How to use the ACSF and CSfW to focus instruction and assessment

The ACSF and the CSfW are two foundation skills documents written for the Australian context. They:

  • align with the National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults definition of Foundation Skills (SCOTESE, 2012, NFSS p.2)
  • contain performance descriptions – observable behaviours – which we can use to distinguish different levels of performance in each foundation skill, in diverse contexts.

We rely on foundation skills to do just about anything.  The challenge trainers and assessors face is how to recognise, isolate and teach the specific foundation skills our learners need to successfully engage in work, training, or community-based activities.

In this blog, we’ll take you through one case study example, showing how you can use the ACSF and CSfW to help you isolate foundation skills needed to perform a particular task, then plan instruction and assessment approaches to build both foundation and vocational skills.

Our case study – introduction

In this example, we have used a unit of competency as the training benchmark.  For our purposes, we have based our example on just one small part of a unit. We recognise that to fully prepare for training delivery and assessment, we must look at the entire unit of competency.

Step 1.  Identify foundation skills required to meet the training benchmark

Nursery teacher supervising children playing with building blocks

Qualification CHC30113 – Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care
Unit CHCECE004 – Promote and provide healthy food and drinks
Performance Crieria From Element 3. Maintain food safety while carrying out food-handling activities:

3.2 Within scope of own work role, carry out food-handling, preparation and storage according to service policies and procedures and regulatory requirements.

A starting point – the ACSF Sample Activities

Sometimes the ACSF SAMPLE ACTIVITIES are a helpful first step for checking the foundation skills required to perform the task at the required level. Use your professional judgement and experience to predict the core foundation skills involved, and head to that section.

For this example – to perform tasks with specific policies and procedures involves Reading, Learning (both ACSF), and Working with roles, rights and protocols (CSfW).

Start at ACSF Level 3 to find a similar activity that aligns with the task your learners need to perform. The SAMPLE ACTIVITIES cover three domains of life: workplace and employment, education and training, and personal and community. You will notice quickly if there are no similar activities, or if the sample activities are either too complex (go to Level 2), or, not complex enough (go to level 4).

Here are two Sample Activities relating to the Performance Criteria; one from Reading Level 3, and one from Learning Level 3.

Level 3 Reading – Workplace and Employment

Selects and applies the procedures and strategies needed to perform a range of tasks after reading appropriate texts, e.g. machinery/equipment manuals, standard operating procedures or work instructions (ACSF p. 60)

Level 3 Learning – Workplace and employment

Plans and organises a routine job, identifying possible risks and accessing relevant resources ACSF p. 34

The Sample Activities start to reveal the foundation skills involved (words in bold):

  • Read relevant guidelines and select appropriate strategy or procedure
  • Learn – access and follow response remedy or procedure

Please note:  The remedy may also require completion of necessary paperwork or communicating to supervisor, colleague or parent, for example. The communication may involve writing, or oral communication. For this example we will focus only on the core skills of  Reading and Learning.

STEP 2. check the range of Performance descriptions for the foundation skill at the level

Refer to both the ACSf and CSfW where relevant

ACSF Reading (Level 3)

  • Recognises the structure and distinguishing features of a range of familiar text types
  • Understands texts requiring integration of a number of ideas and pieces of information and some inference

ACSF Learning (Level 3):

  • Uses some personal and/or workplce designed systems for ordering, classifying and storing familiar reference materials for easy retrieval
  • Begins to transfer key principles and concepts to new situations, allowing for some contextual differences

The foundation skill,  following procedures, is part of CSfW 1B – Work with Roles rights and protocols. CSfW: Navigate the world of work. (Level Capable Performer)

  • Takes personal responsibility for adherence to legal/regulatory responsibilities relevant to own work context, and draws attention to any issues that may affect self or others CSfW p.25
  • Recognises and follows explicit and implicit protocols and meets expectations associated with own role p.26
STEP 3. focus on foundations skills through all stages


Focus on the ACSF/CSfW performance descriptions through training and assessment (both formative and summative).

Check the skills involved with ACSF Level 3, or CSfW Capable Performer to prepare

  • tasks to enable learners to practice or demonstrate
  • strategies or skills that will support learners’ foundation skill development
  • training resources or stimuli
  • guides to support instruction, or practice outcomes, and formative assessment tasks

Check the skills involved with ACSF Level 3, or CSfW Capable Performer to prepare

  • assessment tasks at the required level
  • assessment tools and resources at the required level
  • develop marking guides for assessors

Use the 3 STEP process to:

  • identify the foundation skills that underpin the workplace (or education/community) task
  • identify skills and strategies learners need to perform the task
  • develop and prepare targeted instruction and assessment approaches

With more use, the 3 Step process will be completed quickly!




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