Simple Guide to Contextualising RTO Training Resources and Assessment Tools

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Scott Rogers

With over 10 years of experience in vocational education and training, Scott shares his expert advice and opinions on industry updates and changes impacting RTOs.

Scott's experience as CEO of three RTOs has exposed him to many ASQA audits and a decade of industry updates and changes. Scott understands that to be successful, RTOs must focus on quality, be adaptable to change, and ensure they focus on their learners first.
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What is Contextualisation of Training Resources?

I am often asked by RTO stakeholders to explain how to contextualise training resources. So I have decided to provide a really comprehensive guide on the subject to assist RTOs in producing better training. In this article, I will be lifting the veil on what contextualisation is, and how to do it effectively. Let’s first start with defining contextualisation in VET.

Contextualisation is the process of modifying your RTO’s training and assessment materials to make learning more meaningful for your students and their employers. It is essential for RTOs to develop learning resources and assessment methods that are tailored to their learner’s needs and aligned to the work context in which they operate. If you don’t contextualise your resources, you risk alienating your learners, losing clients and being found non-compliant at your next ASQA audit.

Case Study – What NOT to do!

To better understand the issues in not contextualising I have the example for you. Imagine being a trainer turning up to deliver training for the Warehouse Operations Team of a warehousing and storage company. You have been asked to deliver the unit “BSBADM409 – Coordinate business resources”, to upskill the team on better resource administration. The operations team are responsible for the administration of the following resources, to ensure smooth operations of the business.  These resources include:

  • human resources
  • OHS resources
  • storage space
  • plant and machinery
  • raw materials

When you pull out your training and assessment resources you realise that your resources have a completely different focus. The job role context for your resources is an Office Administrator and therefore all learning resource content, case studies and assessment tasks, centre around the following business resources:

  • staff amenities
  • stock and supplies
  • technological equipment/software
  • training materials

How well do you think the training will go?  Will the operations team learn what they need to know about administering warehousing resources? Do you think that the employees being trained are going to feel like the training is relevant?  Do you think the employees and employer will achieve the learning outcomes they were hoping for? I think it is clear that this training will not end well.

Although the unit BSBADM409 is the right unit in both scenarios, the context, work environment, and job role differences mean the focus and content within the training materials must be completely different. Adaptation of the resources (contextualisation) must happen to ensure your training is relevant and delivers the necessary knowledge and skills required in each context and work role.

BSBADM409 is part of the Business, Agriculture, Transport and Logistics training packages, as well as four other training packages. As you can imagine, the training and assessment approach will need to be heavily contextualised for each of these training packages, the work role and work environment in which it is delivered. When you by a training resource like BSBADM409 off the shelf, it is generally only written for the business training package. Even within the business training package, this unit will need to be contextualised to the various work roles and environments within this training package.

OK, so hopefully we have a clear understanding of why we need to contextualise our training resources. Next, I want to discuss other instances where an RTO will need to adapt their resources to ensure they are relevant.

How Do I Contextualise Training Resources and Assessment Tools?

I generally break contextualisation down into three the following three areas.

Contextualisation:

  1.  To Meet Learner Needs
    • Adaptation to assist learners with special needs
    • Adaptation to take into account the existing skills and experience of the learner/s
  2. For The Learning and Assessment Environment
    • Adaptation to facilitate delivery and assessment of online/distance learners
    • Adaptation to facilitate delivery and assessment of learners based in a workplace
    • Adaptation to facilitate delivery and assessment of classroom base delivery
    • Adaptation to facilitate delivery and assessment of blended delivery
  3. For Industry And Work Role
    • Adaptation to align the training and assessment content, tasks and case studies, etc. to the relevant industry where it is being delivered
    • Adaptation to align the training and assessment content, tasks and case studies, etc. to the work role of learner groups
    • Adaptation to align the training and assessment content to the workplace environment

 3 Steps to Contextualising Training Resources

It is important for RTOs to understand that purchasing commercial training and assessment products does not automatically guarantee compliant resources that will get you through an audit. RTO’s must contextualise the learning resources AND assessment tools to ensure that they deliver quality training and assessment, as well as meeting regulatory standards. Not taking this seriously risks the future of an RTO’s existence.

The steps below will assist you in ensuring that you RTO has taken the necessary step to show ASQA that you have done the work to meet you learners needs through contextualising your training resources.

Step 1: Do Your Research

There are three key areas you need to research before you start to look at contextualising your course materials. These are:

  1. Who are your Learners?
    • What do your learner groups look like?
    • What do they already know about the subject matter?
    • What are their skill or knowledge gaps?
    • What motivates them?
    • Do they have a learning style preference?
    • What do their educational, cultural and language backgrounds look like?
    • Do they have any barriers to learning?
  2. What does the industry and work role look like?
    • What does the workplace environment look like? (e.g. equipment, facilities, policies procedures, etc.)
    • What types of evidence can be collected in the work role to meet the unit of competency evidence requirements?
    • What are the typical tasks performed in the work role and industry context?
    • Who can you consult with from Industry to ensure that your courses and resources are industry relevant?
    • What are the typical and current workplace conditions for the work role and industry context?
    • What is the relevant legislation, codes of practices, and regulations for the work role and industry context?
    • What are the Health and Safety considerations for the work role and work environment?
  3. What does the learning environment look like?
    • Will the training be delivered online?
    • Will the training be delivered by distance learning?
    • Will the training be delivered one on one?
    • Will the training be delivered as group or class-based learning?
    • Will the training be delivered face to face?
    • Will the training be delivered in the workplace?
    • What are the Health and Safety considerations for the learning environment?
  4. What does the unit require?
    • What are the evidence requirements for the unit?
    • What aspects of the units can be contextualised?
    • What information does the training package companion volume contain on contextualisation?
    • Have you considered the unit in the training package context where it will be used? eg. a BSB unit packaged in a CHC qualification must be contextualised to the CHC work environment and work roles.

Step 2: Review Your Training and Assessment Resources

Once you have completed step one. You will then use this information collated to review all learning and assessment resources, identifying areas that require contextualisation. Below we outline the question to need to answer when reviewing training resources for contextual relevance.

  1. Reviewing Learning Resources

Common questions you should ask during your review of these resources include:

    • Is the content appropriate to the learner cohorts skill and knowledge and experience levels
    • Do the learning resources provide enough depth in the instruction including industry relevant practical examples, to meet the needs of learners with little no previous experience?
    • Is the learning content appropriate for learners with physical and learning disabilities, language, and cultural sensitivities.
    • Is the learning resource content aligned to the industry context, work role tasks, and work environment? Examples also include access to:
      • work role and workplace relevant policies and procedures
      • work role and workplace relevant equipment, software, and machinery etc.
      • work role and workplace relevant conditions and environment. Actual workplace or Simulated Workplace (where allowed in the training package)
    • Do the learning resources align with the qualification and/or training package context where it is being used? (Remember the example I began this article with)
    • Do your learning resources align with your Training and Assessment Stagey and Delivery Method?
      • For example: If your Training and Assessment Strategy (TAS) says you deliver training online to learners with no workplace. Have you provided a simulated workplace environment to ensure they can practice their new skills, and that provides them with the conditions, tasks, and experiences they would have in a real workplace?
    • Have you had a subject matter expert review your training resources for industry relevance and currency?
  1. Reviewing Assessment Tools

Common questions you should ask during your review of these assessments tools include:

  • Have you had a subject matter expert review your assessment tasks for industry relevance and currency?
  • Do your assessment tasks mimic those tasks that would be performed in that work role?
  • Are your assessment tasks appropriate for the industry and work environment your learners will be working in?
  • have your learners been provided with all of the relevant workplace conditions and equipment to complete the assessment to the required standard?
  • Are your assessment tools and methods appropriate for learners with physical/learning disabilities or special needs?
  • Are your assessment tools and methods appropriate for learners with language, and cultural sensitivities.
  • Do simulated assessment environments that reflect actual workplace environments. (Where learner will not have access to a workplace)

Step 3: Contextualise Your Training and Assessment Resources

Once you have completed steps one and two you then need to start contextualising your training resources. The information below should give you some really practical ideas to assist you in contextualising your courses for different environments

  1. Contextualising Training For Classroom Delivery
    • Consult with industry contacts to ensure learning is relevant to current workplace practice.
    • Guest Speakers – invite people who are currently working in the industry to talk with your learners.
    • Create authentic simulated work environments that mimic real workplaces where learners can practice their skills.
    • Ensure your case studies are current and to make learning more real for your learners.
    • Have your learners hare their workplace experiences.
    • Share your workplace stories and experiences.
    • Create opportunities for practical work experience with the institution as the workplace.
    • Assist with opportunities for learners to get practical vocational experience with a local council, business or community organisation as the workplace.
    • Adapt learning and assessment activities for learners who have workplaces to use their own work situation.
    • Create realistic workplace scenarios and roleplays that allow your learner to demonstrate their skills. These can be recorded and provided as evidence of competence.
  2. Contextualising Training For The Workplace
    • Ensure that your learning activities align with the organisation’s culture and objectives
    • Use the organisation’s policies and procedure manuals as key learning resources
    • Integrate direct workplace examples in your learning activities
    • Create learning activities around workplace tasks and products to ensure training is of immediate use in the business
    • Enlist the support of the employer to provide skills practice.
    • Set tasks that learners identify as immediately valuable.
    • Buddy your learners up with workplace mentors
    • Take advantage of real workplace activities to provide problem-solving opportunities and experiences
    • Integrate employee development plans into your training plan where possible
  3. Contextualising Training For Online Delivery
    • Create authentic online simulated work environments that mimic real workplaces where learners can practice their skills
    • Develop workplace specific quizzes and games that facilitate the practice of knowledge and skills
    • Ensure that you use workplace specific jargon and procedures in your activities and interactions (whether online, face-to-face or teleconference)
    • Provide opportunities for learners to collaborate and share workplace experience
    • Invite guests with industry experience to share experiences via webinars.
    • Adapt learning and assessment activities for learners who have workplaces to use their own work situation.
    • Support learners who don’t have a relevant workplace to link up with an industry mentor in their location.
    • Develop scenarios and case studies that provide learners with real workplace problems.
    • Develop samples of workplace documents as examples of best practice.
    • Develop a webinar series that allows you to deliver training sessions, that provide learners an opportunity to interact with you, and other learners.
    • Create realistic workplace scenarios and roleplays that allow your learner to demonstrate their skills. These can be recorded and provided as evidence of competence.
  4. Contextualisation Must Not Impact the Unit Outcomes
    • Whilst you are required to contextualise your training and assessment, you must also ensure that you do not impact the unit outcomes. Therefore your contextusalisation must not:
      • diminish the breadth of application of the competency to reduce its portability
      • narrow down the competency outcomes and limit its use
      • remove the content of any element and performance criteria related to the unit involved
  5. Contextualisation Must Follow Principles of Assessment and Rules of Evidence
    1. You must ensure that your contextualised assessments follow the principles of assessment and are:
    2. You must ensure that your contextualised assessments follow the rules of evidence:
        • Valid
        • Sufficient
        • Authentic
        • Current
      • I recommend reading ASQAs guidelines for implementing the Rules of Evidence HERE
  6. Important Info Regarding Simulated Environments

When planning to provide training in a “simulated” environment or workplace, RTOs must clearly define the tasks and workplace policies and procedures to be used in training and assessment. You would identify these at steps 1 and 2 of this article. Simulated environments are used to allow learners who don’t have access to the workplace, with an authentic work environment where they can demonstrate their skills. They can also be used to support learners and familiarise them with a workplace prior to doing practical work experience.

Whether reviewing an existing simulated workplace or creating one from scratch, you will need to ensure the following:

    • The unit allows for learners to complete assessment tasks in a simulated work environment
    • Your simulated environment closely resembles the workplace environment for the tasks being demonstrated.
    • Case studies and Scenarios are aligned to current workplace practices
    • Roleplay instructions MUST be extremely comprehensive. They must simulate, and align with actual workplace tasks. When reviewing or creating roleplays, you will need to ensure that:
      • Instructions clearly describe the environment and workplace conditions required for the roleplay to be performed, including any equipment or resources required to complete the roleplay. You MUST have instructions for the Learner, Assessor and any other participants. These instructions must be explicit on what is to be done, who is doing what etc.
      • Each participant has clear and detailed instructions to realistically carry out the role-play task, this involves creating scripts for ALL support participants (eg. those acting as clients, supervisors, stakeholders, and colleagues, etc). This is almost always not present in off the shelf resources and RTOs are often found to be non-compliant as a result.

The Compliant Learning Resources published resources, have many comprehensive simulated businesses that provide RTOs with scenarios, case studies workplace forms and policies, and procedures, etc. If you are looking for RTO Training Resources that come with simulated businesses, you should contact our training resources team to give you a quick demonstration and walk through.

Summary

Hopefully, I have shown that contextualisation is critical to creating quality, relevant training and assessment that delivers the necessary knowledge and skills to the industry and learner it is targeting. We can not just take generic resources off the shelf and expect them to work with all learners, situations, and contexts. Quality training takes time to develop, and employers and industry recognise those training providers who take the time to deliver relevant training to meet their needs.

Contextualising gives you an opportunity to connect with industry leaders and build relationships, whilst at the same time letting them know that you are developing training that will meet the needs of their employees and organisations. It is a great way to build successful and enduring business relationships!

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