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Understanding assessment validation

October 15, 2021

We’ve seen in NCVER’s report on independent validation that terminology isn’t universally understood or used consistently, while organisations like Velg are collaborating with ASQA to host webinars about understanding validation. Understanding assessment validation is important for many reasons, including for ensuring national consistency in the sector, but many providers find the terminology and processes confusing.

Understanding assessment validation

Pre-validation: Pre-Validation occurs prior to assessment to ensure the assessment tool meets the Principles of Assessment, the Rules of Evidence and complies with the assessment requirements of the relevant training package or VET accredited course. This process can include a validation of mapping to confirm coverage against the unit, and a validation of assessment to check the instruments have been written to collect the right type of evidence as required by the training package or unit of competency[1]. 

Let’s look at an example from TAFE Queensland[2]. 

TAFE Qld has a pre-use validation process where they focus on the assessment tool itself, making sure that it's going to meet all of the Unit requirements and that they’re going to get consistency in how the assessment is being administered. Then, they look at the judgement that the assessors will make, and ensure the assessment judgements are valid and consistent. The most important part of the pre-validation process for TAFE Qld is ensuring the benchmarks are explicit, and the instructions and conditions are clear and extensive. Avoiding benchmarks that are too brief or vague ensures consistent outcomes. 

TAFE Qld’s pre-validation process takes around 2-3 hours to undertake, and they understand it can be both a laborious task and a large investment. However, they believe that investing the time and money in the pre-use validation process is extremely beneficial for risk mitigation. Ensuring the assessments are fit for purpose pre-delivery, rather than picking it up post-delivery, is useful for preventing extensive remediation and rectification to address gaps in the assessment, the impact of that on the students, and figuring out the further training and assessment that may need to occur. 

Validation vs Moderation 

Validation is defined in the Standards as the quality review of the assessment process, and is a compliance requirement. This includes checking that your assessment tools have produced valid, reliable, sufficient, current and authentic evidence. To do this, training providers need to review a valid sample of completed assessments. The process of reviewing a statistically valid sample of the assessments leads to the ability to make recommendations for future improvements to the assessment tool, process and outcomes. The provider can then act upon those recommendations to deliver better student outcomes. Valid assessment judgements confirm a student holds all of the knowledge and skills described in a training product. 

So, the RTO should look at the judgements and ensure that they were robust, followed the benchmarks and instructions, and met the conditions.

On the other hand, moderation is a quality control process that is generally conducted before the finalisation of student results as it ensures the same decisions are applied to all assessment results within the same unit of competency. It aims to ensure those involved in assessment have a shared understanding of the tools, instructions and processes so that there’s agreement that these systems meet the requirements of the training package or accredited course. Moderation isn’t a compliance requirement under the Standards, but is highly recommended. 

Validation team

A validation team undertakes the systematic validation of the RTO’s assessment practices and judgements. Your validation team can be made up of one person or a team of people, but they must meet the requirements of Clause 1.11 of the Standards. 

This means your validation team needs to be made up of those who: 

  1. are not directly involved in the instance of delivery and assessment of the training product being validated
  2. collectively have vocational competencies and current industry skills relevant to the assessment being validated
  3. hold current knowledge and skills in vocational teaching and learning
  4. hold training and assessment credentials specified in Item 2 or Item 5 of Schedule 1.

Continuing the example from TAFE Qld, their team includes subject matter experts who are independent of developing the assessment tools, with a range of different expertise. One interesting tip to note is the benefits of having an LLN expert in the team, as they often see things from a different perspective and can contribute valuable feedback about how to simplify and clarify instructions so that students can understand it better. 

Providers may also choose to engage industry experts in their validation to ensure there is the combination of expertise to meet these requirements. It can be challenging to get a busy industry expert to come to a validation session, so often prior to the validation TAFE Qld sends out the assessment tool with a templated feedback form to the industry expert. The industry person then provides their feedback, which contributes to the analysis and discussion around the validation later.

Industry representatives are able to provide relevant commentary on:

  • the industry relevance of the context and conditions of the assessment
  • the industry relevance of the resources used during assessment
  • the tasks the learner completed.

This collaboration can also strengthen your provider’s bond with industry, as well as increasing industry and employer confidence in the competency of your graduates.

Read more about assembling your validation team here

Two people conducting assessment validation in a team

5 year schedule 

Clause 1.10 of the Standards outlines the minimum requirements for how often providers must perform validation – each training product needs to be validated at least once every five years, with at least 50% of products validated within the first three years of each five year cycle. The RTO needs to take into account the relative risks of all of the training products on the RTO’s scope of registration, including those risks identified by the VET regulator. 

What does ASQA mean by risk?

Some training products may need to be validated more often due to risk indicators. These indicators may include: 

  • the use of new assessment tools
  • training products identified by ASQA, industry, or you as high risk
  • delivery of training products where safety is a concern
  • the level and experience of the assessor
  • changes in technology, workplace processes, legislation, and licensing requirements.

It’s also important to remember that you’ll need a records management process which documents evidence of validation. 

Training providers need to retain evidence of:

  • the person/people leading and participating in the validation activities (including their qualifications, skills and knowledge)
  • the sample pool
  • the validation tools used
  • all assessment samples considered
  • the validation outcomes
  • the strategies for acting on any identified improvements.

ASQA's General Direction identifies completed assessment items are required to be retained for six months from the date on which the judgement of competence for the student was made.

We hope this article helps with understanding the process of assessment validation. 

Want more tips? Check out this great video on tips for validation from Lauren Hollows.

Did you know?

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From starting out as an RTO, to developing our software and continuing to grow through many changes in the VET sector over the past 30 years, we’ve helped almost 1000 training organisations thrive with aXcelerate’s One System SMS/LMS solution.

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  1. What type of Validation does your RTO need to complete?
  2. Pre-validating assessment tools - PodCast

Want to know more about competency-based assessment and assessment compliance? Check out these helpful resources: 

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