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What Are The Rules of Evidence and Why Are They So Important?

25 - May - 2020

This blog has been updated for freshness and relevancy...

The RTO Standards Guide is an important document in the VET industry. Whether you’re somewhat familiar with it and looking to brush up, or are completely unfamiliar with it and looking to get your hands on any information possible, we’d like to help.

Here, we summarise part of what we consider to be one of the most important sections of the RTO Standards Guide: Conduct Effective Assessment - Clause 1.8-2, Rules of Evidence.

There are four Rules of Evidence; Validity, Sufficiency, Authenticity and Currency.

The Rules of Evidence are very closely related to the Principles of Assessment and highlight the important factors around evidence collection.

We will be discussing each of these and what it means for RTO Assessment. Download this infographic for easy reference.

Rules of EvidenceValidity

The Validity rule is based on the assessor being confident that the learner has the skills, knowledge and attributes required in the module or unit of competency and assessment. Essentially, it means that the assessment process does what it claims, assesses the competency of the individual learner.

So, how do RTOs make sure that their assessments are valid?

Assessments cover the broad range of skills and knowledge required for competent performance:

  • Assessment of knowledge and skills is integrated with practical application
  • Assessment concludes that the learner can demonstrate skills and knowledge when required
  • Competence is based on learner performance being aligned to unit/s of competency and assessment requirements
  • Your RTO Assessment tool must adequately cover all requirements of each unit, and be able to confirm repeatability of performance. To be valid, the assessment must not omit anything from the unit, nor expect anything above and beyond unit requirements

There are different types of evidence that can be collected to prove competency:

  • Direct evidence - this is evidence that is witnessed first hand by the assessor and includes observation of workplace performance, oral exam, work samples, presentations, etc.
  • Indirect evidence - this is evidence that can be reviewed by the assessor and includes written assignments, portfolios, completed pieces, etc.
  • Supplementary evidence - this is additional evidence that supports a claim of competence, such as training records, third party reports, work journals, etc.

Your RTO Assessment tool should provide guidance for assessors in this regard, with instructions to guide their judgement on performance and answers to assessment questions. Providing assessors with written questions and answers, as well as making space for the assessor to make comments on assessment criteria allows RTOs to demonstrate the validity of each learner’s assessment.

Rules of EvidenceSufficiency

The Sufficiency rule, much like the Validity rule, is based on the assessor being confident that the quality, quantity and relevance of the assessment evidence allows judgement to be made on a learner’s competency.

In some instances a unit or module will indicate a minimum number of times that a task must be performed to determine that learning is sufficient. When determining sufficiency, RTOs should establish standards that are in line with their relevant industry.

For example, assessors can choose to attend the workplace of a learner, or watch a video of a role play at a simulated workplace, if appropriate, to view them in action while referring to a comprehensive checklist. This checklist would provide detail about the tasks that are to be completed and what is considered evidence that determines sufficient learning.

Compare this to an assessor simply asking the learner about how they would do it or using an auto-marked question, a simple explanation or tick box is not always sufficient and could result in non-compliance.

While unedited video can often show the extent of the learners skills or knowledge, be careful when accepting photos as evidence. They often are not sufficient and can lead to non-compliance.

Rules of Evidence

Rules of EvidenceAuthenticity

The Authenticity rule is based on the assessor being confident that the evidence presented in assessment is indeed the work of the learner.

While ensuring authenticity in a face-to-face setting seems straightforward enough, this can present unique challenges where distance learning is concerned.

Some strategies include having students agree, in writing, not to share login IDs and passwords, showing ID online prior to assessment (Zoom breakout rooms can be utilised in this instance to maintain students’ privacy), sign declarations stating that all evidence submitted is their own, or using live webinar software to interview the student and see them on camera. Even if assessment isn’t conducted this way, you can engage in some verbal questioning and observation of skills that provide enough evidence of what the learner knows.

Rules of EvidenceCurrency

The Currency rule is based on the assessor being confident that the evidence presented in assessment demonstrates current competency. The assessment evidence must be from the present or very recent past.

What is considered the “very recent past”? This will vary between industries, and in some cases units will provide guidance about what is considered current. Generally, evidence collected more than two years ago is not considered current; however, it can be accepted in some instances. RTOs should rely on industry standards when determining what evidence is considered current.

Your RTO Assessment tool should enable you to be confident about the Validity, Sufficiency, Authenticity and Currency of your assessments. The importance of following these rules when it comes to Assessment should not be understated. If evidence collection isn’t valid, sufficient, authentic or current it can lead to under qualified students. Furthermore, if an RTO is audited and found to be non-compliant they can lose funding or have their license revoked.

To read this section of the RTO Standards Guide in full, click here.

For more information about keeping your RTO compliant, check out these resources:

ASQA Explained: RTO Audit Process

ASQA Student Survey: The What, Why and How Explained

 How RTOs Can Involve Other Parties in Collecting Assessment Evidence

RTO Standards Guide: Top Tips for Compliant Marketing and Recruitment Practices 

Volume of Learning Explained for RTOs

Accessibility for People With Disabilities in Vocational Education

The What, Why and How of the ASQA Learner and Employer Questionnaires

Rules of Evidence

UPDATED: 8 July 2021


RTO Standards Guide, Clauses 1.8 to 1.12, Conduct effective assessment https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment/clauses-1.8-to-1.12

Using other parties to collect assessment evidence https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/fact-sheets/using-other-parties-to-collect-assessment-evidence