Guide to developing assessment tools

Coincidentally, or by design, every six years a guide to developing assessment tools is released by authoritative VET sources.

In 2009, the National Quality Council (NQC) released a guide. The NQC’s guide plus a guide published by the Western Australia’s Department of Training and Workforce Development were used by ASQA to produce their guide in 2015. And in 2021, ASQA updated their guide. It is interesting that ASQA’s 2021 version has removed the word ‘developing’ from the document title. However, it still is the guide to [developing] assessment tools.

How has ASQA updated the guide?

Industry engagement

The first difference between the 2015 version and 2012 version of the guide is ASQA’s aim to encourage RTOs to engage industry when developing assessment tools. In the 2015 version, the involvement of industry was on page 4. The 2021 version brings forward a reference to industry to page 1. This update seems to be more symbolic rather than substantive.

Very little information of any substance about industry engagement is provided in the ASQA’s guide. The following is provided:

  • RTO must state how industry representative have contributed to the development of your assessment practices and resources
  • Industry engagement can be used to align the assessment tool with current methods, technologies, performance expectations, etc.

This information was already available in the 2015 version of the guide.

Has ASQA misunderstood ‘moderation’?

Another difference between the the 2015 version and 2012 version of the guide is the inclusion of ‘moderation’. It has replaced the activity of reviewing the assessment tool.

I believe that moderation is not part of the process for developing an assessment tool. For me, moderation is an activity that reviews some samples of completed assessment tasks and evidence that have been used to make an assessment decision. Assessors would meet to determine what decisions they would make based on the given evidence. Any discrepancies would need to be discussed to ensure all assessors standardise their assessment decisions. Therefore, moderation occurs after the assessment tool has been implemented.

Moderation is a useful activity for RTOs to seek the delivery of a reliable assessment process. It assists with compliance with the ‘reliability’ principle of assessment. I wonder if ASQA has misunderstood or misappropriated the concept of ‘moderation’. I would prefer the ASQA guide to revert back to ‘reviewing the tool’ rather than ‘moderating the tool’. Misuse of terms can cause confusion.

Who are the developers of assessment tools?

The introduction to ASQA’s guide to assessment tools states that it has been “designed to assist training providers and their assessors to develop assessment tools“. It would be interesting to know how many assessors are actually involved in the development of assessment tools.

Since 2016, there has been a strong view that very few assessors develop assessment tools. This has been the basis of complaint about the TAEASS502 Design and and develop assessment tools being a core unit in the TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification. I wonder why ASQA has not acknowledge that assessors are unlikely to develop assessment tools. It may be better if ASQA had used the job title of instructional designer or resources developer. Or, does ASQA still believe that assessors develop assessment tools?

What information does the Guide provide?

The Guide to [developing] assessment tools is a short and easy-to-read document. It begins with defining the terms:

  • Assessment
  • Assessment systems
  • Assessment tool.

These definitions are followed by an outline of a 3-step process for developing assessment tools

If anyone is familiar with my TAE40116 resources, you will know that I promote the following 4-step process.

My 4-step process is clear, logical, and consistent with:

  • TAEASS401 Plan assessment activities and processes
  • TAEASS502 Design and develop assessment tools.


ASQA’s guide to [developing] assessment tools briefly describes some planning considerations:

  • What are the assessment requirements of the training package or accredited course?
  • What does consultation from your industry engagement recommend?
  • What assessment methods are most appropriate for your student cohort?

Types of assessment methods

Four types of assessment methods are listed and described:

  • Direct observation
  • Product based methods
  • Questioning
  • Third-party evidence.

The 2021 version of the guide has removed the ‘portfolio of evidence’ assessment method from the list. That’s okay because it is adequately covered by the ‘product based methods’.

Design and development

ASQA’s guide to [developing] assessment tools briefly describes a number of components to be designed and developed so that the assessment tool will comply with the ‘principles of assessment’:

  • The context and conditions of assessment
  • The tasks a student must complete to demonstrate competency
  • An outline of evidence to be gathered from the student
  • Evidence criteria used to judge the quality of performance
  • Administration, recording and reporting requirments.

Quality checks

ASQA’s guide to [developing] assessment tools briefly describes three checks that should be undertaken before implementing a new assessment tool:

Further consultation with industry to confirm the content of the assessment tool is correct and relevant to the workplace

Moderating the tool (earlier in this article I have expressed by disagreement with using the term ‘moderation’, and I think the 2015 version of guide was right in using the term ‘reviewing the tool’)

Trialling the tool before it is used by students.

In conclusion

There is very little difference between the 2015 and 2021 versions of ASQA’s guide to [developing] assessment tools. It is a document that I think should be read and understood by all VET practitioners. It does not matter if a VET practitioner is developing an assessment tool, or not. ASQA’s guide provides the basic information about how an assessment tool supports compliance with requirements specified by:

  • Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs)
  • Training packages and accredited courses.

Also, it encourages the consultation with employers and industry to ensure an RTO’s assessment approach meets current workplace requirements.

Are you a TAE40116 Student struggling with your studies?

Some people find the ‘TAEASS401 Plan assessment activities and processes’ or ‘TAEAS502 Design and develop assessment’ topics difficult. My TAE Tutoring service can help you with your studies.

Do you want more information? 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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