How to use the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) to identify LLN skill gaps

This is the second of two articles covering the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF). My first article describes the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF).

In this article I shall cover how to use the ACSF to identify LLN skill gaps.

Although this article has been primarily written for people studying for their TAE40116 or TAE40122 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification, qualified VET practitioners may still get something from the content or the way the content has been presented.

The information covered by this article is relevant to the following units of competency:

  • TAELLN411 Address adult language, literacy and numeracy skills
  • TAELLN421 Integrate core skills support into training and assessment.

LLN skills

In the Australian VET system, foundation skills consist of language, literacy, and numeracy (LLN) skills and employment skills. In other words, LLN skills are a sub-set of foundation skills.

Let’s broadly define these LLN skills:

  • What are language skills?
  • What are literacy skills?
  • What are numeracy skills?
  • What are digital literacy skills?

What are language skills?

Wikipedia defines ‘language’ as a structured system of communication used by humans consisting of speech (spoken language) and gestures (sign language). The ACSF identifies Oral Communication as a core skill and its covers:

  • Speaking skills
  • Listening skills.

The Australian VET system mostly delivers training and assessment services using the English language. Sometimes, a training program may be delivered in Auslan or a local indigenous language.

It may be possible to use translation services for people who speak languages other than English. However, most workplaces in Australia require a person to communicate in English to managers, supervisors, work colleagues, customers, suppliers, and others. An RTO must ensure that the people they train and qualify have the oral communication skills required to work safely and effectively in an Australian workplace.

What are literacy skills?

Wikipedia states that literacy is popularly understood as an ability to read and write. The ACSF has the two core skills:

  • Reading skills
  • Writing skills.

What are numeracy skills?

Numeracy in the ACSF is about using mathematics to make sense of the world and applying, representing and communicating mathematics and mathematical results. Numeracy includes:

  • Measuring and using measuring equipment
  • Calculating
  • Using data
  • Using graphs, diagrams and tables
  • Using maps or plans.

Numbers, algebra, quantities, time, geometry, statistics and probability are numeracy skills. Often numeracy skills support analysis and problem solving at work.

What are digital literacy skills?

In 2020, the Digital Literacy Skills Framework was published by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment. This framework adds onto the ACSF.

A focus on digital literacy is not new. Computers and other digital devices are frequently used when people read information or write documents. Technology is used for communicating and collaborating with others. And various digital devises and software applications are used to measure, calculate, analyse, display data, create graphs, etc.

Digital literacy skills are integrated with the five core skills covered by the ACSF. In the future, digital literacy skills are likely to be treated as a sixth core skill alongside learning, reading, writing, oral communication, and numeracy.

For more details about the ACSF go to: What is the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF)?

4-steps to using the ACSF to identify LLN skill gaps

The following 4 steps provides a relatively simple procedure for using the ACSF to identify LLN skill gaps:

  • Step 1. Identify and describe the required LLN skills
  • Step 2. Analyse the complexity of the required LLN skills
  • Step 3. Use ACSF Performance Indicators to estimate the required ACSF Levels
  • Step 4. Compare an individual’s ACSF Levels with the required ACSF Levels.

Step 1. Identify and describe the required LLN skills

The ACSF can be used to identify the LLN skill requirements of a VET program. There are two methods for identifying the required LLN skills:

  • Method 1. Identifying the required LLN skills for units of competency with foundation skills
  • Method 2. Identifying the required LLN skills for units of competency without foundation skills.

Method 1. Identifying the required LLN skills for a unit of competency with foundation skills

Some Training Package Developers have identified and described the foundation skills for a unit of competency. The following is an example for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency.

In the above example, four of the seven foundation skills are LLN skills. And a brief descriptions helps to give a scope or context for each skill.

Method 2. Identifying the required LLN skills for a unit of competency without foundation skills

Some Training Package Developers have not identified or have only provided limited information about the foundation skills for a unit of competency. And many Accredited Courses have units of competencies in a format that did not require foundation skills to be identified. These situations will require you to identify and describe the LLN skills.

Step 1.1 Create an LLN skill template

Create a table.

Then insert the elements and performance criteria for the unit of competency that will be analysed. The following is an example for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency.

You should also read the Assessment Requirements because there may be relevant information relating to LLN skills required to perform the work task or activities.

Step 1.2 Identify the LLN trigger words

LLN trigger words are the ‘verbs’. These words help us locate the underpinning LLN skills required to perform the work task or activities specifed by the unit of competency. Others terms may also indicate underpinning LLN skills. For example, ‘within a designated timeframe’ indicates the need for numeracy skills.

The following example highlights the LLN trigger words for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency.

Step 1.3 Use trigger words to identify LLN skills

ASQA has published Foundation Skills Trigger Words. These can be used to identify LLN skills. For example, the ‘identify’ verb can indicate that reading skills and oral communication skills are likely to be required. Using the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency as an example, the identification of these underpinning LLN skills for the ‘identify’ verb is relevant for Performance criteria 1.1 and 3.1 (see the table below).

The following example identifies the all the underpinning LLN skills for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency.

Step 1.4 Describe each LLN skill

The above information can be restructured, simplified and any duplication can be removed. The description can be re-written to give a clear and concise scope or context for each LLN skill.

The following example describes the LLN skills for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency.

Step 2. Analyse the complexity of the required LLN skills

Think about the typical tasks or activities performed in the workplace. How complex is the task to perform? Is the task performed with or without supervision? What is the relevant AQF level? Answers to these questions will help you analyse the complexity of the required LLN skills.

The following examples analyse the LLN skills for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency. Business resources may include printers, phone and intercom systems, laminators, binding machines, and other office equipment. Also, business resources may include consumables such as paper, printer toner cartridges, laminating supplies, and binding supplies.

Reading requirement for the BSBOPS101 unit

What reading is required when performing the work task specified by the unit of competency? How complex are the required reading skills?

A competent person will need to read task lists or emails giving instructions about what and when tasks are to be completed. Workplace procedures about operating and maintaining office equipment will need to be read. And equipment manuals and manufacturers’ instructions giving details about using, maintaining and trouble-shooting will need to be read. Each procedural document or equipment manual can vary in content and layout, and some will require a moderate level of concentration and comprehension to read.

Writing requirement for the BSBOPS101 unit

What writing is required when performing the typical work tasks or activities specified by the unit of competency? How complex are the required writing skills?

A competent person will need to complete simple forms and maintenance records, or write emails.

Oral communication requirement for the BSBOPS101 unit

What oral communication is required when performing the typical work tasks or activities specified by the unit of competency? How complex are the required oral communication skills?

A competent person will need to clarify priorities or negotiate deadlines with their supervisor or other people in the workplace. Also, they will need to speak with maintenance or repair technicians to explain and discuss equipment faults or issues.

Numeracy requirement for the BSBOPS101 unit

What numeracy is required when performing the typical work tasks or activities specified by the unit of competency? How complex are the required numeracy skills?

A competent person will need to count office supplies and consumables. Also, they will need to estimate qualities required to complete tasks. The timeframe for each estimate can vary from quantities required to perform a task immediately, or quantities required during a day, or quantities required over a week. Usage rates from the past or order records can be used to inform estimate for the future.

Step 3. Use ACSF Performance Indicators to estimate the required ACSF Levels

Step 2 above and Step 3 may be combined and completed at the same time.

The ACSF Performance Indicators are used to estimate the ACSF Level required for each LLN skill. For more background information about the ACSF Performance Indicators go to: What is the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF)?

Step 3.1 Estimate the required ACSF Levels

The ACSF Performance Indicators are used to estimate the required ACSF Level for each LLN skill. The following example will show how to estimate the ACSF Level for the reading skills required for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency.

Start by reviewing the ACSF Performance Indicators for ACSF Level 1.

A competent person would need reading skills greater than at the ACSF Level 1. Move on to review the ACSF Performance Indicators for ACSF Level 2.

A competent person would need reading skills greater than at the ACSF Level 2 because some unfamiliar texts or topics may need to be read. Move on to review the ACSF Performance Indicators for ACSF Level 3.

The ACSF Performance Indicators for ACSF Level 3 seem to be a reasonable description for the reading skills required by a competent person. Some information would be familiar, but some unfamiliar. And there would be a range of document types.

Before making a final decision, review the ACSF Performance Indicators for ACSF Level 4.

The critical analysis of complex text is beyond the scope for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency. Therefore, the estimated ACSF Level for reading is 3.

The above procedure is repeated using the ACSF Performance Indicators for writing, oral communication, and numeracy.

Step 3.2 Record the required ACSF Levels

Use the following template to record the required ACSF Levels for each LLN skill.

Step 4. Compare an individual’s ACSF Levels with the required ACSF Levels

RTO will conduct a pre-training review (PTR) before someone enrols into a training program. Part of the PTR will be a diagnostic assessment of a person’s current ACSF Levels, and these can be compared with the ACSF Level required to perform the work tasks or activities specified by the unit of competency.

The ACSF encourages us to graph this information about ACSF Levels. These graphs may be refers to as being a ‘spiky profile’. A ‘spiky profile’ is a visual representation that provides valuable information about an individual’s areas of strength and specifically identifies any areas where there is a gap. An LLN skill gap may require additional training or support.

Step 4.1 Plot the required ACSF Levels

Plot the required ACSF Level for each LLN skill. The following example plots the ACSF Levels required for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency.

Step 4.2 Plot the individual’s ACSF Level

For the purpose of this example, let us say that an individual has been assessed as having reading skills at the ACSF Level 2, writing skills at the ACSF Level 2, oral communication skills at the ACSF Level 3, and numeracy skills at the ACSF Level 2. The following graph shows this person’s current ACSF Levels plotted.

The comparison between required and current LLN skills can be easily seen. In this example, an LLN skill gap for reading is apparent.

Qualification

Throughout this article, I have demonstrated how to use the ACSF to identify LLN skill gaps for a single unit of competency. Usually, we will determine the required LLN skills for an entire qualification. The following is an example of the ACSF Levels required for the BSB20120 Certificate II in Workplace Skills qualification.

Here is a revised ‘spiky profile’ for the BSB20120 qualification, instead of the BSBOPS101 unit.

The person can be identified as having two LLN skill gaps: reading skills and numeracy skills.

Identifying an LLN skill gap or gaps is only the first step. Next, we mostly will need to take action:

  • Discuss the LLN skill gap or gaps with the learner
  • Develop an agreed action plan with the learner
  • Implement the action plan, and this may include the involvement of other people such as LLN specialists or support services.

In conclusion

The identification of LLN skill gaps using the ACSF takes time and effort.

There is a high chance that all trainers and TAFE teachers will frequently have learners with LLN skills lower than what is required, and this includes having lower digital literacy skills than what is needed. I think it is important for VET practitioners to understand the ACSF and how LLN skill gaps are identified.

Identifying LLN skill gaps is the starting point for providing or arranging additional training and support for those learner who need it. Without this some learners will not succeed at attaining competency.

Do you need help with your TAE studies?

Are you doing the TAE40116 or TAE40122 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, and are you struggling with your studies? Do you want help with your TAE40116 or TAE40122 studies?

Ring Alan Maguire on 0493 065 396 to discuss.

Contact now!

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Training trainers since 1986

Author: Alan Maguire

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

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