Required knowledge

Training packages units also list "required" or "essential" knowledge. In the VET sector, these requirements are always presumed to be "things that students need to know to be able to perform the competencies." You must assess these knowledge items. However, it's not assessing competence so it's usually extra to the competence assessment. Unlike competence, you only need to assess each item once. In a few cases, however, demonstration of the competency can include demonstration of knowledge.

Knowledge is generally seen as a rather rudimentary remembering of information, and the packages don't really make any expectations of understanding. Any knowledge-based skills (e.g. gathering, analysing and interpreting information) are usually included in the competencies. The AQF is also quite helpful because it describes different levels of knowledge.

There are two main views of required knowledge:


About assignments

In higher level qualifications for taught students, written assignments are a good way to cover some knowledge requirements. In many cases they can be given as tasks, because they are best assessed as processing knowldege in some way. In some cases, a single knowledge item is complex enough to require a task.


About knowledge tests

These are simply sets of questions that assess required knowledge rather than competence. It is usually advisable to have a written set of answers or a list of principles upon which to evaluate answers; it also simplifies validation.

It is possible to use small discussion groups as a means of assessment. That is, the assessor gives the group a discussion question and observe their responses. This kind of assessment works best for assessing knowledge and for assessing skills in processing information (e.g. analysing, making hypotheses, interpreting). Records comprise an observation sheet. However, it is very difficult to do well. You need to make sure that every participant satisfactorily addressess every requirement. Even then some people are naturally more talkative and others are naturally quieter. It is also too easy for the assessor to simply marks someone off as passing when they hardly said anything. Having said that, however, they can be the best kind of assessment in a very few situations.

To cut the amount of paper, I usually keep the list of questions as a separate document from the recording form. Then I only have to record a tick or a cross next to each question number.

Alternatively, if you want extra paperwork, draw up a question form and print one off for each student. Here's an excerpt from part of a form:

Question Satisfactory
1. How does .... ? Yes No
2. Why do .... ? Yes No
3. Describe .... . Yes No


Should students do questions as written work or as interviews?

It’s a good question, but not so straightforward. Here are the pros and cons:

Written work

Pros Cons
  • Students with text-based styles and good literacy skills are set up to pass
  • Some tasks are best suited to assignments, especially longer, more complex items where students are not expected to remember details
  • Some tasks may only be done in writing
  • Saves class time
  • Easy to set deadlines
  • Better suited to students who learned skills in a "books and study" mode
  • Easy to keep copies of evidence used in assessment
  • Some students are set up to fail (e.g. those with relater-activist learning styles or minimal literacy skills).
  • Some students cheat e.g. copy and paste from the internet, collude.
  • Boring or frustrating to assess
  • Boring or frustrating for some students
  • Can require much higher literacy skills than required by the unit
  • "Rubbish written at last minute"
  • Only allows good "outside the square" answers if questions are written to allow it (i.e. as open-ended questions)



Pros Cons
  • Well suited for students with relater-activist learning styles or minimal literacy skills
  • Usually easy to put students at ease
  • Often enjoyable or satisfying for both parties
  • Easy to do in the workplace, especially when the student is also showing the assessor how to perform tasks
  • Easy to ask follow-up questions
  • Easy to give students a second chance by talking them around in a circle
  • Better suited to students who learned skills on the job
  • Hard to cheat
  • Allows good "outside the square" answers
  • Not suited to student with poor skills in oral expression
  • Very expensive: time-consuming and can involve travel to a workplace
  • Scheduling is often difficult
  • Does not suit tasks that can only be done in writing
  • Difficult to keep records of evidence used in assessment.
  • Not suited for students who need study skills, e.g. to continue to a higher qualifications, especially in higher education.