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VET Assessment Practices Summit 2016 Report

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Insources' first VET Assessment Practices Summit held on 28 and 29 April was an outstanding success. The event attracted more than 100 private training organisations, resource developers, professional bodies, not-for-profit organisations, enterprise RTOs, public training providers, service skills organisations, universities and VET practitioners. They discussed current opportunities and issues within Australia's VET sector.

VET ASSESSMENTThe main topics discussed were:

  • Parameters affecting the quality of assessment practices
  • Industry relevance of assessment practices
  • The effect of TAE Certificate IV in Assessment practices
  • Use of RPL
  • Regulation of assessment practices, and
  • Global perspectives.

Javier Amaro (Insources' CEO) opened the Summit with a presentation that described the three main parameters affecting the quality of assessment practices:

  • Systems
  • Resources, and
  • Use of effective evaluation and continuous improvement processes.

Javier highlighted the need to establish and implement "Assessment Systems" that support and guide managers, trainers/assessors, learners and other stakeholders to maintain relevance and consistency of assessment practices. "The current situation is critical, as compliance is not necessarily linked to quality. Regulatory actions are more concerned about paperwork and record keeping standards, and not looking for evidence that demonstrates learning and the application of that learning in a workplace environment," Javier said.

RTOs continue to find assessment resources a challenge, particularly for off-the-job assessments where facilities, equipment and protocols are required to simulate real workplace situations. On that topic, Javier reflected about the need to make assessment judgments based on evidence of "... the application of skills and knowledge in practical situations, and not only declarative knowledge. There is a gap between knowing and doing, and being competent is about doing."

Assessors are the critical resource for the assessment process. Their technical skills on competency-based-assessment, as well as their vocational competencies allow them to make relevant and consistent competency judgments. Javier commented on this issue saying "... clear evidence of the current status of assessment practices, are the capabilities of trainers and assessors to fully understand the principles of assessment and rules of evidence. According to our records from more than 300 audits conducted over the last five years, more than 80% of trainers have some knowledge about the principles of assessment and rules of evidence, but are unable to apply that knowledge to their own assessment practices."

The last parameter presented was the use of quality review, and quality control measures in the assessment practices. Javier expressed his concerns about the lack of effectiveness of validations and moderations to maintain quality and compliance of assessment practices. "... more that 70% of assessments found not-compliant in our audits, were validated within 12 months prior to the audit, but the validation didn't find any issues with the tool or its application."

Sara Caplan (CEO of PwC Skills for Australia) was also a presenter at the Summit. She expressed her views about the new TAE training package, her expectations about how the new TAE should affect the VET sector, and explained how PwC Skills for Australia is planning to work with RTOs and other VET stakeholders.

The team at PwC Skills for Australia conducted a workshop that gave participants the opportunity to provide their feedback to the new Service Skills Organisation about their needs and future expectations from the TAE training package. Further opportunities to provide feedback to PwC team is by completing the Industry Voice Survey 2016

Yasmin King (CEO of Skills IQ) provided a thought provoking presentation. She reflected on the industry relevance of VET assessment practices, and considered some factors that had contributed to the deteriorating quality of assessment practices such as: how many times skills were demonstrated, for how long, under what conditions, up to what standards, using what type of equipment, following what procedures/protocols, and how competency was determined by assessors.

Yasmin invited participants to reflect on the definition of job readiness. She said, "Can VET produce job ready individuals, or skills ready individuals..."

She highlighted the "... need to consult with the industry to create realistic simulated environments" and encouraged RTOs to "... invite industry stakeholders to participate in assessment validations to ensure they truly assessed candidates to industry standards..."

Carmel Thompson (IVETA's President) presented a global perspective with regards to best practice and stakeholders' expectations from VET. Carmel's presentation focused on the "...need to demonstrate results for learners and employers. Training providers must demonstrate that learners can get a job, and employers can get the job done and improve business performance, that is how quality of assessment practices are measured in many parts of the world."

Dr Phillip Rutherford provided participants with valuable insights about competency-based-assessments and particularly RPL practices. Dr Rutherford discussed different types of evidence that can be considered to make competency judgements, and provide different methods that can be used to collect assessment evidence. "Competent means the candidate can perform the task (task skills), manage all of the small jobs that go to make up the task (task management skills), fix things when they go wrong (contingency management skills), and implement these skills within a particular work environment (job/role environment skills). Assessors must collect evidence of these to make competency judgements."

During the event, the validation process was discussed extensively including regulatory requirements and best practices. Participants engaged in a workshop where the principles of assessment were put into practice.

The VET Assessment Practices Summit 2016 left many questions unanswered, and created expectations about a new platform to allow VET practitioners to interact with policy makers and other VET authorities.

Insources is already working on the VET Assessment Practices Summit 2017.

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