Contextualising assessment resources

What is assessment contextualisation?

Contextualisation is a way of making learning and the assessment of what has been learned, relevant to a person's workplace experience – current or anticipated.

Many assessment resources are designed as generic materials for use across a range of settings.

Generic resources can be adjusted and adapted to fit with specific industry requirements with the social, cultural and business requirements of an industry and, in some cases, the local work environment.

So, for instance, RTOs delivering training and conducting assessments in the retail sector would ensure they addressed – in both the training and assessment – the conditions applicable to that particular sector.

The work performed and the environment in which it would be performed would be quite different for a person working in a retail fast food outlet as opposed to a department store or a retail boutique. Yet many of the competencies a candidate for assessment needs to demonstrate will be the same; many of the study units will be the same and the qualification awarded will also be the same – possibly a certificate, diploma or advanced diploma etc in Retail Sales.

Contextualisation involves changing words in the assessment and changing the assessments to suit particular work conditions that apply in an actual workplace. It makes the assessment resources relevant and more meaningful to candidates and work organisations.

Contextualisation must be line with Training Package rules while taking into account the policies, standard procedures, workplace infrastructure and organisational and regulatory requirements of the local context. It must not have a negative impact on the integrity of the assessment or on the standards outlined in the units of competence and the Training Package.

Why do you need to contextualise assessments?

Contextualising assessment resources ensures that candidates are able to apply their skills and knowledge in a work setting and can be assessed as competent for a particular work context.

In an assessment a candidate should demonstrate performance of work tasks, task management processes, understanding of job roles, environmental management skills, contingency management and problems solving skills – specific to particular work situations. The assessment process should also be used to determine the degree to which a candidate can use those skills – transferable skills – in other work situations.

Who is responsible for contextualising assessments?

Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) are responsible for:

  • identifying the target audience/ or client group for whom use of the assessment resources will be relevant
  • adapting and contextualising learning resources and, in particular, assessments, to address group and individual needs, relevant to industry and local conditions

It is advisable that trainer/ assessors consider each assessment in the context of the specific industry sector and/or organisation and make adjustments or contextualise as necessary.

RTOs should contextualise in line with reasonable adjustment practices, ensuring that contextualisation will result in consistent assessment practices throughout the organisation.

What's involved in contextualising assessments?

RTOs and their trainer/ assessors must determine the most suitable method/s of assessment and tools to be used to collect evidence, the type and amount of evidence required and the context in which assessment will take place.

The National Skills Standards Council (NSSC) identified three steps involved in contextualising assessment resources:

  1. Clarify the assessment context.
  2. Review and contextualise the assessment resources.
  3. Trial the contextualised assessment resources.

Consultation with industry and with operational managers, supervisors, team leaders, human resource staff etc in an organisation will help clarify the assessment contexts that are relevant to candidates.

Clarifying the knowledge and performance requirements determines the way/s in which these can be demonstrated by candidates.

Assessment resources should be identified or developed and reviewed to determine their appropriateness for the context.

Context-specific criteria can be substituted or added to complement the criteria in the resources and associated units of competence.

Trial the contextualised assessment resources, associated strategies, assessment tools and related guidance materials.

Assessment tools and guidance materials can include organisation-focused performance checklists, question banks and sample responses, case study materials, assessment projects, reference documents, job cards.

A risk management matrix for the contextualised assessment strategy should be prepared and include.

  • a listing of the Principles of Assessment and Rules of Evidence
  • the potential risks to the achievement of these quality criteria
  • the risk management measures embedded in the assessment strategy to overcome or minimise these risks

Identify and monitor trial successes and improvement opportunities and initiate any required quality improvements.

Looking for an easy way to customise your assessment resources?

smallprint and Catapult eLearning's recently developed Editable assessment tool is available for RTOs to create and contextualise, online and print ready assessments that align with their TAS (Training and Assessment Strategies). Customisation services are also available for print and online resources.

Talk to us about your customisation needs and we will work with you to provide the best solution.

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