I write to disagree with what Bryan West (previous owner and founder of Fortress Learning) wrote about the merits of ASS502 (In defence of TAEASS502-the single unit that might help the VET industry regain its confidence), but not with what he felt. I rely on historical data and my own (current) views on what was not fixed with Certificate IV TAE.
Research in the past showed that teachers and learners were largely satisfied with the Certificate IV. It provided learners with an entry-level qualification. Much of the criticism of TAA40104 and of TAE40110 pertained to the quality of delivery of the course, and the quality of assessment. A highlight of research in 2010 was that teachers strongly agreed that TAAASS403 (the predecessor of TAEASS502) was too difficult and not necessary for an entry-level qualification. So, it was removed when TAE40110 was created.
When TAE40110 was reviewed, amongst the proposals for reform were either to upgrade the existing subjects on assessment or to insert ASS502. In responses to the developers of the new Training Package and in public discussions of it, VET teachers strongly resisted simply adding ASS502; they preferred to “improve” the other assessment Units. However, this was ignored or over-ruled. As a result, ASS502 was made core to TAE40116 and forced many established Trainers to upgrade. As one example, TAFE NSW had to pay for upgrading 10,000 of its staff.
I see this as a costly and vain attempt to “improve” the Certificate IV. I would have preferred a different approach.
I can see what Bryan explains about how candidates for ASS502 develop insights that improve their practice. I have witnessed this transformation in the candidates whom I have mentored during the upgrade. Strangely, it is not the content of ASS502 that causes the beneficial change. The change is tangential, meaning you get it by accident. Struggling through ASS502 heightens the attention of candidates to match assessment to the performance criteria and knowledge listed by the Unit of Competency. By implication, good candidates then adopt doing the same for all of the assessments they conduct, not just the ones that they picked to complete ASS502.
This process, however, I view as an expensive androgenic long-way around the issue. Academically, it is pleasing when candidates get “light-bulb” moments. However, I suspect that not all candidates are disposed to learning by accident. Although I have seen some candidates benefit, I suspect that – as a reform – this is not practical for most candidates.
My preference would have been to address the core issue: quality of delivery and rigour of assessment. What candidates for an entry-level qualification need are good teachers who can provide a digest of knowledge and wisdom. I submit that the appropriate reform for TAE40116 is not to introduce a new and hard subject. The appropriate reform is to have teachers of Certificate IV, who themselves have completed ASS502, ensure that they instil into their learners what comes as a result of having completed ASS502. They would do this when teaching the other assessment Units, to inspire their learners to comply with the Rules of Evidence, with the Principles of Assessment, and with the precept that, in any assessment, the assessor must see every performance criterion and every element of knowledge demonstrated by each candidate to a satisfactory level.
That is where quality starts.
The imperative is to see every criterion demonstrated. Integrity is compromised when an assessor uses tick and flick instead of rigorous assessment; when they feel obliged to let everyone “pass”; or when they do not want to find anyone Not Yet Competent either to avoid facing the tears or to avoid the paperwork that follows.
Published 14 January 2020
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Nik Bogduk is Emeritus Professor of Pain Medicine at the University of Newcastle.
Prior to retiring, he joined the NSW State Emergency Service, and gradually became an enterprise trainer and assessor. He entered the VET sector by completing a Certificate IV TAE and later the Dip VET/Dip TDD. Within the SES he has taught and assessed vocational courses in storm operations, rescue operations, navigation, chainsaw operations, and first aid. Of late he has taught courses in leadership and incident management. Under the new regulations of ASQA that came into force in 2019, he has become a Lead Trainer and Assessor responsible for supervising and creating new trainers and assessors.
With Bryan West (mentioned above) of Fortress Learning (RTO 31974). he has engaged in quantitative research into issues pertaining to the attitudes and performance of candidates seeking to meet the revised standards of qualifications in VET. This has led to presentations at such places as AVETRA National and TVET World Conferences on VET.
Nik’s earlier contribution to the Challenges series was A Place for Training Products – In Defence of the Standards for RTOs