Validating assessments

Assessment quality has been consistently identified as a common cause of non-compliance at audit. From 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 ASQA audits of existing RTOs’ compliance with standard 15.5 found only 26% compliance at initial audit and 74% compliance following rectification.

The Standards for NVR RTOs 2012 (in particular, 15) referred to the elements that underpin quality assessments and to the need for assessment, including Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to:

  • meet the requirements of the training package or VET accredited course
  • be conducted in accordance with the principles for assessment and the rules of evidence
  • meet workplace and, where relevant, regulatory requirements
  • be systematically validated by the RTO

The new (2014) Standards for RTOs and VET Regulators focus on industry responsiveness, improving quality and reducing the complexity of the regulatory framework.

Standard 1 also describes the RTO’s responsibilities with regard to validations. RTOs are required to develop a comprehensive plan for systematic validation of their assessment practices and results, based on risk, with each training product undergoing validation at least every 5 years.

Each RTO’s training and assessment strategies and practices must:

  • be responsive to industry and learner needs
  • meet the requirements of training packages and VET accredited courses
  • ensure provision of high quality training and assessment
  • have regard to the amount of training required for the learner to gain the competencies as specified in the relevant training package or VET accredited course
  • ensure that training and assessment procedures are delivered by appropriately qualified trainers and assessors with the right support services, facilities and equipment
  • support assessments that comply with the principles of assessment and rules of evidence

This ensures that:

  • assessors understand how to use assessment tools and have confidence in the tools they use
  • assessments will be fair and consistent across the RTO
  • AQTF requirements and the requirements of the individual training packages are met
  • assessment gaps are identified and can be addressed

It also aids assessors with the development of their assessment design and review skills.

So what is an assessment validation?

Validation is a quality review of assessment tools and expected outcomes. It contributes to effective assessment procedures and is part of each RTO’s continuous improvement responsibilities. When conducted properly a validation acts to promote tools and assessment procedures that reflect the requirements of the relevant training package and can be applied in a range of settings - for actual or simulated workplaces.

A validation might be conducted by the staff who work for the particular RTO or by a number of staff from different RTOs. It should involve one or more persons who are not directly involved in the particular instance of delivery and assessment of the training product being validated.

Validators should collectively have:

  • vocational competencies and current industry skills relevant to the assessment being validated
  • current knowledge and skills in vocational teaching and learning
  • the necessary training and assessment qualification or assessor skill set

Industry experts may be involved in validation to ensure there is an appropriate combination of expertise.

The validation process involves:

  • review of the evidence gathering/assessment tools by individuals with:
    • qualifications and expertise in assessment
    • knowledge of the relevant training package
    • knowledge in the relevant industry sector
  • field or pilot testing of tool/s with groups of assessors and candidates, including equity group members and those with specific needs
  • workshopping of tools with other key stakeholders in the relevant industry sector/s
  • analysing tools and evidence gathering procedures to ensure they comply with the RTO’s quality policies and expected standards
  • documentation of the validation results and of suitable industry consultation

A validation plan will detail:

  • the validation approach that best suits the RTO
  • procedures to be followed/ instructions to guide the process
  • allocated responsibilities
  • forms to be completed when recording the outcomes of validation
  • when, where and how often validation will occur
  • what unit/s of competency and assessment tools will be validated
  • who will participate
  • whether other support will be required
  • methods of mapping the validation

Assessment validation should either support the veracity of the assessment tools to be used or result in recommendations for improvement or changes relevant to the:

  • contextualisation of assessments/ conditions for assessments
  • specific tasks to be completed by candidates
  • administration instructions
  • instructions to assessors
  • instructions to candidates for assessment
  • judgement of competence (eg performance standards; number of performances that must be observed; evidence requirements - amount, relevance, reliability, quality, validity; decision making criteria etc)
  • reasonable adjustments that can be made while still maintaining assessment integrity
  • recording and assessment reporting requirements

Each recommendation should be backed by suitable reasoning and recorded to track continuous improvement.

Looking for an easy way to implement the recommendations from your validation?

smallprint and Catapult eLearning’s recently developed Editable assessment tool is available for RTOs to create and contextualise, on line, print ready assessments that align with their Training and Assessment Strategies.

smallprint and Catapult eLearning’s entire assessment resource library can be used as a basis from which adaptations can be made, to suit the needs of RTOs and their clients.

The journal function can be used to record changes made to assessments. This record will offer evidence of continuous improvement and demonstrate to auditors the contextualisation procedures followed.

To find out more about how smallprint can support RTOs, please call us on 08 8275 9300, or email

To find out more about how Catapult eLearning can support RTOs, please call us on 08 8275 9380, or email