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The question facing RTOs is, whether a learner must achieve 100% knowledge and skills assessment underpinning a UEE or UET unit of competency?

uensw  > News headlines, Uncategorized >  The question facing RTOs is, whether a learner must achieve 100% knowledge and skills assessment underpinning a UEE or UET unit of competency?

ASQA have responded to an enquiry by the New South Wales Utilities & Electrotechnology Industry Training Advisory Body (NSW U&E ITAB) regarding the issue of whether a learner/candidate must achieve 100% result in the underpinning knowledge and skills section of a UEE / UET unit of competency.  The query was asked of AQSA for the RTO Forum that was scheduled for last week.  Unfortunately, the Forum was postponed for obvious reasons, but thoughtfully ASQA were kind enough to provide a response the evening before the scheduled Forum.

Their response is somewhat cryptic and requires more analysis and further communication with them.  Suffice to say they did not directly answer the query, but provided general and well established advice on the assessment of a unit of competency outcome.  Essentially, and we support, that the an assessment outcome of a unit of competency cannot and should not be based on a grading system other than ‘competent’ or ‘not yet competent’.  However, there are a series of other underpinning arrangements that can be undertaken in assessment practice, and formally reported on, that are consistent with, and required by, both the UEE / UET TPs; that primarily relate to underpinning knowledge and skills.  In these TPs it entirely appropriate to be permitted, in assessment processes, to establish a process that can result in graded assessment of the underpinning knowledge and skills, and be reported on separately for regulatory and industry requirements.  The evidence can also contribute to the holistic approach that should be adopted in the assessment of evidence process of a unit of competency.  This arrangement would readily as in the past, address the requirements of sufficiency and meet all the requirements of the principles of assessment and rules of evidence. 

It is clear that there is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion in the market whether created by ASQA, its auditors or other compliance advisors, but what is evident is a clear lack of knowledge of the requirements of the UEE / UET TPs, and how educational delivery arrangements can coincide, compliment and contribute to the qualitative and quantitative nature of assessment activities and management.  When a holistic approach is adopted to training and assessment practice, as espoused by the industry recommended model competency development program which is comprised of an off-the-job and on-the-job educationally sound program the outcomes of each unit of competency can be achieved and reported on as follows, and is outlined in the Assessment Guidelines of the Electrotechnology Training Package at page 628 – for Learning and Assessment Pathways New Entrants:

The model that best accommodates a new entrant with no prior experience is one that recognises that learning is best facilitated in a structured educational program with directed workplace activities followed by recurring practice of these activities. That is, the model is based on a combination of on-the-job and off-the-job learning experiences aligned to competency standard unit requirements. It recognises that learning occurs in an active way and should involve appropriate learning strategies. The model provides coherence and integration between respective components. It also represents a:

  • most effective and efficient means of effecting quality education and training
  • means of assessing if learning has occurred and competence has been attained.

Competency standard units are specifications of work performance but they do not specify how training or assessment activities are to be carried out. Given the nature of the information contained within the competency standard units (content and its interrelationships) there is the potential for a variety of interpretations to occur when RTOs are designing training programs.

To improve opportunities for consistency in interpretation the industry preferred approach is to support the use of appropriate learning and assessment strategies. To this end it has developed a Guideline Training and Assessment Model detailing the preferred approach. A copy of the model is available from E-Oz Energy Skills Australia.”

For more information on the industry’s preferred Competency Development Models and related details that outline much of the above refer to page 679 onwards.

Primarily the design of the units of competency in these Training Packages, is predicated on the industry preferred model, which is comprised of the following three basic building blocks:

  1. Knowledge – related to theorems, concepts, principles, techniques, practices, and processes;
  2. Skills – execution of practical exercises to determine if learning has occurred in the related to theorems, concepts, principles, techniques, practices, and processes; and
  3. Application – implementation and performance of workplace activities that cover task skills, management skills, contingency skills and environmental skills  as detailed in the elements, PCs and range statement of a unit of competency.

As stated in the units of competency in these Training Packages, assessment decision should be holistic across the unit.

With respect to all three components it would be entirely plausible to set the following assessment decision process, believing it will develop and acquire ‘sufficient’ evidence, and it would meet the RTO standards as espoused by ASQA and Training Package requirements, relying on the balance of risk and probability, in conferring competent performance for a unit of competency on a learner/candidate:

  1. Knowledge – accept 60-70% pass (can be formally reported if so required by industry and regulators – it is this component that employers want formally reported. In same case a regulator may require 80% as per ACMA, which would be easy for the RTO to report under this model)
  2. Skills – accept 80-100% pass (also, can be formally reported if so required by industry and regulators – it is this component that employers want formally reported)
  3. Application – accept 100% pass based on workplace evidence

If, as the RTO Snr Assessor, I were presented with these three pieces of evidence I would, taking a holistic approach to the evidence, be confident that I have sufficient evidence to make a low risk decision to award a pass (i.e. competent) for the whole unit of competency, as well provide a separate formal report of the grade achieved in points one and two (knowledge and skills respectively).  The above competency development model is supported by industry and regulators, and an entirely acceptable and a coherent approach to training and assessment delivery.  Moreover, it is an educationally sound model for learning and assessment for learners/candidates and one any competent educator should support and advocate for.

There is nothing new or untoward about this approach and one followed by Doctors, Pilots, Engineers and many others in their competency development models.  The form may differ but the principle is still the same.  A good and simple competency based example is a driving test.  To obtain a driver’s license the candidate must achieve a minimum percentage for the knowledge assessment and near on 100% for the practical.   On review of a combination of the two pieces of evidence a decision is made to confer competence or not to the prospective driver.  Each piece of evidence is separately reported before a decision on the whole is made.  The same approach applies to UEE an d UET TPs.

Over the coming weeks we will explore in more detail our advocacy on this matter and whether we can get clarity and acceptance that graded assessment can be applied to the underpinning knowledge and skills section of a UEE / UET unit of competency of less than 100%.  We know that regulators and more so, employers want this.  I have had all of the industrial parties support this advocacy and they too seek this approach for our industry.

Provided there is a holistic approach to the assessment of evidence associated with a unit from the Electrotechnology or ESI – Transmission, Distribution and Rail (TDR) Training Packages, this is not an untested and unique approach.  In fact, it is good practice competency based training and assessment model to deploy by any RTO with an educational underpinning psychology or raison d’etre.

Stay tuned as we work with relevant stakeholders including ASQA to advance better and clearer understanding of the industry competency development model best suited to deliver of the UEE and UET Training Packages for new entrants.  Please feel free to circulate this news item to colleagues  and friends.

If you would like to discuss the matter further contact Tony at

PS:  ASQA recommended review of the videos they recently released on assessment, and referred to clauses 1.8 to 1.12 o the RTO standards:

“ASQA recently released a video relating to assessments, and did address graded assessment during the conversation.  I invite you to view Understanding Assessment Video: Chapter 3 – What instructions should be given to assessors and students?

In providing advice to your stakeholders on ASQA’s position on graded assessment, I would also encourage you to direct them to this video and ASQA’s User’s Guide on the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 for clauses 1.8 to 1.12 where it specifies:

A student must:

  • Be assessed against all of the tasks identified in the elements of the unit or module
  • Demonstrate they are capable of performing these tasks to an acceptable level.”