources

https://www.pwc.com.au/assurance/internal-audit-profession.html

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/videos/video-understanding-audits

https://desbt.qld.gov.au/training/providers/pqs/audits

Feature Article: Four key pieces of advice for RTO managers

Being a leader in a rapidly changing industry such as the VET sector is not easy. Here are some hints to help you manage successfully…

Leadership: 

Effective leadership requires a lot of self-discipline, boundaries and empathy. Favour personal relationships over processes. One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make is failing to network with other managers within their organisation or wider industry. Your peers represent a valuable knowledge resource and support system. The RTO world is relatively small and who you develop work relationships with will benefit your career in the VET sector in the long run. 

Managing your team:

It’s critical as a manager to set clear goals for your team members whether you are managing trainers/assessors or administration staff or a combination of both. In doing so give your workers flexibility, autonomy and control over how they perform their work. As a manager, it’s important to show trust in your employees. Evaluate staff on their performance and outputs, not the number of hours they spend in the office. 

Managing your resources:

RTO managers need to be skilled at managing resources effectively and efficiently particularly when it comes to staff. Planning is critical when it comes to being efficient. Effective resource management is achieved by having appropriate plans in place such as timetables and schedules. Part of your planning process should be identifying and implementing efficiencies particularly where you can use technology or automate tasks. 

Communicate effectively:

Different staff have different ways of working, preferences for communication, environmental needs, feedback styles and unique attitudes towards their jobs. Therefore, not one person or role will need the same type of managing. Often times, the people you manage have more to teach you than you have to teach them.  Now more than ever authenticity and accountability in the workplace is valued over appearances and hollow promises. Staff expect genuine, trustworthy interactions with their managers not those based on pretence or attempts to hide imperfections.

References: 

https://hbr.org/2015/05/why-compassion-is-a-better-managerial-tactic-than-toughness

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nelldebevoise/2020/05/19/to-build-back-better-ceos-must-put-people-first/?ss=leadership-strategy#e9ff9627c903

Feature Article: Four ways to ensure your RTOs assessment practices are compliant

Implementing robust quality assurance measures focused on compliant assessment practices will result in increasing the quality of assessment and ultimately student and industry outcomes for your RTO.

Validation of assessor judgements:

All RTO’s must undertake validation of assessment practices and judgements to comply with Clause 1.9 – 1.11 of the SRTOs 2015. ASQA’s defines validation as the quality review of the assessment process. Therefore, it is conducted after assessment has been completed. Validation involves checking that the assessment tool/s produce/s 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. According to ASQA validation helps ensure that your RTO’s training and assessment practices are relevant to the needs of industry.

In validating a qualification on scope, RTO’s are required to validate the assessment practices and judgements from a sample of the units of competency within that qualification. At least two units of competency should be sampled when validating a qualification as suggested by ASQA. You may expand the number of units to validate at any time during the validation process, particularly when validation outcomes indicate that assessment judgments are not valid.

Moderation

Moderation is a quality control process aimed at bringing assessment judgements into alignment as defined by ASQA. Moderation is generally conducted before the finalisation of student results as it ensures the same decisions are applied to all assessment results within the same unit of competency. Your may consider implementing a process within your RTO of moderating all assessments conducted for high risk delivery areas such as programs delivered by third parties for example.

Student file audits:

Another way to ensure assessors are being consistent in their assessment practices is to implement routine student file audits to compliment validation activities and target courses of on-going concern or high risk. The focus of these audits should be on common issues or known areas of concern such as:

  • Ensuring assessors use correct and approved versions of assessment tools 
  • Verifying that all assessment tasks have been completed by learners
  • Confirming that assessors are keeping accurate and complete student records
  • Checking that your assessors are marking in line with benchmark answers and marking guides and issuing correct results

Systematic and planned checks of completed student assessments is an effective method in monitoring your RTO’s continuing compliance with the SRTOs 2015

Targeted training and development for assessors: 

The outcomes of your validation, moderation and student file audits should provide reliable data and a good indication of systemic issues relating to your assessors practices. From those findings you can determine what professional development needs those assessors may have and develop a targeted approach to providing suitable training and development to build their capacity. For example, your RPL assessors may need some additional coaching or mentoring in RPL processes, collection of sufficient RPL evidence and recording their judgements appropriately.

References: 

https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2019C00503

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/fact-sheets/conducting-validation

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment

Retention of apprentices critical during COVID-19 pandemic

Retention of apprentices critical during COVID-19 pandemic
Ron Maxwell, VERTO CEO is urging employers to consider the importance of retaining apprentices.
The Morrison Government has committed to the future of our apprentices with their stimulus package, announcing wage subsidies and financial support that will help around 70,000 businesses to retain 117,000 apprentices. The impacts of COVID-19 has impacted on many trades where a large proportion of the operators are small businesses, many have seen a significant downturn. These small businesses play an important role in developing the next generation and ensuring a strong future for their industries and the communities in which they live and work.