Training and assessment tips

Ross Woods, 2018

These tips might not work for every situation but they might put you ahead.


  1. When you plan a qualification, start by writing a job description of what you want your graduates to be able to do. It will make the course look much more practical to your students.
  2. I like to write each unit’s assessment to be a standalone. It's not ideal in all cases; when the same assessment activity is equally relevant to multiple units I need a way so that students only have to do it once.
  3. Align your assessment goals with the business goals of the student’s employer. Everybody wins.
  4. When planning to teach a series of units with large overlapping content, try to arrange a simple set of topics that covers the essentials of all the units.
  5. Integrate units into a meaningful project. Students learn better and find the whole process more satisfying.
  6. If you do training on the job at work, industry consultation might be a no-brainer. Just do what the employer wants.


  1. Flip the class-room. Put lectures on YouTube and give them for homework. Then spend the whole class time for activities.
  2. Students will teach themselves if you get the activities just right. For example, a group of hospitality students were assigned to go to the café strip and split up into pairs. Each pair went to a separate café and ordered something different. Then the group met together and debriefed the characteristics of each café, their menus, and the standard of service.
  3. Keep to a simple set of steps when teaching someone how to do something for the first time. Only add the special cases and exceptions to the rule after students have first mastered the basic steps.

Writing assessment tools

  1. When students need to be learn theory topics, a written assignment is often a better assessment; it gives them a way to process new ideas as they learn. Besides, they might be unable to remember details if assessed in other ways.
  2. Use workplace forms as assessment tools. For example, the WHS inspection form is a good tool for assessing WHS risk identification.
  3. I like to write each unit’s assessment to be a standalone, but the same assessment activity is often equally relevant to multiple units. So students only have to do it once.
  4. When you write a set of questions to test required knowledge, offer it as either an interview or an assignment.


  1. Students are normally nervous before any assessment, so it’s essential that you put them at ease beforehand.
  2. People who learn on the job probably structure their knowledge in very different ways from textbook writers. Some think they don’t know the theory but can usually give you very good reasons for their decisions and why they do it the way they do. Sometimes you need to re-phrase the question to suit the way they think. In other cases, give them a practical decision to make. Then ask them why they made the decision they way that they did.
  3. When your assessment tools are designed for a specific context, you might find that you need another set to to assess students in another different context. They often don't work for RPL students coming from very different contexts. Big hint: Go back to the original training package units.
  4. Practitioners often don’t like unnecessary writing and generally do better in an oral interview. Besides, if they don’t get a point the first time, you can talk them round in a circle and let them have another go. Some very capable people don’t always get it right the first time around.
  5. You can use discussion groups for assessments, as long as the group is small enough for you to observe what each student says.
  6. Align your assessment goals with the business goals of the student’s employer. Everybody wins.
  7. Some students have the ability to pick up a variety of skills through one learning activity. But they'd be terrified if we started by telling them that they'd have to learn all those things. They'd give up before we started. So we give them a learning activity that they think is quite achievable.
    Then after they've done it and we've assessed it, we say, "Lo and behold! You've learned all these other things as well. You'll just have to get the extra credit for them!"
    I asked her, "Doesn't that conflict with the principles of telling people upfront what you want to do and what students will be assessed on?" Her answer was that it need not be a problem. You could count it as RPL. Or you could have a list of units that will be covered by performing the activity well. With thanks to Alison Wright.

On-job training

  1. If you do on-job training, you can usually delay the assessment until students are up to speed and ready. Then almost all your students will pass.
  2. When interns are doing well in their assigned roles, they are performing all the required outcomes. The assessor's approach to assessment is then quite simple: "They're doing it all. So all I have to do it now is prove it." With thanks to Sue Martin
  3. The best way to start an assessment is to get the student to show you around their workplace and tell them what they do. They’re quite comfortable on their home turf and will often tell you most of the things you want to know. If they miss an explanation of something, just ask them. Then when you come to the formal assessment, you be able to skip anything they’ve already explained in full.


  1. Lots of instructors want to compare ways of teaching particular topics. It's a good thing to do, but it's not validation of assessment.
  2. The simplest way to validate assessments is to co-assess with another assessor and then keep notes of how you validated.
  3. You can validate your assessment tools only once, that is, when you write them, do the mapping and check compliance. But you also need to validate the actual assessment practice more often.