Training or assessment? What comes first?

chicken or the egg


I first started training trainer in 1986. After more than a 33 year association with vocational training, I think I have much information and many insights worthy of sharing. This article may be of interest for:

  • TAE trainers and their TAE learners,
  • Designers of VET programs, and
  • People who like a good diagram.

Brief history

In 1998, the first training package qualification to target the skills development of new trainers was the BSZ40198 Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training. In the title of this qualification, the word ‘assessment’ preceded the word ‘training’. The order of ‘assessment’ and ‘training’ was reversed in 2004 when the TAA40104 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification was released. Since then we have had the TAE10 and TAE training packages implemented; and the TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is the current qualification.

Sequence of delivery

The TAE40116 qualification that many RTOs deliver follow a pathway starting with the two core design (DES) units, followed by the two core delivery (DEL) units, and concludes with the four assessment (ASS) units. The core LLN unit is usually delivered with the DES units or as a stand-alone topic before the DEL units. The following illustrates the typical pathway delivered by RTOs.

typical sequence

This is not the only way of structuring the TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. The qualification title gives a sequence ‘training’ followed by ‘assessment’ but maybe it is better to reverse this order. I am working with a client who has decided to do exactly that; ‘assessment’ followed by ‘training’. The following shows training and assessment as a cycle. It is like the chicken or the egg; what comes first?

Training and aseessment cycle (1)

An obvious starting point for any training is to identify the learning need. If this is not done or poorly done, then training can be a waste of time and money. One method of conducting a training needs analysis is to check current performance (or competency) against desired performance (or competency). This can be accomplished by assessing competence. The following shows a sequence that favors ‘assessment’ before ‘training’. The numbers in red illustrates an alternative learning pathway for the TAE40116 qualification.

Training and aseessment cycle

1. VET Framework

Before learning anything about training or assessment in the VET context, a person needs to learn:

  • What is Australia’s competency-based training and assessment system?
  • What are the various training package components? And how are they coded?
  • How can training packages and accredited courses be accessed and used?

The first unit covered in the TAE40116 program must be TAEDES402 Use training packages and accredited courses to meet client needs. The following shows how the TAEDES402 elements of competency flows effortlessly into the ASS units.

TAEDES502 to ASS units

2. Design and develop assessment tool

‘Training’ is a process input (the process of learning). ‘Assessment’ is focused on an outcome. It is a good idea to start with the end in mind. The TAEASS502 Design and develop assessment tools unit gives the TAE learner a solid foundation for understanding assessment. Also, it help the TAE learner understand:

  • Structure of competency standards,
  • Training packages and accredited course, and
  • Australia’s competency-based training and assessment system.

The TAEASS401 Plan assessment activities and processes and TAEASS502 Design and develop assessment tools achieve the same learning outcomes. For further details about this, refer to the LinkedIn article at

3. Assess competence

Conducting assessments naturally follows the planning, designing and developing of assessments. From my experience, this is when the TAE learner truly and deeply understands competency-based training and assessment.

4. Identify learning need

Many methods can be used for the identification of learning needs. A basic method is to compare current performance against desired performance. This can be achieved through competency-based assessment using competency standards as a benchmark. Gap analysis is still required to determine appropriate training or non-training solutions to address performance discrepancies.

5. Address adult LLN skills

It is common for VET trainers and assessors to have learners who lack the LLN skills to perform work skills to a standard that would be expected in the workplace. The TAELLN411 Address adult language, literacy and numeracy skills unit covers a range of appropriate skills.

6. Design training program

The TAEDES401 Design and develop learning programs unit requires the TAE participant to learn how to produce a program covering training and assessment. They will produce a better training and assessment program if they have already deeply learnt about competency-based assessments. Also, the program they produce will be better if they have already learnt about addressing adult LLN skills.

design training program

There is a significant benefit of sequencing ‘assessment’ before ‘training’. TAE participants need a good understanding of VET assessments and LLN to develop a program. The TAEDES401 Design and develop learning programs unit specifies that a training program developer should do the following:

  • Identify language, literacy and numeracy requirements of the program (Performance criteria 1.3), and
  • Specify assessment requirements of the learning program (Performance criteria 3.3).

An early step, whenever I design a training program, is to understand the assessment requirements, assessment approach and assessment methods. ‘Assessment’ guides the ‘training’; therefore, performance outcomes are always the focus.

In summary

The following table shows a linear sequence of delivering the TAE40116 core competency standards.


Although topics may be sequentially delivered, it is important to help TAE participants see the interconnected relationship. An effective VET trainer and assessor will need to understand how all the pieces fit together.

connected sequence

The packaging rules for the TAE40116 qualification requires an elective unit to be selected to make a total of ten units. Common units selected are:

  • BSBCMM401 Make a presentation
  • TAEDEL301 Provide work skill instruction
  • TAEDEL404 Mentor in the workplace.

These three units are easily integrated into the delivery of the TAE40116 program without adding much value beyond what is covered by the core TAE units. Many RTOs use Moodle or other learning management system. I think the TAEDEL501 Facilitate e-learning is a worthy unit to be selected as the elective.

I place much importance on assessment. It is the gatekeeper of VET quality. By covering ‘assessment’ before ‘training’, it will give assessment an appropriate prominence in the TAE40116 program.

In conclusion

From my experience, it is during the delivery of the ASS units that most TAE participants truly and deeply learn about competency standards. Learning about competency-based training will be better if they have a good understanding of competency standards. I highly recommend delivering ‘assessment’ before ‘training’.

Author: Alan Maguire

35+ years experience as a trainer, instructional designer, quality manager, project manager, program manager, RTO auditor, RTO manager and VET adviser.

One thought on “Training or assessment? What comes first?”

  1. Alan, another interesting and thought provoking article that makes practical sense. Thanks for sharing.


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