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Assessment Methods in Vocational Education and Training

16 - November - 2021

One of the most important aspects of running a training organisation is understanding how assessments work. There are several parts to this - from gathering knowledge evidence to outlining performance criteria and choosing assessment methods. 

While it's impossible to discuss all of these components in a single piece, we will get started with one of the essential parts—assessment methods.  Here is what we will cover:

  • What are assessment methods in Vocational Education?
  • What are the qualities of standard Vocational Education assessment methods?
  • The best assessment methods in Vocational Education
  • Tips for choosing the best assessment methods
  • Conducting assessment using online delivery methods
  • Understand the advantage of a fit-for-purpose online assessment system

Assessment MethodsWhat are Assessment Methods in Vocational Education?

An assessment method is a standard process for evaluating students' knowledge and competencies based on what they should have learned over a training period.

It refers to performance criteria, tasks, and techniques that training providers use to pass objective judgment and certify trainees fit for the workplace. 

Typically, Vocational Education assessments are high-stakes tests and have a direct impact on learner-advancement.

For instance, they determine whether a student will graduate and get work or further their education. So, more than anything else, the methods for these assessments must be valid, reliable, flexible and without bias to reflect the students' actual knowledge. 

Because of their essential role in delivering job-ready graduates to Australia's rapidly growing industries, assessment methods are subject to strict Vocational Education regulatory requirements like the Vocational Education and Training Quality Framework and ASQA RTO Standard Guide.

Training providers must comply with these regulations created by the for Australia's national vocational education and training regulator ASQA (Australian Skills Quality Authority) as they design, develop and deploy assessment techniques.  

What are the Qualities of Standard Vocational Education Assessment Methods? 

Content Validity

Content validity means that the assessment method matches the precise context of the evaluation. In other words, its design, questions, and overall user experience should help trainees demonstrate their actual knowledge of the subject matter. 

Consistency

A good assessment method replicates results over time—that is, it is reliable and predictable. 

Flexibility

Flexibility means you can easily adapt the assessment method to meet your unique training requirements and preferences. 

Fairness 

Ultimately, the right assessment method establishes a level playing ground for all trainees. As much as possible, avoid techniques that create biases and affect candidates' performance levels.

The Best Assessment Methods in Vocational Education 

Direct Observation

Career Pathways in VET

Direct observation means evaluating the candidates’ practical skills as they engage in actual workplace tasks. Here, students participate in performance assessments in the workplace or summative assessments in a simulated off-the-job situation that reflects the workplace.

The idea of direct observation is to subject students to the same conditions expected of them in the real world. For example, if you run a training school for blacksmiths, you can organise individual or group assessments in a forge or blacksmith's shop.  

Advantages of Direct Observation Assessments 

  1. They provide real-time feedback on student's practical skills. 
  2. Direct observation limits bias and plagiarism. 

Disadvantages of Direct Observation Assessments 

  1. Direct observation assessments are time-consuming.
  2. Students may feel intimidated, which affects their performance.

Third-party Evidence

Training providers may depend on supplementary evidence to assess a student's competence level. This happens when reports and feedback from workplace supervisors and other observers become part of the assessment criteria. 

Advantages of Using Third-party Evidence in Vocational Assessment

  1. It captures information that the assessor would have otherwise missed. 
  2. Third-party evidence helps you to make a more objective evaluation of the student's skills. 

Disadvantages of Using Third-party Evidence in Vocational Assessment

  1. Collating all the evidence is pretty cumbersome.
  2. Third-party evidence is subjective and unverifiable in most cases. 

Questioning

Question-based assessments are used to evaluate theoretical knowledge of a subject matter. Here, students might participate in oral interviews and surveys or complete written questionnaires with open-ended and closed-ended questions to show how much they know. 

Advantages of Questioning 

  1. It helps students to think critically and communicate these thoughts clearly. 
  2. Question-based assessments encourage students to think out of the box. 

Disadvantages of Questioning 

  1. Preparing questions takes a considerable amount of time. 
  2. Assessors cannot use question-based assessments to gauge a student's practical competencies. 

Product-based Assessment 

Also known as a project-based assessment, product-based assessments are an alternative form of evaluation that focuses on the final product rather than knowledge or practical skills. In other words, it is more concerned with what students can create with their skills and not just how much they know. 

For example, the assessor can ask students to create a report, write a case study or make a presentation. Then, they will award grades based on the quality of candidates’ submissions. 

Advantages of Product-based Assessment 

  1. It allows you to evaluate the extent to which students can put their knowledge to work. 
  2. Product-based assessments test students' critical thinking skills. 

Disadvantages of Product-based Assessment 

  1. Lack of time makes it difficult for teachers to assess submissions, especially in a large class critically. 
  2. Sometimes, product-based assessments do not reflect a student's skills realistically. For example, parents and guardians can help students to create their final projects. 

Portfolio Assessment

Here, the instructor asks students to create and submit a collection of work samples such as videos, logbooks, pictures or documents. Then, the assessor grades students based on these work samples or portfolios. This is an example of direct evidence.

Advantages of Portfolio Assessments 

  1. Portfolios are built over a period, so they provide enough evidence of a student's knowledge. 
  2. Training providers and candidates communicate better through assessment portfolios.

Disadvantages of Portfolio Assessments

  1. Portfolio assessments are highly subjective.
  2. A portfolio assessment is not a standardised testing method in vocational education. 

Tips for Choosing the Best Assessment Method

The first step to conducting quality evaluations as a training provider is choosing the right assessment method. Since there are numerous options available, making a decision can be quite a chore. With that, here are some things to have in mind to help you breeze through the process faster. 

  1. Be mindful of the context of learning. Ask yourself questions like “would these assessment strategies enable students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills fully?”
  2. Consider the unique needs of the different types of students in training. For example, actively employed learners who are up-skilling will mostly benefit from a portfolio assessment over an oral questioning type evaluation. 
  3. Choose a method that allows you to seamlessly collect evidence for assessment. Here, it is best to consider the arrangements for the evaluation, such as location and the duration of the assessment. 

Conducting Assessment Using Online Delivery Methods

Over the last two years we've witnessed a massive uptake in the need for online assessment. This is due largely in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden need for training providers to continue delivery during lockdown and periods of physical distancing.

The decision to take assessment online is also made to solve a business problem and to expand and appeal to your current and potential students. The future is tech! There is an ever growing need for remote, flexible, online assessment solutions. It's time to rise to the challenge!

ASQA acknowledges that some providers may have considered switching to distance education to facilitate course work already in process. To assess suitability of a move to distance delivery for a course it is required that you consider the possibility that you employ the distance delivery approach to assess your suitability for a course.

What to Consider

Going online will make your training organisation more efficient and sustainable while appealing to the more tech savvy students. It has the added benefit of creating a bullet proof audit trail.

And it isn't just for distance learning. It's important to remember that online assessment can be used in face-to-face, blended and distance learning.

Although going online is the right move for all these reasons and more, there are some things to remember:

You need the right solution

When it comes to technology for the VET sector, there are specific niche requirements. This is because there are fundamental differences between VET requirements and other areas of Education.

For this reason, the technology for each will be different. Hence why there is a strong need for Online Assessment. 

Some things to remember before taking assessment online are:

Know What You Need

Consider the assessment methods you'll be using, clients you'll be working with, the different scenarios and environments of assessment you'll be supporting your learners in.

Consider Solutions Carefully

Online Vocational Education assessment is a lot more than just a digital assessment record and a flashy submission workflow.

You need to consider the processes that you need to fully support online assessment in your training organisation, how you'll control revisions and make continuous improvements, deploy changes and control additional attempts, track learner activity, manage courses, students enrolled, etc.

Compliance is Key

When it comes to the Principles of Assessment and the Rules of Evidence, the method of delivery doesn’t matter.

You must be able to show how you collected evidence following the rules and that assessments were implemented in line with the four principles whether you use face-to-face, online or blended delivery. Records will need to be kept as evidence of what you’ve done and that you met the required standards.

Some common issues that can lead to non-compliance include:

  • How did you keep track of attendance online?
  • Does attendance meet the requirements of participation?
  • How are you maintaining authenticity in assessment?
  • When were assessments submitted?
  • What support were students receiving?

Some evidence that can be collected through a fit-for-purpose solution like Cloud Assess, include:

  • Unique Login ID
  • User name and password
  • Date and time stamps
  • When marking was occurring
  • Feedback provided

For some more top tips on taking assessment online, click here.

Assessment MethodsAuthenticity of Assessment

How can you be sure that it is the student doing the assessment and not someone else on their behalf? It really comes down to some of the same principles you would use in face-to-face assessment plus a few extra steps.

Firstly, create agreements around use of logins and passwords. While this doesn't provide a guarantee, it still needs to be put in place to make sure it is in the student’s mind that they are not to give their login details to anyone else – not even their workplace supervisor.

Secondly, online authenticity statements. If the LMS can’t do this, then you may need the student to sign a document to upload, or use an online signing system that you can integrate with your LMS.

Again, they may sign saying it is their own work and you don’t know for sure that it is, but it makes them think twice.

The type of evidence that is collected can provide a third way of ensuring authenticity. Just because assessment is online doesn’t mean it can’t be ‘live’.

Use of webinar or meeting software means you can interview the student and see that it is them on camera – if used for some verbal questioning or observation of skills then this provides direct evidence where you know what they can do.

Also, inclusion of unedited videos can show to an extent the skills or knowledge of your student. Some LMSs allow for recording directly into the system, rather than students creating a video, doing some creative editing, and then uploading.

Understand the Advantages of a Fit-For-Purpose Online Assessment System

Adopting a digital solution reduces long term resource requirements meaning there is long term savings. An online solution will enable you to have:

  • Increased flexibility: this is especially true for younger learners who may prefer an unfixed schedule.
  • Reduced disparity for learners in remote areas: for those who may be limited by availability due to their location, the option for online training and assessment may be very attractive
  • Fit-for-purpose systems like Cloud Assess improve record keeping and retention: this can all be automated through workflows and run in the background.

Never forget that regardless of your method of delivery or what solutions you use, the unit requirements remain the same. Make sure you do not deviate from the requirements as this will lead to non-compliance.

Final Words…

Because training providers depend on multiple methods to evaluate students' skills objectively and make accurate decisions, the assessment process can quickly become cumbersome. This is why you need an online assessment and training solution to help you organise large volumes of students' data and optimise complex workflows efficiently. 

Assessment Methods