Competence based assessment
Competence based assessment is assessment of competence in any activity. It is at the heart of the reform of the European vocational training system but it is not of necessity limited to vocational activities. The goal of competence based assessment, as its name suggests is to verify competence. There is more detail about this in the qualifications handbooks. Competence based assessment was also an original goal for the English National Curriculum but it became discredited mainly because it was used for grading through an over complex system of levels and too much micro-management from central government. However, the great strength of a criterion referenced competence based assessment system is in turning a content defined syllabus into an activities framework to ensure that the syllabus is transparent to the learner. Effectively, these are the activities and learning competencies you need to demonstrate you can do if you are to do well in the end of course formal assessment.
TLM's qualifications, sometimes collectively referred to as The INGOTs, require evidence of competence from coursework, matched by assessors to assessment criteria that underpin the intended learning outcomes. The exact methods are left to the assessors but guidance and support are provided to reduce the administrative overhead and to ensure consistency of standards. There is no requirement to grade competence in this part of the assessment although the software support allows teachers to track progress to meeting the criteria if they want to. Learners can self-assess and say they think they have made progress towards a criterion but they are not confident that they are there yet. Alternatively the teacher/assessor can just make a judgement directly. TLM is not dictating how to go about teaching, we are providing free and optional tools that are flexible enough to allow the teacher/assessor to use as little or as much of them that they decide is appropriate. Assessors must undertake a professional agreement with TLM to use professional judgement to maintain standards. This is a co-operative activity and with practice assessors will become more confident to make the judgements more quickly and more accurately as time goes on using feedback from moderation. This makes professional development an integral part of the process but at the same time eliminates a lot of the administrative bureaucracy normally associated with coursework.
In instances where grading is required, competence based assessment on its own is inappropriate. We supplement it with an examination that has progressively more demanding questions. Candidates are not eligible to take this examination until they meet all the competence based criteria. Doing so contributes to the final score and it is likely that any candidates that meet all the criteria will at least pass the examination. To achieve the highest grade in the grading means tackling some very demanding questions. This means we have a mechanism for inclusion while at the same time enabling differentiation to inform future routes. We can also validly assess practical work in realistic contexts without having expensive and complicated controlled assessments beyond the exam. We have a growing number of qualifications based on these principles including for schools, IT, Computing, DT, and Business/Enterprise.
Some useful links
These are general descriptions for all QCF qualifications. Assessment criteria at a particular level in a particular level in any qualification should be interpreted in the context of the general level descriptor. There is further guidance in the qualification handbooks.