2020: the year of the Digital Literacy Skills Framework

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2020 was a year for change. I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you that. With the obvious pandemic-driven changes to our professional and personal lives this year, you may have overlooked this very important (and timely) complement to the five core skills in the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF).

Digital Literacy Skills Framework

Earlier this year, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) commissioned the development of the Digital Literacy Skills Framework (DLSF).

This work was undertaken by by Philippa McLean (Project Manager) and Jenni Oldfield, both experts and industry leaders in foundation skills.

The DLSF is at the validation stage, and remains to be finalised.

We expect—and hopethat the DLSF will eventually be incorporated into the ACSF publication, but for now:

  • the original five core skills remain in the ACSF.
  • Digital Literacy is presented separately, as the DLSF.

Implications of the DLSF for VET practitioners

The DLSF is an important tool used in DESE‘s Foundation Skills for Your Future program. Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) offering this program are already using the DLSF.

But in 2020, digital skills became important to everyone—not just people involved in the Foundation Skills for your Future program:

  • Australian workers had to extend their digital skills to learn to work from home and/or adapt to new job requirements
  • digital inclusion became more important than ever before
  • the need for vocational trainers to both learn and teach digital skills became even more essential for students to achieve program outcomes.

So, the DLSF is a valuable resource for all VET practitioners. We can use the DLSF to help ourselves and our students identify and build the digital skills necessary for competence, and to thrive in today’s world of work.

More about the DLSF

Philippa and Jenni have generously offered this PowerPoint to tell us more about the content and structure of the DLSF:

More downloads


Download the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF).


Download the Digital Literacy Skills Framework (DLSF).

Questions, comments or feedback?

At last! Evidence that investment in adult literacy and numeracy pays off… in a BIG way!

Image - LLN pays


Thanks to Dave Tout—senior research fellow with ACER—for this exciting and informative post with news of some welcome data that confirms the benefits to be gained from an investment in adults’ literacy and numeracy skills.

In the article, Dave:

  • summarises historical research that explains why “…the challenges presented by adults with low basic skills may lead to Australia being left behind…” (OECD, 2017, p. 9)
  • outlines how hard it has been historically, to gather data that shows the impact of adult literacy and numeracy programs on individuals, organisations and communities
  • introduces recent research findings that show a whopping 520% return on investment in adult literacy and numeracy programs!

Want details?  Read on!


LLN counts – 26TEN study into the value of investing in improving adults’ literacy and numeracy skills

by Dave Tout

A recent report from Tasmania makes very interesting reading for anyone wanting to know about the benefits and value of investing in improving adults’ literacy and numeracy skills in VET, the workplace, and as part of lifelong learning.

The social and economic benefits of investing in adult literacy and numeracy and the costs of poor adult literacy and numeracy in Australia are key policy issues and questions. In the 2000s, Robyn Hartley and Jackie Horne (2006a, 2006b) undertook reviews and analysis about the social and economic benefits of improving adult literacy, and concluded this was a challenging endeavour especially in relation to estimating the benefits across contexts such as health, finance, family relationships and crime, rather than just focusing on traditional economic areas, such as productivity and the labour market outcomes.

Based on three cycles of international assessments of adult literacy and numeracy skills (IALS, ALLS and PIAAC), research indicates, among a number of other findings, that people with higher literacy and numeracy skills are significantly more likely to be employed, to participate in their community, to experience better health, and to engage in further training. They also earn more on average (see OECD, 2013; OECD, 2016).  As well, the research demonstrates that each extra year of education improves literacy and numeracy skills. The 2017 OECD country report on Australia, claimed that “the challenges presented by adults with low basic skills may lead to Australia being left behind in terms of innovation and economic growth by countries that have been more successfully investing in the skills of all their people.” (OECD, 2017, p. 9)

Putting a value on the investments and returns

There have been very few attempts in Australia though that have attempted to quantify the return on investment, especially in relation to workplace literacy and numeracy. In 2012, the Australian Industry Group contracted the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to conduct a study into the financial return to employers from investing in workplace literacy training programs. This study developed and trialled a set of data collection instruments in pilot mode with seven training programs funded under the Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) program. The outcomes of this research again documented the complexity and challenges of quantifying the return on investment for employers and businesses if they invest in improving the literacy and numeracy skills of their workers. This report (Brown et al, 2015) documents the process and instruments used, the positive outcomes for businesses, and also has a comprehensive review of research in this area.

New Tasmanian research via 26TEN gives a value

A new report has recently been released that has calculated the cost benefits from adult literacy and numeracy programs across Tasmania in 2018-19. This research was auspiced by 26TEN in Tasmania, a very proactive organisation that works with businesses, community groups, government, education and training providers and individuals, to support all Tasmanian adults to develop the reading, writing, numeracy and communications skills they need for life in the 21st century.

The study, called the Socio-Economic Impact of Tasmania’s Investment in Adult Literacy and Numeracy, was conducted by the Institute of Project Management. The study used a model of cost-benefit analysis to quantify the social, economic and cultural contribution that the 26TEN Tasmania Strategy makes to program participants, businesses and the broader community. The socio-economic value created by the 26TEN Tasmania Strategy in 2018-19, was estimated to be at least $27.2 million, based on an investment of $5.3 million. The report showed that the return on investment to the community from the 26TEN Tasmania Strategy in 2018-19 was at least $5.20 for every dollar spent.  The report argues that investment in adult literacy improves individual and community states of physical, human, social and symbolic capital.

Some of the other outcomes reported

In examining the specific impact of the 26TEN grants and the Libraries Tasmania literacy service that were studied, the research also found that:

  • Over 80 percent of literacy clients surveyed said that their opportunities for employment and further education had improved as their level of literacy improved.
  • Over 90 percent of literacy clients indicated that their quality of life has improved as a result of improved functional literacy.
  • Literacy clients completed an average of 50 literacy sessions. The majority were reluctant to put an end date on their participation, and many observed that each goal they achieved led to new aspirational targets.

The research wanted to be able to document that all Tasmanians, not just policy makers, can be confident that building literacy and numeracy skills in adults across the state, not only benefits those adults, but also their families, and our communities and workplaces.

It certainly appears that this has been the case!


Resources and references


Read the Report: 26TEN Tasmania – the Socio-Economic Impact of Tasmania’s Investment in Adult Literacy and Numeracy.


Brown, J., Taylor, M., McKenzie, P., & Perkins, K. (2015). Investing in Workforce Literacy Pays: Building Employer Commitment to Workplace Language, Literacy and Numeracy Programs. Australian Industry Group: Melbourne. https://research.acer.edu.au/transitions_misc/27

Hartley, Robyn. & Horne, Jackie, (2006a) Researching Literacy and Numeracy Costs and Benefits: What is possible. Literacy and Numeracy Studies: An international journal in the education and training of adults, Vol 15 No 1, 2006 https://doi.org/10.5130/lns.v15i1.2024

Hartley, Robyn. & Horne, Jackie. (2006b).  Social and economic benefits of improved adult literacy : towards a better understanding. Adelaide, S. Aust :  NCVER https://ncver.edu.au/research-and-statistics/publications/all-publications/social-and-economic-benefits-of-improved-adult-literacy-towards-a-better-understanding

Muller, Paul & Knapp, Don (2020). The Socio-Economic Impact of Tasmania’s Investment in Adult Literacy and Numeracy July 2018 – June 2019.  Institute of Project Management. https://26ten.tas.gov.au/resources/Documents/SocioEconomicImpactTasmaniasInvestmentAdultLiteracyNumeracy.PDF

OECD. (2013). OECD skills outlook 2013: First results from the survey of adult skills. Paris: OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264204256-en

OECD. (2016). Skills matter: Further results from the survey of adult skills. OECD skills studies. Paris: OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264258051-en

OECD. (2017). Building skills for all in Australia: Policy insights from the survey of adult skills.OECD skills studies. Paris: OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264281110-en

OECD (2019). Skills matter: Additional results from the Survey of Adult Skills, Paris: OECD Skills Studies series. OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/1f029d8f-en

A gentle new beginning


LLN and VET Meeting Place—a refresh and re-purpose

This is Chemène Sinson writing.  I am one of LLN and VET Meeting Place’s two founding members.

I’m writing with a gentle statement to let you know that we have begun to refresh and re-purpose the LLN and VET Meeting Place site.  I say ‘gentle’ because it will be a gradual process.

We’ve already begun updating.  I have updated most pages on the site, as well as all links in the resource repository.  Next steps will be gradual as we work out how to tidy up formatting so we can easily add new resources as they come to our attention.

For more information about the re-purposed LLN and VET Meeting Place, including how you can support us, see about this site.


New article about Numeracy – and more!

While I’m writing, I thought I’d mention this fascinating survey paper that I learned about just a few days ago.

Australia’s Dave Tout worked with Iddo Gal, Anke Grotluschen and Gabriele Kaiser to write a survey paper titled, Numeracy, adult education and vulnerable adults:  a critical view of a neglected field.

This paper is loaded with practical insights. Read it to learn more about:

  • what global research is telling us about numeracy and the relationship between numeracy, adult education and emerging vulnerabilities that may result if educators don’t focus on the ‘right’ aspects of numeracy in their learning programs
  • five domains of numeracy and the functional, critical, interactional and decisional ways we must work in these domains – this information helped me identify ways to focus my attention on numeracy when I facilitate learning.

That’s it for now. I likely won’t post much for a while, but watch out for the progressive revamp of the resource repository over the coming weeks.

Time for change


After 3.5 years, 43 posts and countless friendships made, we have decided to discontinue adding new posts to the LLN and VET Meeting Place site.  But this doesn’t mean that LLN and VET Meeting Place won’t continue.  Read on…

A new start

We are grateful for the comments we continue to receive, telling us how valuable LLN and VET Meeting Place is as a single source of information, resources and strategies covering LLN and other foundation skills.  Thanks to this, we are currently negotiating a new home for LLN and VET Meeting Place.   We want to hand over the management of the site to people who can give it the attention it deserves, and make the site ‘sing’.

What’s next?


For now…

The LLN and VET site will remain published.  You can still access:

  • resources
  • posts
  • us.

You’ll hear from us again

In coming months we’ll add one final post when we have news to share about the ‘new look’ LLN and VET Meeting Place, and how to access it.  This may take some time.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll continue to visit this site regularly and remain subscribed, so you’ll be among the first to learn what the future site will look like.

Watch this space!


Ann and Chemène

P.S. A heartfelt ‘thank you’

Thank you for your support of the tips, facts, resource links, and suggestions we posted each month.  Thank you for your comments, conversations and emails, and for sharing the site with others.  We appreciate your feedback and encouragement and look forward to staying in touch.



One strategy for each ACSF (LLN) skill

We are often asked for the ‘one strategy’ that will make the most difference, or will be the solution for most training contexts and learners. If only there was one top tip.

Strategies relevant to your training and workplace contexts, learner cohort, delivery mode, and delivery resources may be very different to others.  Research can also shed new light on specific strategies and approaches.

This blog offers a strategy for each of the 5 Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) skills – Learning, Reading, Writing, Oral Communication, and Numeracy.

The tips are are not  THE ONE and ONLY best strategy. They have been selected due to current available research about that aspect, or frequently asked questions.

  1. Learning
  2. Reading
  3. Writing
  4. Oral Communication 
  5. Numeracy

1 Learning: Focus on feedback

The research related to Learning is flourishing as more is understood about how the brain works. One key tip that supports  a person to learn is feedback. (Shank, P. 2017, Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning). Feedback to learners is critical in the adult education and workplace training context. 

We have written in more detail about the value of feedback to learners through the formative assessment stage, especially feedback about the learners’ foundation skills progress. You can recap the  strategies in our blog titled Focus on formative assessment to build foundation skills.

How do you work out what you will say to the learners so that they are supported to move forward with the task and continue to develop or practice the required foundation skill/s?

Tailored learner feedback can depend on the range and depth of the ‘data’ available to you. For many trainers, learners’ assessment task responses provide the first indication of  foundation skill progress. Communication with learners may also be possible. The emphasis is usually on what else the learner could or should do.

Have you considered checking in with all learners to obtain broader information about the training delivery elements that impact learning? There may be aspects about the training delivery that could or should be altered.

The ACER offers a Student perception of teaching questionnaire. Its purpose is to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The ACER questionnaire covers the following areas:

Learning environment

  1. Respect and rapport
  2. The learning culture
  3. Managing classroom activities
  4. Managing student behaviour

Teaching practices

  1. Purposeful teaching
  2. Effective teaching strategies
  3. Student engagement
  4. Assessment and feedback

Although this survey presents with a skew towards face to face based learning – it does still happen in the VET sector!- rapport, culture, activities and behaviour also relate to on-line/remote learning delivery.

Check the student survey administered by your RTO. What feedback about the learning environment and instruction strategies does it provide? Perhaps develop your own tool to obtain learner feedback about the learning environment and instruction strategies, or explore and implement the ACER tool to obtain learners’ perspectives.

2 Reading: Focus on skills to read between the lines

It’s likely that your training and assessment requires learners to read a range of work-based texts. Some adult learners commence training with a limited range of reading skills based on the familiar ‘comprehension’ style questions. This literal approach seeks to know if the reader can identify the who, what, when, where, and why answers.

It is not unusual to hear learners say – ‘the answer is not in here’ when they attempt an inferential question or a question requiring them to interpret the text content (required for ACSF Reading Level 3 or 4)

Competent readers demonstrate the capacity to infer and interpret at ACSF Levels 3 and 4:

  • ACSF Level 3: integrate, interpret, simple extrapolating, simple inference, simple abstracting
  • ACSF Level 4: extract, extrapolate, infer, reflect, abstract

(from the ACSF variables Reading at ACSF Level 3 and ACSF level 4)

If you are after a strategy to build learners’ skills to infer, interpret, or, read between the lines, try to change the question format to require deeper thinking or comparison.

For example: add must, would, can/could, will, might or should to the simple question starters What?, Who?, When?, Where?, How? and Why? 

ACSF Level 3 (involves reading routine texts with some unfamiliar information)

  • How could this problem be solved differently?
  • Why might the author have said ….?
  • What can the purpose of …?
  • What other opportunities should this provide?
  • How would things be different if….?

ACSF Level 4 (involves reading a range of complex texts, unfamiliar and unpredictable)

  • For what purpose would someone read these?
  • What questions can these texts answer?
  • How must the concerns be raised about ….?
  • Why might there be advice about……?
  • How could the key themes be addressed?

 3 Writing: Focus on collaborative writing

Workplace writing skills are evolving. Increasingly workplaces connect with employees through www applications. Workers are expected to communicate collaboratively, and use a range of tools to communicate with colleagues and other workers. Think about the tools and strategies you use to communicate a written message with colleagues, or within your professional network.

Most training involves writing a workplace task – the report, the client note, the income and expense record, the instruction, the compliance documents.

A connected workplace means workers need additional writing skills. The writer must establish or maintain the connection and demonstrate expertise.

Sensitivities are involvedLearners need to learn and practice the subtleties of collaborative writing, Others will read the message,

  • Is the message clear?
  • Will it create the right impression?
  • Could it offend?
  • Does it reflect my expertise?

Professor Lesley Farrell – a workforce literacy expert. Says

“Collaborative writing is now a fundamental workplace practiceWhen we write, things are at stake with each utterance …. This is not the kind of writing we teach or assess.”

Professor Lesley Farrell, 31/5/16 Accessed from: http://tinyurl.com/z5j4lvh 

Professor Farrell spoke at VALBEC annual conference 16/5/19. She will speak at:

At each conference, Professor Farrell  will discuss findings concerning the Literacy 4.0 project which focuses on the gig economy, the smart factory,  and the implications for literacy educators in workplaces.

4 Oral Communication: Focus on pragmatic skills

The ACSF refers to selecting appropriate oral communication strategies for different contexts. 

The appropriateness of what is said in a given context is referred to as pragmatic skills; the social language skills we use in our daily interactions with others.  In some workplaces, pragmatics matter.

Below are the ACSF Oral Communication indicators for the first indicator at ACSF Level 3 and Level 4

3.07 Selects and uses appropriate strategies to establish and maintain spoken communication in familiar and some unfamiliar contexts
4.07 Demonstrates flexibility in spoken texts by choosing appropriate structures and strategies in a range of contexts

Research by Mavromaras, K. et al, 2017 The aged care workforce reports that communication between residents/clients/patients and workers was identified as an issue by 88% of respondents 

Sometimes what is appropriate must be made explicit. Research has pointed to the benefit of direct instruction on the use of pragmatic language – i.e. cultural rules and language tools – especially where building or maintaining relationships is involved.

“They are not features of  language we pick up just by being exposed to them in daily life.”

From Mackay Pip, 2018 Pragmatic language skills for CALD carers working in aged care VALBEC Fine Print 2018 Vol 1 #1

In workplace roles where building rapport is important, for example in aged care, it is appropriate to use these pragmatic skills to develop rapport to achieve designated tasks. This sector involves both clients and workers from increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Where training people to work in this sector is involved – include the pragmatic skills to promote or build social connection:

  • small talk (cultural rules)
  • and humour (language tools).

 5 Numeracy: Focus on numeracy, it’s a critical 21st century skill

We know we advised that we will offer one strategy for each core skill. For numeracy we offer one podcast with the lot!

David Tout is an Australian expert in Numeracy. In this short podcast he provides key messages about:

  • what international research says about numeracy skills in Australia
  • the impact of numeracy on success
  • the numeracy demands of the 21st century workplace
  • skills and strategies to build numeracy skills

Access the podcast recording here.



We hope you have found at least one tip that you can implement, or trial, or find out more about.

Share what interests you.

What’s changed? Keep a step ahead

What’s changed? The bigger picture

The skills for the future emphasis began in 2016 with the introduction of megatrends, the Infotronics Age, and predictions of what will be necessary to adapt, survive, and thrive. At the time it was difficult to project to the future and grasp if, and how these forecasts may influence the work we do and the the work experienced by VET graduates.

Reflect on the work you do. Look at the frequency and processes used to communicate with colleagues and learners in close proximity, in distant regions of the nation, or overseas. What has changed? What has changed with practices and the emphasis on underpinning foundation skills within the industry you represent. What do employers want graduates to be able to do?

The following resources convey snapshot messages of complex scenarios for stakeholders in the education sector, including adult and vocational education and training. The subtle difference is that now three years of change has occurred, messages affecting skills required by graduates and trainers have emerged, alongside what is needed to achieve these objectives.

As you view or read each vignette, we encourage you to:

  • dig deep into the resources and its messages.
  • identify the embedded messages related to foundation skills.

Then, initiate conversation and discussion with colleagues, or  your professional networks. Ask:

  1. What’s really important here and what does it suggest for professional practice?
  2. What aspect/s can  I impact, or activate change within
  3. What are the impacts for learners and graduates if these forecasts are ignored?

1 A new vision for education

The initial image is misleading – this is not about primary school children. This World Economic Forum video exposes the challenges and changes ahead. The content reveals an array of aspects that will influence current and future thinking of all stakeholders in education. From relevancy of the education experience, to enabling individuals to structure their own learning outcomes, and the demand for soft skills – the social emotional or character skills – it’s all there.

This raises many questions, each worthy of discussion – for our future (the trainer) and the future for our learners.

2 Meeting the challenge: VET training  – it’s right now

This DET video (on the My Skills site) starts with ‘ the world of work is changing faster than ever …’. Listen to the following cross-section of training and employer voices as they share expectations and predictions about the skills workers need and the imperative for training to keep pace with industry developments.

  • Sara Caplan, CEO, PwC Skills for Australia
  • Mick Anstey, General Manager of People, Health Safety and Environment, Roy Hill
  • Michelle Hoad, Managing Director, North Metropolitan TAFE
  • Lori Tyrrell, Head of People and Culture, Health Engine
  • David Fyfe, Executive Manager, Western Power

 3  A new vision for teachers (trainers) – OECD

The OECD has opened discussion about preparing teachers for the 21st century challenges.

A common lament is that the chance to focus on instruction, delivery and meeting the the trainers’ professional development needs or interests can be steamrolled by the focus on compliance.

The OECD post emphasises the need to address the needs of the trainer – to bridge the gap between what is intended and desired with what is currently supported and available.

“There is a growing recognition that in order for teaching and learning to be most effective, teachers need to have high levels of well-being, self-efficacy and confidence. How can governments, in partnership with teachers’ unions, create evidence-informed strategies on well-being, efficacy and effectiveness as part of their teacher policies?”

https://tinyurl.com/ybvovpmj accessed 19/4/18

Has your rto initiated a discussion with this focus in mind?

4 Skilling our future workforce

The NCVER VOCED Plus  titled Focus on Skilling our Future Workforce offers a comprehensive overview of the skill changes experienced and predicted in the 21st century employment landscape. If you’re interested in a snapshot of current international and local reports that drive the key messages about skills required now  – for now and the future – then read this.

Specific attention is paid to the skills that are needed, and the skills needed to prepare young people and existing workers.

“…the life cycle of skills is now shorter than ever and the scale of change is unprecedented.”

…”importance of entrepreneurial skills and aptitudes ‘…

soft skill intensive occupations will account for two thirds of all jobs by 2030

http://www.voced.edu.au/focus-skilling-our-future-workers July 2017, p1

Deloitte Soft Skills for Business success. Adapted from pps 2 &17

What are soft skills? Non-technical skills, transferable skills, enterprise skills

Competencies : How workers  approach complex issues Character qualities: How workers approach the changing environment
Critical thinking & problem solving Curiosity & initiative
Creativity Persistence/grit & adaptability
Communication & collaboration Leadership
Social & cultural awareness

Deloitte Soft Skills for Business success. p 4

Where and how do you build learners’ soft skills within training?

ASQA Briefings 2018

We thought it important to bring this to your attention. The 2017 ASQA briefings signalled the importance of paying attention to foundation skills – particularly in assessment.

What may be revealed in the 2018 ASQA trainer briefings about foundation skills . Don’t be the last to find out. Keep a step ahead. May is the month the ASQA Trainer briefings start.

Don’t overlook this opportunity to hear from the source about issues or outcomes that may result in a shift in emphasis, or change in approach.

Click here to access the ASQA registration page.









Where do ‘quality’ in VET, ASQA and foundation skills align?

Quality in VET – a common viewpoint

Each of us has a concept of quality in VET practice, shaped by our roles, connections, experiences, professional development, and the adult learners we engage with. Our perspectives are likely to be mixed, but is it possible that we share a common understanding or expectation?

NCVER asked representatives from 5 key stakeholder groups: learners, providers, employers and industry, government and regulators. Each person was asked a range of questions including what constitutes and promotes quality in VET? 

Responses to this question, as well as questions about barriers and enablers, a summary and outcome considerations are revealed in the NCVER  Griffin, T. 2017 paper: Are we all speaking the same language. Understanding quality in the VET sector.

A key summary message is:

“The common ground for all, including for governments and funders, is that learners are provided with the skills they are training for”.

https://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/publications/all-publications/are-we-all-speaking-the-same-language-understanding-quality-in-the-vet-sector (Summary)

Developing vocational competency is about developing the skills to perform the job.  Foundation skills are relevant to everyone in VET – they underpin the ability to perform all jobs and successfully undertake training.

Think about: “…how do you make sure that you are informed, in touch, and connected to the changing nature of an industry, and its practices, and then the interaction between the practices of that industry, and the skill component?”

The VET Era: Equipping Australia’s workforce for the future digital economy, 2016, p.37
Accessed from: http://tafeqld.edu.au/resources/pdf/about-us/research-papers/vet-era.pdf

ASQA student-centred audit approach

The purpose of the new student-centred audit approach is to follow the student experience and give students a greater voice.

Visit the links below for more information:

If you haven’t seen the ASQA summary video (introduced in 2017) – here it is.

“Your audit will be structured around your practices and behaviours in relation to five key phases of the student experience”

  1. Marketing and recruitment
  2. Enrolment
  3. Support and progression
  4. Training and assessment
  5. Completion

https://www.asqa.gov.au/news-publications/publications/fact-sheets/asqas-student-centred-audit-approach (Fact sheet)

ASQA’s phases of student experience and foundation skills

In the rest of this post, we list each of the five key phases of the student experience as described in ASQA’s new student-centred audit approach.  For each phase, we offer questions to consider in terms of foundation skill development.  Use these questions to reflect on your RTO’s training and assessment practice, and to ensure you provide quality VET programs that build both the vocational and foundation skills your students will need to perform in today’s workforce.

1 Marketing and recruitment

Think about:

  • Does the material make skill pre-requisites clear – e.g. minimum entry requirements,  specific foundation skills needed?
  • Is it clear that a pre-training skills assessment is undertaken prior to enrolment (or close to) to identify current foundation skill competency and support needs?

2 When a student enrols

Think about:

  • does the course meet the students’ needs – Some students are unaware of the foundation skills  ‘jump’ from one AQF level to the next.
  • can the student access technology resources independently?

3 How student learning is supported

Think about:

  • Have you checked for special learning needs?
  • What foundation skills support needs exist?
  • What strategies and processes exist to offer ‘on demand’ or ‘in-time’ assistance
  • Who, or where do the students ‘go to’ if they have a problem or difficulty?
  • Who will monitor early signs of challenge – e.g. late or missing tasks, or non-attendance?
  • How are students supported to use technology and access the learning resources?

4 How training and assessment is conducted

Think about, training.  Are students:

  • introduced to new foundation skills?
  • given time to practice?
  • offered a range of resources?
  • offered feedback that targets foundation skill performance?


Are you challenging participants to perform the required range and complexity of foundation skills needed to ‘do the job’ you are training?

Think about assessment practices.  Are:

  • foundation skills at the forefront when assessment tasks and tools are prepared?
  • students and assessors clear about the foundation skills that must be demonstrated?
  • foundation skills stated in the assessment criteria?
  • foundation skills confirmed in the student feedback?

“… the desired outcomes for all stakeholder groups is the assumption that learners, through their training, will gain the required skills. High-quality assessment is crucial to generating confidence in this process.”

https://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/publications/all-publications/are-we-all-speaking-the-same-language-understanding-quality-in-the-vet-sector (p44)

5 How they gain the qualification

Think about:

  • have all the requirements for successful course completion been made clear
  • have you monitored, and kept the students informed about their progress?  Are the students on track?


In this post, we have highlighted the intersection between ‘quality’ in VET, ASQA’s student-centred audit model, and foundation skills.  In doing so, we hope to have convinced you that a strong focus on foundation skills throughout all stages of the student experience will produce strong outcomes and increase the likelihood of a compliant ASQA audit result.

We hope this post will prompt discussion with colleagues and trigger a shift from ‘thinking about’ to ‘following through’ with a greater focus on foundation skills within your RTO.

Two time-saving tips to support learners with foundation skills

For most groups of learners, it is likely that learners will need to develop foundation skill competency. Remember learners may not arrive with internal ‘radar’ to know what is expected.

“We have no reason to assume that learners are proficient in the LLN practices of a new environment for a new purpose before they start.”

Adapted from Keiko Yasukawa, Chapter 6;
Kemmis R, and Atkins L, 2014, Teaching in the VET Sector in Australia, p103

If you know, from pre-training data or assessments that your learners will need to build foundation skills, then – ‘don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today?

Take a planned approach to support learners to build foundation skills. It will save you, and the learners valuable time.

Purchased from iStock

Aim to avoid the early warning signs that some learners are off track, ask questions, don’t submit tasks, avoid contact, or seek more explanation, and seek you out.

Avoid that overwhelming feeling ……where is the time?



Plan 1: be sure of foundation skill demand

1 Identify the range of foundation skills involved.

1 Broad industry foundation skills:

  • Australian Industry Skills Commission (AISC) Industry Insights report
  • Australian Government Job Outlook
  • Relevant Skills Service Organisations
  • Speak with industry representatives

Aim to remain informed of the developing foundation skills trends and demands – what does the workplace expect now?

2 Specific foundation skills involved.

The foundation skills may be listed within the unit of competency, embedded within the Performance Criteria (you will need to identify them) or, known to the workplace (skills specific to the training purpose).

Here’s an example of the information that will help you.

BSBWHS406A Assist with responding to incidents

Foundation skill

Training foundation skills demand

(Adapted from Training Plan Validation Tool – IBSA

Learning Learning skills required to participate effectively in training program (ACSF 3)
Reading Reading skills to source information and data from WHS reports and documents (ACSF 4)
Writing Writing skills to report and document incidents (ACSF 3)
Oral Communication Presentation and consultation skills to communicate with people from a wide range of backgrounds and in a range of forums (ACSF 4)
Numeracy Numeracy skills to source information and data from WHS reports and documents (ACSF 3)

2 Identify foundation skill complexity

If you know that the training demand is at ACSF Level 3 – then check the underpinning skills, or performance behaviours that demonstrate this level.

For example at ACSF Level 3 writing, what should be demonstrated with punctuation, structure, vocabulary…and what text types fall within this level?

Use the Australian Core Skills Framework and the Core Skills for Work Developmental framework to confirm the task and text complexity, and range. Here’s a suggestion for How to use the ACSF and the CSF to focus instruction and assessment 

From the start of training, you will be ready to:

  • explain and expose the foundation skills that underpin the task
  • include foundation skills criteria in formative and summative marking guides
  • provide targeted feedback about foundation skills to learners
  • review the training effectiveness to build learners’ foundation skills

Being sure of the foundation skills demand saves you wasted time playing catch-up when you realise learners’ are off-target, and competency may not be achieved.

Plan 2: be aware of the delivery approach

The delivery model (format, schedule and resources) affects two key aspects: 

  1. the ease and frequency of engagement with learners
  2. the access to, and range range of delivery resources.

Look for strategies, tools and approaches that maximise your opportunity to support learners as they progress through training and develop their foundation skills. Aim to mitigate known ,or potential trouble spots.

1 Connect learners to learners, and learners to you

It goes without saying – we learn with, and from others. It’s not always possible for a trainer to provide every answer to the plethora of questions learners may have. Connect the cohort together to create a community of practice. Promote the value of sharing experience, learning, understanding, and challenges.

Build a community of Practice

Social Network Groups

Webinar Connection

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Edmodo
  • Skype
  • Google Hangout
  • Any Meeting
  • Zoom

Speak or txt

Docs and blogs

  • WhatsApp
  • Google Docs
  • WordPress

Connecting learners to learners, and learners to you, saves you time. You receive a ‘news feed’ of critical and ‘live’ information from the learners that enables you to identify strategic responses, guide thinking, and provide ‘in-time-of -need’ responses.

2 Connect learners to a range of support resources

If you have delivered the training content before, or if you are familiar with the characteristics of a learner cohort, then you may be able to pick the ‘usual trouble spots’.  If this resonates with you, it’s likely you can predict the questions, or flurry of emails that will come.

Avoid the potential for answering the same question multiple times. Here’s two time-saving suggestions:

1 Develop ‘you’ in another format!

Record your voice over power point slides. The power point can be as simple or as complex as you like. perhaps introduce and explain the foundation skill/s, explain instructions, expand on critical points, or make tasks clear. It’s the explanation that matters. Here’s two VERY EASY tools: 

2 Develop a resource library

Use content curation to tools – to develop learners’ skills to organise their resources in one location, collate, group or cluster resources, access, classify, tab and share.

Enable you and the learners to add recommended sites, references, readings, you tubes, recordings. Locate model templates, and provide sample or practice activities in the same resource location.

Here’s two tools to consider:

Recording over PowerPoint slides is easy and  saves answering the same questions multiple times. Resource curation reduces wasted time hunting for that …….and assists learning. You provide one source for the learners to refer back to, as often as is needed. It’s conveniently available to all learners

Share some of your time saving approaches, anything to help reduce that ‘I’m overloaded’ feeling





2018 conferences for LLN and foundation skills

Welcome to 2018!

A leisurely start to 2018 has given us an opportunity to do some thinking and planning.  We have started thinking about our professional development for the coming year.

In this post, we share a calendar of 2018 conferences that offer a focus on foundation and LLN skills.  Our ideas have come from members of our network – colleagues, clients, and social media contacts.

Their suggestions have helped us shape our thoughts about what we can do to learn more about building foundation skills, and to remain effective and current with our foundation skills practice.  We hope you find them helpful, also.

Important notes
It is not our intention to promote any particular conference over another – we have simply passed on details of those conferences that were recommended to us and will let you make your own decisions about the best conference choice/s for you.  We hope you will use the comments box to contribute to this discussion – comment on the conferences suggested here, and/or add more conference suggestions.

Numerous months in 2018

State adult literacy organisations

In addition to the Australian Council for Adult Literacy, each state has its own adult literacy organisation.  Most state adult literacy organisations offer:

  • at least one conference-style event each year, plus
  • numerous workshops and other professional development events to help us enhance our foundation skills expertise.

To manage the amount of information provided in this post, our calendar lists only the 2018 conferences that we are aware of.  We have not listed workshops or any other PD events.

Visit the website of the adult literacy organisation in your state to learn more about conferences and other PD events they will offer this year.  These events provide great opportunities to share ideas and build relationships with other foundation skills practitioners in your state.

Details of the adult literacy organisation in each state are below:

New South Wales Adult Literacy and Numeracy Council
NSWALNC has not yet published details of their 2018 conference – they usually hold their conference in December http://www.nswalnc.org.au/
Queensland Adult Literacy Council
QCAL has not yet published details of their 2018 conference http://www.qcal.org.au/
Northern Territory Adult Literacy and Numeracy Best Practice
NTALBP has not yet published details of their 2018 conference http://www.cdu.edu.au/centres/ntalnbp/contacts.htm
Western Australia Adult Literacy Council
WAALC will hold its conference in April 2018 – see the calendar below http://www.waalc.org.au/
South Australia Council of Adult Literacy
SACAL has not yet published details of their 2018 conference http://sacal.sa.edu.au/
Tasmania Council for Adult Literacy
TCAL has not yet published details of their 2018 conference http://tcal.org.au/
Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council
VALBEC will hold its conference in May 2018 – see calendar below http://valbec.org.au/

Tip: Visit your state literacy organisation’s website numerous times throughout 2018 – most will continuously list new PD opportunities as the year progresses.

ACOSS events

One respondent suggested events run by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and its state-based affiliates.  Their point was that often, the people we support with foundation skill needs, have other social needs, as well.  ACOSS events could offer useful professional development if we want to learn more about how to address an individual’s social needs.  Skills and knowledge we learn may supplement our existing expertise in foundation skills, and help us build the ‘whole person’ through the foundation skill support we provide.

We had a look at the ACOSS website.  At the time of writing this post, we could not find any information about ACOSS’s 2018 national conference, but information about their 2017 national conference (held in late October), remains on their site.

March 2018

RAPAL Conference

23 March 2018 │Bolton, UK

The theme of this year’s one-day Research and Practice in Adult Literacies (RaPAL)’s conference is Collaboration and Connections.  RaPAL’s 2018 conference page has comprehensive conference information.

COABE Conference 2018

25 – 28 March 2018 │Phoenix, Arizona, USA

With 350 breakout sessions available to its 2000+ delegates, the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE)’s 2018 conference looks like it’ll have something for every adult educator.  Early bird registration ends on 14 Feb 2018. After that, conference fees will go up.  Check out the COABE Conference 2018 site for more information.

April 2018

2018 WAALC Conference

16 April │Perth, Australia

The Western Australian Adult Literacy Council (WAALC) will host its 2018 conference in Perth, on 16 April.  The theme this year is Purely Practical – Sharing What works.

“The presentations will focus on practical ideas for teaching that have been tried and tested in classrooms, and less formal settings, and proven to be successful and enjoyed by learners.”

Presentations may cover writing, pronunciation, reading, maths, engagement in learning – yet to be finalised. Go to the WAALC 2018 Conference page for more information.

May 2018


May 2018 │Melbourne, Australia

The Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council (VALBEC) will hold its conference in May.  The exact date has not yet been announced.  Stay tuned to the VALBEC website for details.

June 2018

EBSN General Assembly and Annual Conference

06 – 08 June 2018 │Berlin, Germany

European Basic Skills Network (EBSN)’s annual conference will take place in Berlin. The conference program is not yet available, but information on the EBSN conference page suggests that it will be posted soon.

Tasmanian Council for Adult Literacy Conference 

16 June 2018 │glenorchy linc, tasmania

The Tasmanian Council for Adult Literacy (TCAL) annual conference will take place in Glenorchy. The conference program is not yet available, information will be posted in due course.

July 2018


09 – 12 July 2018 │London, UK

If you have a particular interest in numeracy and maths, Adults Learning Mathematics (ALM)’s 2018 conference may be your ideal choice.  London will be beautiful in July!  The conference theme is Boundaries and Bridges: adults learning mathematics in a fractured world. See the ALM25 conference site for more information.

August 2018

NCVER “No Frills” conference

15 – 17 August 2018 │Sydney, Australia

The NCVER ‘No Frills’ is traditionally a July calendar event. However, this year, ‘No Frills’ will be co-hosted with New Zealand partners, the Industry Training Federation and Ako Aotearoa.

‘No Frills’ offers researchers and practitioners in the vocational education and training (VET) sector opportunities to present, discuss and share information about sector key issues. Exchanging research and knowledge with NZ partners broadens and highlights best practice considerations.

The 2018 conference program will focus on Skills for a global future: working and learning together. Click here for more information.

September 2018

In September two terrific professional development events for foundation skills will take place on the same days, but in different cities.  We’ll need to choose which we will attend, or clone ourselves so we can attend both!  Both look fabulous.  Here’s more:

ACAL Conference

12 – 14 September 2018 │ Melbourne, Australia

The Australian Council for Adult Literacy (ACAL) will hold its annual conference for 2018 in September.  This year’s conference theme is, Learning in Diverse Communities: strengths, reflections, questions

ACAL’s conference will offer something for anyone wanting to network with other foundation skill practitioners and extend your expertise.  This includes:

  • vocational practitioners, corporate trainers or adult educators of any kind, who want to immerse themselves in professional development that focuses on foundation skills
  • foundation skill specialists who want to network with peers and share ideas.

Visit the ACAL 2018 Conference page for more information.

Velg Training National VET Conference

13 – 14 September 2018 │ Adelaide, SA, Australia

Always well attended and well run, Velg Training‘s National VET Conference (NVC) is the major event for VET practitioners in Australia.  NVC2018 will be in Adelaide.

The 2018 conference them is Skilling Australia’s VET Future. NVC 2018 will feature breakout sessions that fall into a range of themes, including a foundation skills theme.

If you’re a vocational practitioner wanting to update or extend your expertise in building learners’ foundation skills through vocational training, NVC2018 may be just for you. The Velg Training NVC site has details.

October 2018

ACTA International conference

2-5 October 2018 │Adelaide, Australia

The Australian Council of TESOL Associations (ACTA) will hold its annual conference this month.  Its theme is to Establish language learning in a mobile world.

This conference will feature six strands (focus areas) for sessions, including mobile learning, teaching and assessment.  For more information, visit the ACTA 2018 conference page.

December 2018

In December we will again look back to look forward.  We will look back on all things learned in 2018 and look forward to another 12 months of learning.

Summary and acknowledgements

Our thanks to those who contributed to this post.  Happy 2018, happy learning!

A time to reflect on 2017 and shape 2018 foundation skill practices


This time of year offers an opportunity to reflect and revisit those great ideas that passed your way during the year.  Sometimes changes are made to teaching, learning and /or assessment practices as a result of that insight.

Who will find time to explore the ‘must-remember this’ collection from 2017 – those useful resources and tips pinned to the ‘remember this’ notice-board? This might be that time to ask, ‘Now where is that URL?’, ‘Where did I pin that resource suggestion?’, or ‘Where’s that blog with the 6 tips about …?’ 

Some reports are released with little fanfare and limited discovery. This blog is about one report that may, or may not have passed your way. We believe it deserves some attention and reflection. It is the 2017 OECD report:

Building Skills for all in Australia Policy Insights from the Survey of Adult Skills

If you are looking for something to prompt, prod, nudge, or trigger you into a reflective mindset, then explore this report. This OECD report is relevant to each person involved with adult education and training – regardless of the context.

This slideshow reveals a summary of the key messages. The powerpoint is pre-loaded – click the arrows to progress slides.

Look out for:

  1. the foundation skill that needs the greatest ‘shout out’
  2. the NEET recommendations (NEET ** see below)
  3. literacy and numeracy skills of graduates with high-level VET courses
  4. addressing individual needs
  5. the link between literacy and numeracy skills, and quality criteria

NEET** = Young person Not in Employment Education and Training

Each of these report findings is worthy of more attention than we provide now –  it’s not the time of year for more tips and strategies – so we will finish with one or two key points, or quotes, for you to think about.

1. Raise the numeracy profile

“One Australian in 5 performs below [ACSF] Level 2 in Numeracy, which means that around 3 million Australians struggle with the numerical reasoning necessary to cope with everyday situations (such as reading a petrol gauge).”

 Building Skills for all in Australia p48

Teach Numeracy Differently – keep it in context

Hot off the press – a new resource from one of Australia’s Numeracy experts – Dave Tout – Numeracy: teaching maths in context. Go to http://multifangled.com.au/wp/?page_id=70

Include numeracy in teaching and learning conversations.  Point out where numeracy exists – it’s everywhere. Numeracy relates to every workplace role in some way – either explicitly or implicitly – ‘How long does it take you to …?’, and it relates to many areas of life.  Here’s something relevant to most learners: What Happens in an Internet Minute 

2. Engage NEETs 

NEETS (aged 16 – 29) may be unemployed, outside the labour market and may not be looking for a job. This makes it a challenge to engage with them via usual policy and promotion.

“Almost 40% of NEETs are [school] dropouts.”

“NEETs have lower levels of non-cognitive skills than non-NEET youth…(openness, extroversion, emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness).”

OECD 2017 Building Skills for all in Australia  p.74

3. Build foundation skills for learners in high-level VET courses

Our VET system is inclusive and caters to adults with different needs.  This is a hallmark of the Australian education sector. We have a strong focus on identifying learners’ existing skills, prior to training, or as close to the start of training as possible. We use this information to plan support approaches to build foundation skills for those learners’ with identified foundation skill needs.

“For many [higher level VET] students, the problem of  basic skills is not resolved at the point of graduation”

OECD 2017 Building Skills for all in Australia p.58

4. Address individual needs

“Helping adults to improve their basic skills remains a challenge nearly everywhere and there are no easy answers. But the alternative – of doing nothing – is even worse.”

OECD 2017 Why it matters if you can’t read this accessed 12/12/17

5. Embed foundation skills within quality processes

“Some institutions may accept students with poor basic skills with no intention or capacity to address this challenge.

Basic numeracy and literacy should therefore underpin all post-secondary VET qualifications.”

  OECD 2017 Building Skills in Australia p.11

ASQA made two subtle shifts this year, each intended to strengthen the focus on quality training delivery and assessment – this includes attention to foundation skills.  ASQA:

  1. introduced a student-centred audit approach.  The summary video is here
  2. sharpened their focus on foundation skill requirements for units of comptency. See the second half of the ASQA 2017 Trainer Provider Briefing PowerPoint .

Perhaps you will be prompted to:

  • take on a new strategy
  • be more rigorous with observation
  • initiate a new approach
  • develop or revise a plan
  • increase tactic discussions
  • think, “How can I tweak my training and assessment practice to address this?”

Enjoy any time you have to reflect!

Season’s Greetings