Using prior work experience in assessment – why it should be considered


It is clear that the rules and criteria for learning assessment should be standardised in a way that can be marked fairly. Where there is debate is whether or not students should be allowed to use prior work experience or knowledge from the business they work at or own.

The belief is that students should not be able to base their projects on real-life situations or experiences as too many variables can affect the assessment’s fairness and validity. However, others may argue that allowing students to draw from their own experiences (as long as it’s approved by the assessor) can yield stronger critical thinking and greater learning outcomes.

Business Qualification Bias

If you think about it this way, are those who are studying community services qualifications expected to develop, integrate and reflect on the treatment and management of the same elderly person? Certainly not, you would want them to have a unique approach to every individual. Each situation will be different and therefore the approach to their project would be different as well. Using the same standardised assessment criteria, everyone in that class could base their assessment in a way that is personal and original in their approach.

If you apply the same methodology to business qualifications, you will find that the level of individualism is less due to the structure and assessment criteria which restricts the student from drawing upon their own experiences. The same corporate case studies are used as examples and yet the answers to them are expected to be different from every other student in the class. This does not make sense and it doesn’t allow students to critically analyse their own, real-world experience in business. The outcome is that students then enter the workforce without the capability to improvise on their theoretical knowledge or find creative solutions.

Assessor Permission

There is a balance that can be struck between using real-world examples (instead of a case study) and retaining marking benchmarks for fair and accurate marking. The RTO assessors have to be qualified not only in the training and assessment but within the industry that they teach RTO resources as well. Drawing from their own background knowledge gives them the increased capacity to make connections between each student’s response and the subject criteria.

Effective Assessment Principles

A uniform approach to assessment marking can be followed and according to ASQA, the four principles of assessment are:

  • Fairness. The needs of the individual learner are analysed and considered during the assessment process to ensure that it meets the guidelines.
  • Flexibility. The assessment itself has the flexibility to encompass the learner’s needs, and the competencies held by the learner regardless of where they draw their experience from and utilise a diverse range of assessment methods to draw parallels between context, units of competency and the assessment requirements.
  • Validity. The assessment decision from the RTO is compelling based on appropriate documentation and the performance of the student.
  • Reliability. The interpretation and assessment results are consistent with the evidence provided and equal regardless of the assessor undertaking the assessment.

Changes to the BSB Training Package

There has been positive and aligned feedback on PwC’s recent training package which now contains a mandatory core unit that approaches creative and critical thinking. The industry bodies are aware that these skills are not exclusive to the social sciences or creative industries but can be successfully applied to business and other invariable industries. To thrive in business requires a solution-orientated approach which does lean on creative and critical thinking.

If students aren’t allowed to demonstrate and apply that knowledge in theoretical and practical environments, then how can their skills be assessed completely? For RTOs and service providers to continue to deny this learning opportunity, would be a disservice to them and their future work situations where those skills are expected of them.

Higher education and VET are about preparing students for the real world. That is why the business resources from RTO Works have been designed with flexibility and efficacy in mind. The case studies used in the student Simulation Packs combine typical corporate case studies with examples from relevant workplaces.