RPL made simple
Ross Woods, Rev. Apr-06, Dec. 17
One of the more difficult skills we've recently identified is doing assessments for Recognition of Prior Learning.
The problem is "How do you assess a variety of different past experiences and knowledge against a set of written outcomes?" (Of course, the other main problem is getting around to it.) You might find some of the challenges are:
- some units require specific kinds of evidence
- some supervisors are too hard to meet
- some supervisors are not convincingly competent or have conflicts of interest
- the assessment depends on the student's assertion that he/she is competent in an oral interview.
The steps below won't work for everybody, but they are a good start.
1. Get the student to fill out a self-evaluation form based on the elements. This is optional, but will give you a good idea of how to continue without you doing much extra work.
2. Get the student to write a CV and provide a copy of his/her job description.
3. Make an appointment for an interview with the student's supervisor or employer. (Let's just use the term "supervisor".)
- You might need to establish that the supervisor is competent and unbiased enough to give you clear evidence.
- The personal contact will greatly diminish any fears and suspicions that the supervisor might have and generate more honest answers. It's much more effective than sending a cold-contact form though the post.
4. Make up a reference form that lists all units and elements and any other requirements in the unit. You could instead express the elements as short leading questions in simple English. That will move the interview along.
Lay out everything simply in plain English (not TrainingSpeak), even if you have to use smaller size print than normal. If possible, keep it on one page. It should not appear daunting. The units names and lists of elements are what people really want to look at, especially if you are assessing many units.
Otherwise, units layouts vary so greatly that its difficult to generalize. In many cases, performance criteria are separate educational objectives that can only be assessed separately, so they must be listed in the document. In other cases, they are only criteria that relate to how well the element is done. In older packages, they are so wordy that they confuse people and can only be put into a form for the assessor to fill out; they are useful to you as assessor making an assessment decision. You will need to discuss them with the student or supervisor, but don't put them up front.
5. Attach any other kinds of evidence that came up, e.g. general references, other certificates, reports, written staff reviews, etc. The big hint here is "naturally- occurring." Use what already exists anyway.
6. Interview the supervisor:
- Verify the CV with the supervisor (5 minutes)
- Verify the Job Description (5 minutes)
- Get the supervisor to brief you generally on the students' abilities. (10 minutes)
- Go through the performance review (if the student has one)
- Go through the form. (10 minutes)
A supervisor will also find it easy to respond to some helpful de facto criteria: Does the student meet organizational standards? Is the student good enough to hold employment in that capacity?
6. Hold an oral interview with the student.
First, get the student to explain the documents that they are submitting. Ask questions as you go. It will:
- put the student at ease (they will be on familiar territory) and make the interview more natural and pleasant
- save you a lot of time reading and
- probably cover most of the questions you would have wanted to ask anyway.
Second, you might still need to ask questions based on the elements or the critical aspects of performance. You should arrange them into an easy-to-understand order with no redundancies. You might include a practical demonstration if relevant. Ask questions like:
- "How would you ... ?"
- "What would you do if ... ?"
- "What are the rules for ... ?"
- "Why would you ... ?"
- "Why did you do it that way ...?"
You've done it. You should now be able to clearly determine the student's competence, and you have at least three kinds of evidence:
- CV and job description verified by the supervisor.
- Detailed supervisor reference that directly addresses all unit elements
- Oral questioning that directly addresses all unit elements
You might also have other supporting documents and a practical demonstration, making up to five different kinds of evidence, which is very good.
- It isn't the student's job to interpret the training package, it's yours. So it's not really fair to simply give them a training package and tell them to go figure it out.
- If you define skills as major projects that reflect real work requirements, you have successfully:
- clustered units
- eliminated redundancies
- interpreted the training package requirements
- made the assessments practical and easy to understand for people who are used to actually doing the work.
Keep your mapping somewhere, but students don't need to see it. It doesn't matter if a student shows up with skills but no paperwork (oops, documentary evidence). It's your job to assess skills and generate documents. Remember, you are ultimately assessing the student's skills, not the paperwork.