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Research Developments from ACER

Vocational & Adult

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Identifying foundation skill levels

A new online assessment tool will soon help practitioners in the vocational, adult and workplace education sector to identify and assess the foundation skill levels of individuals, as Martin Burdis explains.

Development work now underway by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on an online Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT) will soon be assisting learners, job seekers, trainers, educators and employment services practitioners to assess their own or a client’s foundation skill levels, and help identify any gaps in skills and knowledge. Commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Industry and soon to be freely available, the FSAT addresses the theoretical underpinnings of the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) on language, literacy and numeracy, and the Core Skills for Work (CSfW) Developmental Framework on employability skills. 

FSAT, to be available on a purpose built, stand-alone online platform, will offer two distinct assessments, both of them free: a full assessment and an integrated short assessment. Qualified practitioners, educators and trainers will be able to administer the full assessment against the ACSF and the CSfW in a learning setting; while individuals will be able to self-assess using the integrated short assessment. Employment services practitioners will also be able to administer the integrated short assessment to job seekers.

Full assessment

The full assessment version of FSAT will be available free for qualified practitioners, educators and trainers to administer in a learning setting. Its purpose is to enable providers of education and training to define and tailor a full assessment, addressing the relevant skill areas of the two frameworks, for individual learners in vocational education programs and workplaces.

Approved administrators will be able to select assessments across a suite of available tests in order to assess groups or individual learners. Learners then navigate through the selected assessments online, or in some cases offline, with feedback and results made available upon completion and marking of the assessment.

Integrated short assessment

The integrated short assessment version of FSAT will be available free for individuals to self-assess and for employment services practitioners to administer to job seekers locally or remotely.

The integrated short assessment indicates individuals’ reading and numeracy skills as well as some aspects of their core skills for work.

Key aspects of the tool

  • Computer-adaptive assessments.
  • Questions and responses based on scenarios.
  • Self-reflective tasks.
  • Manually scored assessments for core skills, including speaking, where online automatically scored assessment is not currently possible.
  • Select assessments from 16 skill areas across two frameworks.
  • Practitioners tailor assessments for individuals and groups.
  • ACSF assessments can be selected at suitable test-taker levels: low and middle.
  • Test takers can complete relevant assessments over time.
  • Individual reports available to test takers against each assessment.
  • Data and reports for RTOs include levels and question intents.

Collaborative assessment development

ACER’s FSAT development has led to the creation of a model for assessment development in which external subject matter experts collaborate closely with ACER’s assessment and reporting staff. The model brings together the vast industry experience of subject matter experts, who have also been contributing authors of the ACSF and CSfW, and ACER’s wealth of experience in assessment development and established quality assurance processes.

As part of its commitment to maintain ongoing quality through the development of FSAT, ACER is conducting face-to-face focus groups involving key stakeholders and likely end users to gain feedback on the tool itself, the assessment items and the online delivery platform. ACER also launched FSAT iNfocus, an interactive online environment, for stakeholders and end users who are unable to attend face-to-face focus groups. ACER is also running trials with vocational education and training practitioners, and employment services providers to test the assessment system and assessment items. â– 

For more information about Foundation Skills Assessment Tool, visit < >


About the author

Martin Burdis is a Project Director in ACER's Corporate and Vocational Assessment Services team.

More [rd] articles by Martin Burdis

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