If studying a program in the Vocational Education and Training sector you may find that things are a little different to school, university or other assessments you may have encountered in your adult life.
The major reason for this is that the assessments are based upon a competency model; aiming to determine if candidates can competently perform a skill, task or job. This stems from the origins of the sector; which was in qualifying people to perform a task to industry standard.
This notion of preparing or qualifying people to perform workplace tasks is still the predominant focus in VET; this can be observed through the fact that each qualification is aligned to a specific occupation, for example the Diploma in Project Management aims to recognise that the holder can function as a Project Manager.
The great thing is that the standards as defined by industry- not academics and articulate the actual skills required to work effectively; so you can actually do the job, not just theoretically be able to do the job. This video explains the competency based environment quite well.
Competency Based Training https://youtu.be/c5g_Qo8yDcw
How are Standards established?
To establish the requirements: for instance, what is required to operate as a Project Manager, industry is consulted in the establishment of ‘competencies’. These will include aspects such as the skills required, the specific tasks which they should be able to complete, the knowledge they should hold as well as fundamental skills to work effectively in the workplace.
These are outlined in the form of qualifications and units.
You are probably familiar with a Qualification, these are normally (in VET) titled Certificate, Diploma, Advanced Diploma etc. Qualifications in VET are recognised under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and often referred to as Nationally Recognised qualifications.
Qualifications, at a high-level outline the key attributes which industry has determined are required to operate in a specific position. These attributes are termed “units of competency” or simply units. Effectively a qualification is comprised of these units.
There is no set number of units which a qualification must have, as a result you will find qualifications having different amounts of units; for example the Diploma of Project Management (BSB51415) has 12 units, whereas the Diploma of Business (BSB50215) only has 8 (Current as of 2017).
Units (of Competency) are the building blocks of qualifications, basically all a qualification does is refer to a mix of units; if that mix is achieved the qualification is obtained. The units describe the individual components and express the requirements which industry believes should be demonstrated by candidates when performing certain tasks.
Let me give you an example;
So you want to work as a Project Manager, as a result you enrol in a Diploma of Project Management. In this case industry has stipulated there are 8 units which are essential for project managers to hold; these are titled core units.
Basically, industry has stated that Project Managers must, in order to be effective be able to perform these 8 components; in this case these are, being able to:
- Manage project scope (BSBPMG511)
- Manage project time (BSBPMG512)
- Manage project quality (BSBPMG513)
- Manage project cost (BSBPMG514)
- Manage project human resources (BSBPMG515)
- Manage project information and communication (BSBPMG516)
- Manage project risk (BSBPMG517)
- Manage project integration (BSBPMG521)
Now if you recall I stated there were in fact 12 units within this qualification. So what about the other 4 you ask?
Well these are units which have not been an expressed industry requirement, but often have been included within a qualification to meet the requirements of the AQF. In some cases the electives allow for specialisation or increase the ability for the candidate to engage in more relevant skills, however in some cases you could say that the elective units are just there to ‘beef up’ a qualification.
In the case of the Diploma of Project Management, it could be argued that the additional 4 units have simply been included to beef up the qualification. The inference made here is the line; the additional units “may be selected from any endorsed Training Package or accredited course”, within reason, this basically means that you are able to use any 4 units; as long as they can be shown to be relevant to the work environment and qualification (and a couple of other criterion).
As an example, if you were a project manager within the fitness industry you could use units within that industry. Now, this is purely my contention but I feel in many regards this flexibly dilutes the value of the qualification. In this case Project Management, much like management skills are designed to be transferable; they will assist a Project Manager working across a range of industries, however the electives may not have the same degree of transfer. As a result when selecting units, aim for those which add value to the purpose of the qualification by asking the question; will this unit make them a better Project Manager?
Breakdown of a unit
So, this is where assessments really come from. Each unit is decomposed in a similar fashion; the key tasks (elements), which further defined at a granular level within the performance criteria, the foundation skills (skills required to operate effectively within the industry), required skills (Performance Evidence) and Knowledge (Knowledge Evidence) as well as some units specifying assessment conditions; such as where the skills need to be applied, the number of times etc.
To be awarded the unit, a candidate must satisfactorily demonstrate that they have achieved all of the above requirements.
The assessments are purely a tool intended to allow you to present evidence in support of your ability to meet the requirements of the respective unit. They are not there to trick you or overwhelm you. Each assessment question or task in some way links back to a part of the unit.
For instance, if you are completing the unit “Manage Project Time” (BSBPMG512) as part of the Dip of Project Management you may be asked to develop a schedule; this makes sense as it’s a key component of time (which should really be called schedule) management. However the real reason you are being asked to do so is to assist your assessor in building a case in demonstrating your ability to meet certain components of the unit; such as:
- Element 1- Determine Project Schedule
- Performance Criteria 1.1- 1.4
- As well as some of the foundation skills such as; Numeracy skills: Calculates time requirements for project scheduling
- Performance Evidence: develop a project schedule using project management tools and techniques
- And allow the application of Knowledge evidence such as summarise key tools for project scheduling
However, the most important reason why practical questions such as this should be asked, is that you are demonstrating your ability to actually develop a schedule; this is a skill which an employer would want you to apply in a PM role.
There are multiple ways assessments could be developed. If you look at each of the components within the units, you will probably work out there are several ways which you can meet these outcomes; using practical evidence such as making a schedule, using short questions, interviews or even gaining evidence from third parties such as supervisors.
When designing our assessments, we aim to make them as practical as possible. Ultimately, we want a qualification from Scope Training to say to employers that the person can actually do the job. As a result, we draw from your experience or have you apply the concepts, tools and tasks in your own environment.
Where possible we aim to reduce duplicity- asking you the same question multiple times as well as design our assessments in line with the principles of assessments, making them; fair, flexible, valid and reliable.
This video gives further explanation on the principles of assessments.
Principles of assessments: https://youtu.be/52rUg-J_4yM
Each qualification will have an assessment guide. This will explain what is required to meet the course outcomes. The assessment guide extends upon the information provided within the student start-up guide and conveys information specific to each unit or qualification. This information will specify;
- The requirements to successfully achieve the outcome (qualification or unit)
- The assessments used
- Details on each assessment
- Any specific requirements, such as submission formats etc.
In some cases, assessments are explained at a qualification level, whilst others at a unit level.
In qualifications such as the Certificate IV and Diploma of Project Management you may find that you have a single assessment guide for the respective qualification. This is as it makes practical sense to combine the assessments together. If you think about it project management is managing these discrete knowledge areas, for example when developing a Charter (Business Case) you are using skills from:
- Scope Management (expressing the objectives, inclusions/exclusions)
- Time Management (providing milestones, work breakdown structures and estimates)
- Cost Management (conducting cost estimates, providing a budget)
- Quality Management (specifying standard, quantifying outcomes)
- Human Resource Management (identifying resource requirements, skill sets)
- Communication Management (expressing the major communication activities)
- Stakeholder Management (identifying and demonstrating how you are meeting stakeholder needs)
- Risk Management (identifying and providing controls for key risks)
In cases such as this it makes sense to ask students to develop a Project Charter as a single task rather than demonstrate each aspect in isolation.
In qualifications including the Diploma of Leadership and Management you may find an Assessment Guide for each unit or cluster (combination of units- such as the Health and Safety cluster). This is that due to the different requirements of the units it may not make sense to combine (cluster) assessment tasks. As a result, you may find that each unit (or cluster) has its own assessment guide.
What can be submitted?
The VET sector allows for a great flexibility in what can be submitted as evidence. There are only 4 requirements which must be met in the consideration of evidence, these are often referred to as the rules of evidence: Validity, Sufficiency, Authenticity and Currency.
The video below explains the rules of evidence
Rules of evidence: https://youtu.be/v16P8GzBxpQ
Now, before we get into trouble, there may be additional considerations imposed by various training providers as to the matter by which assessments are submitted. If these apply they should be present within the assessment guides.
Questions and Answers
Please add to this resource through questions, comments. The great, but sometimes confusing part of the VET sector is its inherent flexibility, leading there to be no one set way or “correct answer”, so feel free to share your thoughts.