Competency involves the specification of skills and knowledge and their application to a particular standard of performance required in the workplace. Aspects of work performance included in this concept involve:
Performance at an acceptable level of technical skill
Organisation of tasks
Appropriate response and reaction when things go wrong and
Transferability of skills and knowledge to new situations and contexts.
Standards are statements of the required workplace levels of performance.
Assessment is the process of collecting evidence and making judgements on the extent and nature of performance and other requirements, as described in a set of standards, or learning outcomes, resulting in a judgement of whether or not competency has been demonstrated.
Effective and objective assessment is the key to the successful implementation of competency standards in the workplace and in education. This is the judgement of performance and knowledge against the relevant industry competency standards.
Assessment is carried out by the comparison of a candidate’s evidence of skills and knowledge, against the requirements of the Standards.
Underlying Principles of Assessment
For an effective assessment system in a competency environment, some basic principles must apply:
Validity of Assessment requires that the assessment procedure and the assessing party measure or evaluate exactly what they claim to and have been designed to assess. Assessment is said to be valid when:
Assessors are fully aware of what is to be assessed, as indicated by the standards of competence, including clearly defined performance criteria, and Appropriate evidence is collected from activities that can be clearly related to the units of competency.
The evidence collected is authentic when it is derived from valid sources and is directly attributable to the individual being assessed.
Reliability is achieved when the assessment uses methods and procedures that ensure that the competency standards are interpreted and applied consistently from person to person and from context to context. The following are important to ensure that assessment produces consistent outcomes:
Clear, unambiguous, well documented assessment procedures and competency standards;
Clear, consistent and specific assessment criteria;
Effectively trained, briefed and monitored assessors;
Assessors from a range of industries, and an assessment hierarchy designed for a quality outcome; and
Assessment within a flexible system that accommodates multiple and diverse forms of evidence.
The assessment system must ensure that evidence collected and submitted is consistent across the range, without undue reliance on any small number of select workplace contexts or projects.
Under an effective system, assessment evaluates whether or not the individual’s skills and knowledge are current and can be applied in today’s workplace. As a general rule, competencies that have not been demonstrated within the past 3 years are not usually accepted as “current”. However, an assessor, under some circumstances may make exceptions to the specified period.
There may be specific situations where individual skills have not been directly applied for a longer period, but these skills are in fact still current for the individual. In cases such as this, evidence from earlier periods may be admissible, and assessed for currency, within an appropriately flexible assessment system.
Evidence of competency should be sufficient to cover all the elements, performance criteria and required range of variables in the standards against which assessment is to be carried out. A tendency of many candidates is to provide more (or less) evidence than is actually required to prove competency against the standards. An effective assessment system ensures that candidates are clearly advised regarding the amount and form of evidence, which is sufficient to prove competency. This should avoid the situation where masses of evidence are provided, requiring assessors to spend more time than necessary per candidate, or too little evidence, making it difficult to judge competence.
Every portfolio or set of evidence is unique. Each candidate will identify and develop his or her own specific set of evidence to prove competency against the standards. This set of evidence will be based on the workplace experience of the candidate and will comprise diverse types and forms of relevant and appropriate evidence. Assessors must be capable of taking a flexible approach to the assessment of evidence. Clearly, this approach must always take time and cost into account, not only to ensure the best use of assessor time but to ensure a fair and comprehensive outcome for the candidate.
An assessment system must evaluate the scope of knowledge and skills covered by the criteria ‑ both performance (skill) and underpinning knowledge & understanding.
Fairness and Equity
An assessment system and its processes must not disadvantage any person or organisation. All eligible candidates must be guaranteed access to assessment that does not discriminate on any basis. Assessment guidelines must include an approach for working with candidates with special needs. To achieve these principles, the assessment system must exhibit the following characteristics:
Clear, comprehensive standards and assessment processes;
Identification and individualised responses to the needs and assessment issues of potential candidates;
Selection of processes and materials within the assessment system that do not disadvantage candidates;
Appropriate, effective review and dispute resolution mechanism to investigate, examine and redress any issue of unfairness or disadvantage involving access, assessment, certification or other related issues; and
Amendment of the system to avoid or counter potential disadvantages wherever are identified, and appropriate steps taken to overcome them, including reassessment, if required.
The role of an assessor is to objectively assess and judge a candidate’s evidence against a set of standards. In order to do this effectively, an assessor must have a sound knowledge of, and be skilled in, the relevant industry area. In addition, the assessor must have acknowledged competency in assessment itself and hold an appropriate training and assessment qualification or equivalent.
An assessor must:
Interpret and understand the criteria;
Ensure that evidence meets the standards;
Ensure that evidence is valid, authentic, reliable, consistent, current and sufficient; and
Use expertise to make fair and objective judgements.
The training and ongoing professional development of assessors must include such areas as:
Roles, responsibilities and ethics;
Procedural and administrative duties;
Performance and knowledge evidence gathering and presentation;
Interpretation and usage of standards;
Selecting and using appropriate methods of assessment; and
Requirements regarding processing and recording of results, progress and feedback
It is crucial that assessors understand and practise fair, objective, unbiased and flexible assessment processes.
Forms of Evidence
In general, basic forms of skills evidence include:
Direct performance evidence ‑ current or from an acceptable past period ‑ from:
- Extracted examples within the workplace;
- Natural observation in the workplace; and
- Simulations, including competency and skills tests, projects, assignments
Supplementary evidence, from:
- Oral and written questioning;
- Personal reports; and
- Witness testimony.
Appropriate and valid forms of assessment utilised for both skills and knowledge may include:
Evaluation of direct products of work;
Skill tests, simulations and projects;
Evaluation of underpinning knowledge and understanding;
Questioning and discussion; and
Evidence from prior achievement and activity
Candidates with Special Needs
One fundamental principle of an assessment system is that each candidate must have access to fair and open assessment. Candidates with special needs should be offered the same opportunities as any other candidate. As special needs extend to more than clinically identifiable physical or learning difficulties, an assessor will also need to consider the best approach when dealing with candidates with needs such as:
- Low Literacy
- Lack of Confidence, or
- Non-English speaking background.
An assessor must take special needs into consideration from the planning stage onwards and adopt particular assessment methods as appropriate. Depending on any specification given in the standards, the assessor may be able to accept alternative evidence from a candidate with special needs. If there is uncertainty, the assessor should call on other assessors or a verifier for assistance and guidance, as required. In such a case, the situation must be fully documented, with appropriate feedback being provided to the candidate at all stages.
Where students are assessed as not competent they will be provided with additional feedback on their assessment outcome to assist in achieving the required performance standard on reassessment.
Students who are dissatisfied with their assessment outcome may apply for reassessment by contacting their trainer or assessor.