Background to the study The role of the assessor is ‘to reliably determine the competencies or lack of competencies of an individual when assessed against a prescribed benchmark’. (Van Berkel, 1996, p. 8) Since the training and workplace reforms of the early 1980s the development and recognition of competency standards for work have been an integral part of the vocational education and training landscape. An important part of the process of competency attainment has become the training of workplace assessors who are able to assess competence on site and as a part of their normal work. This training involves completion of the Workplace Assessor component of the endorsed training package, the Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training. This program covers three units of competency: Planning Assessment; Conducting Assessment; and Reviewing Assessment. The mining industry in Queensland has readily embraced the qualifications framework and competency-based standards, and already has a significant history of ensuring the workforce has the appropriate skills and knowledge. Several hundred people have undertaken the workplace assessor program. However, early in 2002 The Queensland Mining Industry Training Advisory Body (QMITAB) was advised by members of its constituency of concerns about the efficacy of the program. The commissioning of this study was timely indeed. Competency-based assessment has been an extensively debated issue in the vocational education and training literature since the early 1990s. Docking (1998) in a review of literature up to that date concluded that there was an urgent need to undertake further research into the effectiveness of competency-based assessment. Furthermore, Robinson (1998) stated that that the fundamental question as to whether assessor training programs were producing competent assessors was unanswered. Subsequently Smith (2000) found in an extensive review of general assessment practice in Queensland that there was a need to improve the quality of assessment in terms of validity, consistency, usefulness and cost effectiveness. Similarly, Clayton, Booth and Roy (2001) suggested that confidence in assessment decision-making needs to be improved. Booth (2000) reported that there is still confusion among practitioners about the key features of the implementation of competency-based assessment.
Hase, S & Saenger, H 2003, 'Changing the face of competency assessment: evaluation of the Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training package in the mining industry', Proceedings of The Changing Face of VET: 6th Australian Vocational Education and Training research Association (AVETRA) Conference, Sydney, NSW, 9-11 April, AVETRA, Crows Nest, NSW.
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