RTO Policy - Assessor Guidelines - Sydney Community College

RTO Policy - Assessor Guidelines


This set of guidelines is to ensure assessment activities at SCC are compliant with the Standards for RTOs 2015. They apply to all assessors of SCC, including Third Party Service Providers. SCCs Quality Assurance System operates on a team approach and feedback from trainers and assessors on these guidelines is welcome and should be made to the RTO Manager at SCC as part of factually-based continuous improvement.

Assessors role

The key role of the assessor is to compare a students evidence of competence against the criteria for assessment and make a judgment about whether competency has been achieved. Assessors must be able to:

  • Correctly interpret the criteria for assessment as specified within the competency standards;
  • Ensure they impartially assess and judge a students skills and knowledge against set standards, principles of assessment and rules of evidence;
  • Demonstrate high level interpersonal and communication skills;
  • Determine and apply relevant assessment techniques/methods;
  • Ensure that the evidence provided is sufficient;
  • Ensure that the assessment conditions are/were flexible and fair;
  • Ensure the assessment is carried out safely;
  • Provide all relevant paperwork to SCC RTO back office for recorded and store in a timely manner; and,
  • Demonstrate a high level of skills in the area being assessed (or work in close consultation with someone who does have the technical knowledge and skills working as a technical adviser or a recorder).

Competency based learning and assessment

A competency based learning and assessment system recognises skills and knowledge obtained in a number of ways. Competency based learning covers activity which takes place in a classroom and/or a workplace often a simulated workplace. Competency based assessment is the process of determining whether the student has mastered the skills and knowledge against a specific standard, regardless of how or where the learning took place.

Dimensions of Competence

This means the skills, knowledge and attitudes demonstrated in a workplace, whether real or realistically simulated. Assessors need to assess a student not only in a perfect situation but when the student is having to perform the same skills or display the same knowledge when things are not going well in the workplace or when the work environment changes. Consider these aspects when conducting the assessment.

To be assessed as competent, assessors must ensure the learner is able to demonstrate his/her:

  • ability to perform relevant tasks in a variety of workplace situations, or simulated workplace situations (dimensions of competence);
  • understanding of what they are doing – and why – when performing those tasks; and
  • ability to integrate performance with understanding, to show they are able to adapt to different contexts and environments.

All students are to be assessed against all the tasks identified in the elements of the unit and must demonstrate they are capable of performing these tasks consistently to an acceptable level. The student must achieve a satisfactory result in each assessment task to be marked as competent for that unit. If a student does not achieve a satisfactory outcome, assessors may use verbal questions to get a correct response OR may ask them to demonstrate the performance a second (or third) time. Students may be assessed twice more. If they are unable to meet the standard required, assessors should discuss with the RTO Manager (or SCC Programme Coordinator) a course of action in support of the student, including further training.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK! This should be verbal during or after the assessment but must be written if it is after the assessment judgement has been made. Feedback should be substantive and guide the student in their understanding of the outcome. Avoid the simple approach of a comment such as ‘Well done’ and use more constructive feedback such as ‘you have a good understanding of the process but you need to apply this understanding to your work’. Assessment tasks are developed from the information in the unit of competency and can be made up from a combination of the following:

  • Workplace information/workplace portfolios
  • Written activity
  • Assessor observation
  • Verbal questionning
  • Scenario/Role play
  • Case study
  • Supervisor declaration/third party reports (click here for a guidance list)

This is to ensure evidence is gathered over a range of conditions and in different situations. Where possible, units of competency that work together will be clustered to provide a more seamless method of assessment.

Information BEFORE Conducting the Assessments

Always ensure the student knows what he/she has to do and why. Make sure they understand the instructions at the beginning of each assessment task BEFORE they sign off. A pre-assessment checklist should be used for this purpose and should be located at the front of the assessment document.

Reasonable adjustment

The Assessor/Marking Guide for each cluster or unit of competency will provide more specific instructions about the amount of reasonable adjustment that can be made to each assessment task. Generally, all questions can be delivered verbally if this needs to be done. If different questions are asked to gain the correct answer, the assessor must record both the question asked and the response given by the student. Please complete the section on the front cover of each assessment to record what reasonable adjustment was applied to each assessment task.

Group work

From time to time it may be appropriate for some of the assessment tasks to be completed as group work. If assessors have gathered evidence as part of a group assessment, the names and signatures of all students in the group must be documented . This will help explain why responses given by these students could be the same or similar. Where available, gather and use policies and procedures from the students workplace to assist in determining competence. These will ensure the assessment is truly workplace based. Where an SCC student does not have a workplace, or is unable to be assessed in the workplace, source and use policies and procedures applicable to the simulated workplace situation.

General information

  • All forms of harassment must be avoided throughout the assessment process and in the review and reporting of assessment outcomes.
  • The rights of students are protected during and after the assessment process. Ensure students are made aware of their rights and the processes around appealing an assessment judgement. Assessors must make themselves fully aware of the SCCs Complaints and Appeals policies and procedures and where they are located on the website for the information of students.
  • Remain impartial: Personal or interpersonal factors that are irrelevant to the assessment of competence must not influence the assessment outcomes.
  • Evidence is verified against the rules of evidence. Assessment decisions must be based on available evidence that can be produced and verified by another assessor if required.
  • Students must be informed of the potential consequences of assessment decisions prior to the assessment.
  • Confidentiality is maintained regarding assessment decisions/outcomes and records of individual assessment outcomes which identify personal details are only released with the written permission of the student/s.
  • Opportunities are created for technical assistance in planning, conducting and reviewing assessment practice and participating in validation.

Where FSK units are being delivered, or FSK is integrated into the training programme with VET units, the means of communication and provision of information must recognise this. If in doubt, speak to the RTO Manager.

Student needs (also see Reasonable Adjustment)

Of course, each unit of competence has requirements around Foundation Skills. A student working in the business sector will need higher level reading and writing foundation skills, whereas a worker mixing chemicals will need higher level numeracy skills. Depending on the job role, students may need:

I. Reading competencies sufficient to understand relevant literature, standards and regulations and codes of conduct, procedures manuals and other documentation used in the industry
II. Writing skills sufficient to take notes, form basic procedures, programs, and documentation based on knowledge gained from training, group discussions and industry experience.

The differing needs and requirements of the students must be identified and handled sensitively. Talking to the team or conferring with the RTO Manager when in doubt or to provide constructive feedback is part of SCC operating practice.

Student guides/resources

All training and assessment resources have been written to comply with the specific requirements in the training package or accredited course. Each Training and Assessment Strategy (TAS) includes guidance on the resources needed per student or per group. Should the TAS and/or the resources not meet these requirements, or need to be modified to do so, assessors must inform the RTO Manager immediately.

Forms of evidence

a. Workplace information/workplace portfolios: A portfolio contains examples of workplace documentation that support the performance or knowledge requirements of the unit. An example could be a completed manifest, a spreadsheet produced in the workplace or an email produced on behalf of the company. Assessors must match the document to the required skills or knowledge component of the unit, record this on the cover sheet, attach the document to the assessment booklet and make sure the document has been named. The assessment activities that form this questioning assessment must be conducted as summative assessment and not formative assessment (see later for an explanation of the two).

b. Written activity: Generally short answer questions, these are to assess the knowledge component of the unit. This assessment is always considered ‘open book’ as the most important skill required is the ability to source and interpret the required information. Where relevant, the internet may also be used to source information. A written assessment allows the work to be post-validated against other pieces of work. This will help to ensure a reliable assessment judgment overall. The written activity has benchmarked responses that will vary depending on the written activity that is given to the student. All benchmarked answers contain required knowledge criteria that the student must demonstrate to be able to receive a satisfactory result. It is expected assessors have the ability to reference the benchmarks if they are unsure the response displays the required performance criteria. See the section on reasonable adjustment. With all written activity assessments, it is a requirement that the student display the knowledge criteria on the assessment tool to receive a satisfactory outcome for this form of assessment. The student must ensure their work is legible, and completed in either blue or black pen. The assessment activities that form the written activity assessment must be conducted as summative assessment and not formative assessment (see later for an explanation of the two).

c. Assessor observation: An observation requires the student to display his/her ability to perform the required skills in the workplace. The student has a list of these required skills. Assessors are required to reference the list and observe the student demonstrating these skills. There is a certain amount of flexibility required here: should there not be an opportunity to demonstrate these skills in the actual workplace, assessors may need to ask the student to make a simulated display of the skills. Assessors should feel free to ask questions to ensure they understand what the student is doing. Please make sure the questions and the responses are fully recorded on the assessment document, this will give added weight to the determination of competency. The student must be made aware of what they are being assessed on before undertaking this observation or any type of scenario. During the observation assessment, assessors should be marking off the performance as they see the student display it and be taking notes on the student’s performance. Feedback should be given and recorded. The assessment activities that form the observation assessment must be conducted as summative assessment and not formative assessment (see later for an explanation of the two).

d. Verbal questioning: The questioning checklist asks a range of questions covering the elements and performance criteria that are found within the unit. Verbal questions are a valuable addition to any assessment activity. They allow the student to answer in their own workplace language and to interact one-on-one with the assessor. Checklists should be used for verbal questions, with a list of expected responses underneath and space for assessors to record questions asked and responses. If the response is not recorded below but the assessor feels the answer is correct, this fact must be recorded in the space provided. Remember the benchmarked answer contains required knowledge and may not always be worded in the same way as the response given. Judgement is required. Assessors should use their knowledge of both the student and their workplace to add further questions of their own to prompt the student, if required. Reword the question or give a workplace example to help understanding. It is important, though, this is properly recorded. This is valuable information as to the competency of the student and proof the evidence was gained in another way. The assessment activities that form this questioning assessment must be conducted as summative assessment and not formative assessment (see later for an explanation of the two).

e. Scenario/Role play: A scenario is used when there is not an opportunity for a student to demonstrate either their performance or knowledge in a workplace. The role play is the ‘performance’ part; the scenario will provide the ‘knowledge’ with some reading and responses to questions. This form of assessment is often conducted as a group activity, especially if there is a role play involved. Please ensure the page in the assessment booklet regarding group work is completed if this is the case. Make sure the student/s understands what they are required to do before beginning the assessment. If necessary, read the scenario aloud. Where there is a role play involved, the student must be fully aware of the role they are to play, how long the role play will run and what they are to demonstrate. For example, the scenario may involve a retail outlet dealing with face-to-face customer service. The role play may involve two students acting as the ‘complainers’ and another student demonstrating customer service skills while dealing with these complaints. Further written/verbal questions may finalise the assessment. Where a role-play is used, scripted cards/sheets can be used to the students. This is a very flexible form of assessment and will quite often be used as gap training where the evidence required can’t be gathered within the actual workplace. Assessors may add extra details to suit the situation BUT must record what they have done to provide further evidence.

f. Case study: A case study is used to gain proof of knowledge. It is another form of written evidence and is generally based around a workplace example. The student MUST understand the instructions and the context of the case study. Reword the intended message of the study, if required. There will be specific instructions regarding the completion of the written work for this task. Reasonable adjustment may be applied if applicable.

g. Supervisor declaration/third party report: The workplace supervisor is not a trained assessor and should not be asked to mark off student performance against the unit criteria. If an assessor is unsure of the performance of the student being assessed, please discuss this with the supervisor, but first make sure the student have given permission to do so. Any information received from the supervisor must be recorded to give weight to the assessment judgement. Instructions at the beginning of the report are provided for the supervisor/third party to read. Please make sure they understand what they are stating is their observation of the student in the workplace, either a current one or a recent past one. Please encourage the supervisor/third party to make some comment about the student’s performance. If they make a verbal comment, record it on the form and note that it was given verbally.

Contextualising assessment

Contextualising the learning or assessment parts of the unit of competency is about tailoring the unit to suit the learner group needs. For example, a business unit delivered into the office of a transport company would be contextualised to meet the requirements of the transport sector. Alternatively, this same unit could be contextualised to meet the needs of a barrister’s office. It is important to note that contextualising means adding to, rather than taking away from a unit. Please discuss with the RTO Manager or Compliance Officer arrangements where resources are required to be contextualised to a specific group or organisation.


The process for RPL is covered under the SCC’s RPL procedures. RPL is the method of assessing a person’s knowledge and performance against a unit of competency or a qualification when they have not completed formal training in that unit or qualification. It follows a sequence steps as follows:

Step 1: RPL application - Candidate meets with assessor

Step 2: Observations – Assessor observes candidate perform required skills

Step 3: Verbal questions – Assessor records candidate’s knowledge using verbal questions

Step 4: Evidence collection – Candidate and assessor match evidence to relevant criteria. It is preferable the evidence is workplace based.

Step 5: Gaps identified and remedied where required

Step 6: Qualification issued

This page last reviewed and updated July 2017

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