Sunday, April 22, 2012

Assessing Competence - Is Knowledge Taking a Back Seat? (part 2)

Over the weekend I had crossed the last T and dotted the last I in completing a number of assessment validations for another RTO.

Validation as a process is about checking if the assessment tools, processes and supporting resources in use that have an impact upon the delivery and making assessment decisions support the requirements of the appropriate benchmark; generally a Unit of Competence, and are compliant with the Principles of Assessment in their ability to gather evidence that supports the Rules of Evidence.

Through the validation process there were a number of points that were suggested as improvements for their consideration. We can always do something to make an improvement, that's why it’s called Continuous Improvement. It is important to note that there is no requirement for the other party to implement any recommendations arising from validation processes, although it is in their best interests.

As mentioned in the previous post, the perceived emphasis in the Dimensions of Competence is often on the 'skills' within the various contexts and applications. This was an aspect of the validation of the resources that was very closely reviewed.

So what does this mean when assessing someone?

We do need to consider the (underpinning) knowledge in equal parts when making determinations of competence, as this is what separates the ability to follow and complete a process or task from being able to understand and manage the task in its completion. This is where the tasks management and contingency skills, when correctly measured, allow us to identify the extent of the Learners knowledge as it relates to the practical application of skills. Both task management and contingency skills require an adequate level of (relevant subject) knowledge in order to be applied in an effective manner.

But the determinations of competence are not only about measuring the Dimensions of Competence. There is so much more that needs to be considered as a part of the judgement process in determining competence.

One other layer to consider is the Principles of Assessment.

The principles of assessment and the rules of evidence work synergistically. In this working relationship, the principles of assessment provide support for the rules of evidence.

The principles of assessment include the assessment (and the process) being;
  • Valid
  • Reliable
  • Flexible
  • Fair

One Trainer I had the pleasure of attending a course with said "This acronym is so easy to remember, you just need to think of a dog trying to bark with a ball in its mouth."

I must admit I was a little confused at first by this comment.

She then made a barking sound "VVVUUURRRPPPPHHHHH!!!" she exclaimed loudly with her face waving from side to side like she was trying to push the sound out from behind an imaginary ball firmly gripped in her teeth.

As the class turned around to see what the commotion was about I had a hard time not bursting out laughing, and even now the memory of that moment brings a smile to my face.


Validity is where an assessment assesses what it claims to assess. The assessment of competency is a process which integrates the extent of the knowledge and skills and their application or simulation within a practical or workplace based environment. Where assessments are designed to assess based on an identified need, this focus of tailoring or designing the service to meet the need helps to ensure compliance with SNR 16.5 (Element 2.5 of the AQTF).


Reliability refers to the consistency of interpretation of evidence by Assessors and the assessment outcome. Assessment practices need to be monitored and reviewed to ensure that there is consistency across Assessors in relation to the interpretation of evidence. Assessment tools ideally should be accompanied by an Assessor’s guide with the instructions on how to conduct the assessment and the required (range of) answers or forms of evidence to achieve competence. Instructions for Candidates undertaking assessment need to be clear, with example responses provided as required.


Flexibility covers the assessment process being conducted at a mutually convenient time and place. Flexibility can include reasonable adjustments to the assessment methods and tools used to suit variations in the needs of the Candidate(s). Recognition of relevant experience needs to be made regardless of how, where, or when the experience has been obtained – we will look further into Recognition of Prior Learning later in this resource and how as a strategy it supports flexibility.


Fairness covers the assessment practices and methods being fair for all Candidates. The criteria for judging performance and the assessment procedures must be made clear to all Candidates seeking assessment prior to undertaking assessment. In the interest of fairness, the process of assessment should be jointly developed and agreed between the Assessor and the Candidate as much as possible. Opportunities to challenge assessment decisions must be open for Candidates and provisions for reassessment and appeals made accessible.

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