O'Connell Advanced Training Solutions

flexibles und individuelles Englischtraining in Sachsen

On VET Assessment, Instruments and Tools

The room was silent, uncomfortably so.  A shuffling of papers, nervous cough.  Even John, who had been so verbose the past four days was silent, a sliver of doubt in his eyes.

Waiting expectantly with whiteboard marker raised, our instructor repeated the question which had driven us to this place of uncertainty: “So, what is an assessment instrument, and what is an assessment tool?”

We were stumped.  Such opaque titles invited no easy understanding, no ready bridges to be built.  And so we turned back to our course manuals, trying to decipher scribbled notes which had made sense a few days earlier.  Eventually we cobbled together heavily plagiarised answers which seemed to pass muster.

But one year on it occurs to me that we need to shine a light on this critical aspect of VET training which can sometimes play second fiddle to our design and delivery processes.

What is an assessment tool?
Think of this as your
overarching assessment plan, your evidence-gathering tool.  You’re a detective tasked with assessing whether your learners can demonstrate the skills or knowledge necessary for the training program you’ve delivered.  So your assessment plan contains:

  • the context and conditions for the assessment;

  • the tasks to be administered to the student;

  • an outline of the evidence to be gathered from the student;

  • the evidence criteria used to judge the quality of performance, for instance, the decisionā€making rules; and

  • the administration, recording and reporting requirements

In a nutshell, your
assessment instrument is contained within the above dot points, namely:
  • the tasks to be administered;

  • an outline of the evidence to be gathered;

  • the evidence criteria used to judge the quality of performance

My Assessment Tool consists of the following template documents which I encountered whilst training with the Australian Institute of Management and which I can not recommend strongly enough:
  • Unit of Competency - contextualised (taken from training.gov.au and contextualised for your learner)

  • Mapping Document - whereby you map elements and sub-elements of competency against types of evidence which you aim to gather to demonstrate your learner’s competence, outline the UoC’s required skills and knowledge and how you will ensure the Rules of Evidence and Principles of Assessment are observed.

  • Observation Checklist - an assessment instrument whereby as assessor you take structured notes and record evidence collected while directly observing a candidate demonstrating a real or simulated task

  • Question Checklist - an assessment instrument whereby, when direct questions are a chosen form of assessment, these questions and answers are recorded

  • Third Party Report - an assessment instrument whereby, when such a report is a chosen form of assessment, a colleague or supervisor makes a detailed declaration of the learner’s demonstrated competency in a task or knowledge

  • Portfolio Checklist - an assessment instrument whereby evidence for any structured assessment activity including portfolios of evidence for projects or recognition of prior learning (RPL) is collected

  • Pre-Assessment Briefing - a document which documents a briefing you give the learner on the purpose and method of their assessment (this falls under the principle of fair assessment, see below)

Each assessment instrument asks for a decision to be made as to whether the learner meets the requirements (of the Unit of Competency) or not.  

Now, any discussion about instrument tools necessarily needs to mention the
principles of assessment, which are a regulatory requirement and defined as:
  • validity: referring to the extent to which the interpretation and use of an assessment outcome can be supported by evidence

  • reliability: referring to the degree of consistency and accuracy of the assessment outcomes

  • flexibility: referring to the opportunity for students to negotiate certain aspects of their assessment (e.g. timing) with their trainer.  All students should be fully informed of the purpose of the assessment, the assessment criteria, methods and tools used, and the context and timing of the assessment.  This can be done via an assessment plan in the form of a template document prepared by your RTO or yourself.

  • fair assessment: the assessment process may not disadvantage (or advantage) particular students or groups of students, and assessment methods may need to be adjusted for particular students such as those with disabilities, cultural differences or LLN levels.  With specific reference to LLN, the assessment task should not require the learner to demonstrate a higher level of English than that required to perform to a workplace standard outlined in the competencies being assessed. 

One more point - the rules of evidence

The Australian VET system requires that assessment tools adhere to the following four rules:
  • valid: there must be a clear relationship between the requirements of the unit of competency or course you are delivering and the evidence on which assessment is made;

  • sufficient: the performance criteria and evidence guide are addressed; competence over a period of time is demonstrated; all dimensions of competency are addressed; competence in different contexts is demonstrated

  • current – the evidence demonstrates the student’s current knowledge and skills; and

  • authentic – it can be verified that the evidence is the student’s own work

In order to meet the rules of evidence and ensure the principles of assessment are addressed, various assessment methods are available.  These are outlined in this valuable document published by Service Skills Australia, and it's one I highly recommend you read.

So, our
Assessment Tool is our overarching plan of how we are going to be detectives and gather evidence of competency.  Our Assessment Instruments are the tasks we are going to undertake and the criteria we're going to use to judge performance.  We're going to assess according to the principles and rules of assessment, and we're going to ensure our assessment processes are open and transparent.  Easy!


(Image Source: http://cdu.edu.au/olt/teaching/assessingvet.html)

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