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.

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



Technology developments and foundation skills: what is trending?

This blog has a technology and foundation skills theme.  No, it is not about software, apps, tools, and platforms.  It’s about:

  1. Technology as a learning tool
  2. Technology and career advice.

We collated four recent information sources related to technology and the development of workplace skills. We considered how the information relates to foundation skills, and present our thoughts in this post.  The first section invites you to reflect on very recent reports about the effectiveness of eLearning delivery and the second reveals the rise of both the ‘gig’ economy, and the impact of artificial intelligence.

First, a quick reminder – The 2016 CSIRO’s Data 61 report: Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce identified six megatrends.  These megatrends are predicted to rapidly propel the workforce into new directions—some jobs will be lost, some will change significantly, and many new jobs will be created.  A key contributor to these significant changes is the emergence of technological capacity.

The document reveals that:

  1. Education and training remain critical to preparing people for the workplace.
  2. Current and accurate career advice will be important for people to navigate the workforce.

1 Technology as a learning tool

Does eLearning work?  What the scientific research says

Will Thalheimer is a learning expert, researcher, instructional designer, consultant, speaker, and writer. This research began with a question: Does eLearning work?  And if so, how effective is it?  Thalheimer examines outcomes from eLearning, classroom and blended learning models. He examines a number of research studies, each selected for their rigour and real-world learning.  There is a brief summary at the end of each section and a conclusion on pages 25 and 26.

“What matters in terms of learning effectiveness, is NOT the learning modality (elearning vs. classroom); it’s the learning methods that matter, including such factors as realistic practice, spaced repetitions, real-world contexts, and feedback.”

The research findings are interesting and worthy of considering if you are establishing or reviewing your technology training delivery approach.

Whichever model you use, building foundation skills involves:
  • Real world contexts – based on the real-world. Foundation skills are best learnt in context with a strong connection to the real world (or workplace) application.
  • Practice – more than once, sometimes many times. Plan how and where additional practice resources are made available.
  • Spaced repetition – use previously practiced foundation skills at different stages of training delivery.
  •  Feedback – meaningful and skill specific guidance. Feedback that informs the learner of their strengths and specifically, what to do to progress, understand, or master the skills.

How do adults prefer to learn?

Jane Hart, a thought leader in learning and development, produces a weekly blog called, Learning in the Modern Workplace.  On 08 August 2017, she released the results of the 6th annual learning in the workplace survey.

Jane listed 12 delivery strategies – most have parallels to the strategies used in adult training and education. The survey asked respondents to rate the strategies against their importance to them as a learning tool. Respondents selected from (NI = Not important, QI=Quite Important, VI=Very Important, Ess=Essential). 5,000 people from 63 countries (including Australia) responded.

The results are interesting, they reveal the learning strategies adult value more than others. We have prepared a table of results (below) with the key findings for the top 5, and 2 of the bottom 3 learning strategies. The table includes :

  • the overall learning strategy ranking
  • the learning strategy
  • the total percentage of respondents who rated this strategy as either VI or Ess (VI+Ess)
  • Our thoughts about why adult learners may prefer this learning strategy in education and training
Respondents Ranking Learning  strategy Percentage of respondents VI+Ess
Our thoughts: why adult learners may prefer this strategy
1 Daily work experiences (ie doing the day job) 93 Developing skills in the real workplace. Skills make more sense with real workplace application and relevance
2 Knowledge sharing within your team 90 Collaboration to affirm skills, knowledge and understanding. Assists ‘need to know now’.
3 Web search
(e.g. Google)
79 Learn in own time, Ease of access. Learning support resource.
4 Web resources
(e.g. videos, podcasts, articles)
76 Learn in own time, Ease of access. Learning support resource.
5 Manager feedback and guidance 74 Confirm skills strengths and how to progress
  • There are twelve delivery strategies.
  • At the bottom (10 – 12) are: 10 (elearning), 11 (conferences) and 12 (classroom training)
10 eLearning 41 Some models, the learner is left to work through independently
12 Classroom training 31 Satisfaction relates to many uncontrollable factors – e.g. trainer skill, peer influence, timing,

The results show that the ideal way is to practice the skill in the real workplace setting. In the education and training context the opportunity for learners to be situated in the workplace is increasing but not possible for all. There is an increasing trend towards simulated classrooms, role plays, use of industry tools, and the gradual introduction of virtual reality tools.

Beyond practice in the real world, to build skills and knowledge, adults value:
  • Connection with others  – opportunities to collaborate, share and learn from and with others
  • Resources -easily accessed and relevant resources to support understanding and skill development
  • Feedback  – to guide and progress skill development and skill adjustment

2 Technology and career advice

The emergence of the Gig economy

Last year, the CSIRO Data 61 Tomorrow’s Digitally enabled world  report signalled:

  • the rise of the freelancer and portfolio worker who may have multiple employers
  • and, for many people, a job will not there waiting for them, so it will be necessary to create it themselves.

Fast forward to now, one year later…

The Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) recently released a Thought Leader paper: The emergence of the Gig economy. 

Digital platforms allow freelancers:

  • flexibility
  • to promote and market their skills
  • to be connected to more than one employer
  • to use tools to manage clients

“Whatever the motivation for freelancing is, it is indisputable that this mode of work is rapidly growing alongside the emergence of digital freelance marketplaces.” (p4)

As trainers, how will you:
  • Highlight the freelance and entrepreneur employment trends?
  • Identify and develop learners attitudes, and mindsets to engage with a ‘gig’ economy?
  • Prepare learners to use technology based freelancing and networking platforms?

Could a robot do your job?

Last year, the CSIRO Data 61 Tomorrow’s Digitally enabled world  report signalled that all jobs will be shaped by technology and automation.

Fast forward to now, one year later…

Research house AlphaBeta (The Automation Advantage) created this data set to reveal predictions of how automation will effect jobs.

Their online resource is available via the ABC.

” It’s not so much about what jobs will we do, but how will we do our jobs, everyone will do their job differently, working with machines over the next 20 years.”

(http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-08/could-a-robot-do-your-job-artificial-intelligence/8782174 could a robot take your job?)

 The resource provides useful information for trainers and learners to guide and respond to  career and skill advice. The information provided includes:

  • the percentage of the job (and related tasks) most and least likely to be automated.
  • the tasks, or skills most and least likely to be impacted by technology.
  • the automation percentage compared to other roles.

Search to find your job, or the jobs you are preparing learners for. Access the tool by clicking Could a Robot do your Job? or by clicking on the image.

AS Trainers how will you:
  • Keep abreast of the foundation skills and technology trends in the industry you represent?
  • Adjust delivery to embrace the emerging foundation and technology skills?
  • Engage  learners with a broad range of technology applications to be digitally literate?





ACSF Pre-Level 1 Supplement: 2016 version

A quick reminder that our very short, online survey closes COB this Monday, 31 October 2016.  The survey asks for your feedback about our site – what works, what doesn’t, and what to feature in 2017.  We’d be grateful for your feedback.


Thank you!  And now, back to our regularly-scheduled post!


Hot off the press!

The Department of Education has released a new version of the ACSF Pre-Level 1 Supplement.

This new supplement will make it easier for us to meet needs of our learners.  Learners working at pre-level 1 need time to build skills, and usually progress in small steps.  The new pre-level 1 supplement describes these small—and now more recognisable—steps that learners working at pre-level 1 may take towards pre-level 1 exit level.  This will make it easier for us to more accurately identify, develop and report on the capacity of learners at ACSF pre-level 1, and identify ways to link from pre-level 1 to higher ACSF levels.

Make sure you access the 2016 DET updated version, rather than the previous PDF version

What’s new about this version?

The new ACSF Pre-Level Supplement offers, for each core skill, the same sections and structure as the 5 LLN core skills levels 1 to 5. This includes…

“… a detailed set of Indicators, Focus Areas, Performance Features and Sample Activities by which learner core skill gains can be determined and reported.”

(Department of Education and Training 2016 ACSF Pre-Level 1 Supplement, p1)

Stages are new!

At first glance, it may seem that the pre-level 1 information in this new supplement is presented in the same way as for core skill levels 1 to 5.  But this isn’t quite true.

For the first time, the new ACSF Pre-Level 1 Supplement describes two stages of progress—Stage A and Stage B—to represent the incremental progress learners may make.

The table below explains how each core skill is described in the new ACSF Pre-Level 1 Supplement:

Indicators Indicators are provided for each core skill.

Most of these start with, “Begins to …”

Focus Areas The focus areas that learners are likely to be able to demonstrate have Performance Features included.
Performance Features Performance features now describe two stages of skill development—Stage A and Stage B.
Sample Activities Sample activities are not divided into the three Communication Domains.  This is because at this level learners will need to develop their skills from highly familiar, personally relevant, and immediate contexts.

Sample activities for Stages A and B are provided.

Variables One set of variables applies to both stages.
Here’s an example

The example below shows Pre-Level 1 Writing Indicator 0.05: Begins to produce basic written text Performance Descriptions – stages A and B:


Why should we bother using this Pre-Level 1 Supplement?

SBS’s Insight program recently aired an episode called Reading Between the Lines (first aired on 23/9/2016), which highlighted the challenges some adult learners face with developing LLN and foundation skills.


This episode is an important reminder of the many people in our communities who may have limited LLN/foundation skills but who sincerely want to participate successfully in today’s world. We have a responsibility to do what we can to facilitate this.

We feel that this new Pre-Level 1 Supplement will help us identify a way forward.

Extra reading… preparing pre-level 1 instruction or assessment activities

  • The Pre-Level 1 Supplement offers good practice approaches (within the Theoretical Underpinnings section, page 1)
  • The Performance Features  and Sample activities for each LLN core skill  provide a range of skills and activities that are highly useful to preparing instruction and assessment strategies and approaches
  • If you want to see some examples of instruction or assessment tasks, have a look at the  Precision Consultancy ACSF validated tools. Two examples are shown here.
Example 1:  Making numbers work


Example 2: Make a Sling


Focus on formative assessment to build foundation skills

Formative Assessment

For this post, the Formative assessment refers to  the training stage sandwiched between Diagnostic assessment and Summative assessment. The stage of training where learners generally practise the foundation skills used to perform the workplace task.

Training Phase

Type of foundation skills assessment

Pre-training, or start of training Diagnostic assessment: check for learners’ existing foundation skills
During training
Formative assessment: check learners’ progress with learning how to perform the foundation skills embedded in the workplace task. Assessment for learning.
Completion of training Summative assessment: assess competency to perform the foundation skills embedded within the workplace task.  Assessment of learning.
The benefits of formative assessment to Build learners’ foundation

A typical training program follows the pattern:

  1. instructions about the workplace task (and the underpinning foundation skills)
  2. activities to practise the foundation skills required to perform the workplace task
  3. assess the learners’ competency to perform the workplace task with the embedded foundation skills

For learners who commence with enough workplace and foundation skills knowledge, this process may be sufficient.

But, if you have learners who:

  • are new to the workplace skill, or embedded foundation skill (Novice performer)
  • have some prior experience with the skills, but are unsure  (Advanced Beginner)
  • may need some skill revision, or a prompt to perform independently (Capable performer)

……… then, how will you know the instruction is sufficient to enable the learners to perform  independently and confidently at the time of final assessment.

For both trainers and learners it is valuable to find out as soon as possible, if learners need:

  • re-direction with ‘how-to’
  • revisiting strategies or resources
  • alternative strategies or approaches
  • alternative resources or support

……………to build foundation skills.

Adult learners:

  • can easily go off-track
  • may need to ‘un-do’ or re-learn a strategy, concept, or understanding
  • will benefit from confirmation of their approach
  • seek timely feedback

Formative assessment:

  • enables trainers to check the strength of instruction (‘how to’  …) and support strategies
  • enables the learners’ to become active participants in the learning process.

Think about ………….the implications of assuming learners are developing the necessary foundation skills, and don’t check?

We recommend an active and planned approach: Make formative assessment a priority…………..
1 implement an Assess to Learn approach

Assess Learn cycle_learningfirst.org.aublog05022016 Develop a feedback-driven learning environment where you are tuned-in to the foundation skills progress made by the learners and use this to influence the guidance and the instruction you provide, or the delivery plan overall.

  • Assesses learners’ needs – what are the learners’ skills, what do they need to learn ‘how to do’ now?
  • Select the strategies and approaches to develop the learners’ foundation skills
  • Evaluatethrough formative assessment –  the effectiveness: check progress, understanding, confidence to perform the task independently What progress have learners made?

Think about …….. how might formative assessment influence your instruction approaches to build foundation skills?

2  Where possible, stretch the Practice phase out

Formative assessment cropped

‘Dip-into’ learners’ foundation skills progress during the ‘practice’ stage of delivery. Build into the practice stage frequent opportunities to capture what learners CAN do, and the  challenges they face. Be open to their reflective comments.

The benefits of collaborative activity

“Beware of the lonely learner: they are at risk of making less progress”

Denise Meyerson  2016 , Emerging Trends in Learning ACPET webinar

For learners: Working with others or responding to the thoughts and ideas of others helps to shape the learning and provides an ‘informal’ formative assessment.

For trainers: Providing feedback to a group is effective and impacts all learns involved – it may also be less time -consuming.

Think about ………when are the timely opportunities to check in with learners as they practise the foundation skills independently, or with others?

3 Tune-in to learner’s skill development, some suggested etools

Some etools to assist formative assessment:

Other approaches: 53 Ways to check for understanding
4 make the check in worthwhile for you and the learner

The type of feedback can make the difference between the learner moving forward or not.

  1. Accessed from www.freeimages.com under creative commons licence 8/8/16
    Accessed from http://www.freeimages.com under creative commons license 8/8/16

    Clarify steps, reveal the foundation skill nuances for this workplace context, expose common mistakes, or misunderstandings.

  2. Confirm progress, strengths and what’s needed
  3. Construct clear benchmarks/checklists/rubrics with what is expected or required


If you are interested in:

How to build LLN assessment into VET training (including formative assessment):

  • join us as we deliver a webinar via Velg on 30 August, 2016.
  • contact us to answer your questions






An update: LLN links for vocational trainers


Why this post?

If you are a VET practitioner, you will know of the many recent and ongoing changes to Australia’s VET sector.  As a result, there have been changes to how to access LLN (and foundation skills) information online.

In this post, we list up-to-date links for LLN and foundation skills information, resources, and tools. 

Of course, we also hope you’ll visit the resource links pages of our website, which have the links we’ll post here, and much more!

All links listed below are current at the time of writing.

See LLN teachers in action – video links

Ideas that work

Ideas that Work is an organisation that produces a range of professional development videos for use in a variety of industries.  A series of short LLN-targeted videos, called What Works for LLN is available for free online viewing.

What Works for LLN videos offer something for everyone—for trainers and assessors, for other RTO staff, for LLN specialists, and for people studying how to address LLN in training.

National Foundation Skills Strategy Project

One outcome of the 2014-2015 National Foundation Skills Strategy (NFSS) Project was a set of four video resources demonstrating different approaches to building foundation skills in a vocational context.

The different contexts and learner cohorts provide a valuable source of planning and delivery approaches.

National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults (New Zealand-based)

You may be wondering ‘why a New Zealand site’? New Zealand’s National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults provides a valuable source of strategies and resources to support the development of foundation skills within workplace training. You can read the latest outcomes of the NZ Adult Literacy focus here

One resource example is a You Tube channel that contains an extensive library of videos. There are 86 videos addressing aspects of Literacy! Below is just one example from their suite of videos covering Numeracy:

Self-paced online activities to build LLN skills

BBC Skillswise website

This site features various self-serve, self-paced activities that help people develop:

  • English skills
  • Literacy skills
  • Numeracy skills.

You may want to direct your learners to this site.

Khan Academy

This is a great site to help you or your learners build numeracy skills.

The Khan Academy is particularly good to watch and hear someone explain mathematical concepts and processes, from simple to complex. Learners can practice, check their attempt, and get immediate corrective instruction.

Examples of how to conduct ACSF assessments

Example 1 IBSA Pre-training Assessment Video on the IBSA video channel

Observe how these trainers approach  an LLN pre-training assessment.

Example 2 – videos created by Linda Wyse and Associates, in conjunction with Great Southern Communications

These videos let you observe how ACSF core skill assessments may be conducted. You will see:

  1. An ACSF assessment interview of an adult learner (Paul or Zoe), conducted by LLN specialists. As you watch this interview, consider how the learner responds to questions.  Identify the level of ACSF core skills you think the learner demonstrates.  Then watch the second video:
  2. A video of a discussion between LLN specialists as they discuss the levels of each core skill demonstrated by the learner. This video gives you an insight into how LLN specialists reach decisions about the core skill levels held by a learner.  You can also compare your thoughts with those of the specialists.

These videos are copyright (©) to the Commonwealth of Australia.  Please read the terms of use you’ll find when you visit each link.

ACSF assessment of Paul (Paul works in industry)

  1. View Paul’s ACSF assessment interview
  2. Listen to foundation skills specialists as they discuss the ACSF core skill levels demonstrated by Paul

ACSF assessment of Zoe (Zoe wants to learn English)

  1. View Zoe’s assessment interview
  2. Listen to foundation skills specialists as they discuss the ACSF core skill levels demonstrated by Zoe

Where to find LLN assessment tools

Precision Consultancy

Precision Consultancy has produced a suite of freely-available, LLN industry-validated ACSF assessment tools.  Some tools are generic (i.e. relevant to any industry) and others are industry-specific.

Each tool includes instructions for assessors on how to use the tool and lists the core skills and levels covered.  These tools also give terrific examples of what you might expect at each core skill level. So even if you don’t need them as assessment tools, you may use these as examples to help you write your own instructions for learners.

Other LLN assessments

At the time of writing, the Precision Consultancy ACSF assessment tools were the only tools that meet our criteria of being BOTH free, and validated by the adult literacy industry.

Keep your eye on the horizon for the Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT).  We are waiting for the Department of Education and Training to release it (hopefully soon).

General LLN information and research

If you’re interested in staying up to date with latest research on LLN and foundation skills, we suggest:

Foundation Skills POD by the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER)

NCVER has set up this POD as a ‘hub’ of information and resources relevant to foundation skills and LLN skills in vocational education and training. The POD offers a collection of recent research across the different foundation skills related aspects. You will also see links to key international bodies also tuned into the development of ‘essential skills’, ‘adult literacy’ skills, or ‘foundation skills’.

Numeracy matters

http://www.freeimages.com/ on 7/12/15
http://www.freeimages.com/ on 7/12/15

We know that Numeracy matters

Numeracy integrates with many aspects of our lives. Sometimes we may not be aware of the calculations we apply so seamlessly, then there are other times when we are aware that we can’t work something out! Living in the 21st Century requires increased numeracy skills and knowledge to navigate the personal, community and workplace numeracy contexts.

For example, Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services Global Financial Literacy Survey of more than 150,000 adults in 148 countries in 2014 asked adults four questions based on financial concepts: risk diversification, inflation, numeracy and compound interest

The results: 30% of women and 35% of men could answer at least 3 of the four questions asked

In his discussion post (below) Dave Tout reminds us of the possible impact of living with limited numeracy skills or knowledge. Referring to the Australian results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), Dave comments …..

…..…”that the results, no matter how you read them, demonstrate that a significant number of Australians aged 15 years and upwards do not have access to sufficient numeracy and mathematical skills to cope equitably with life in the 21st century.

The capacity to make informed decisions – in the workplace or when out shopping, following instructions about a medical or health matter, making decisions about financial matters, or understanding the implications of, say, gambling – all require good numeracy skills.

LinkedIn discussion (TAE Newcomers 2/10/15)

Numeracy instruction matters

The AAMT and AIG Identifying and Support Skills of 21st Century Workers provides an overview of the mathematics used in the workplace. The need to communicate mathematically,  use in the head techniques and interpret from given data are featured in different examples.

Where possible, and perhaps more than usual, identify opportunities to strengthen learners’ numeracy skills and knowledge. Here are some suggestions to consider.

Go beyond the expected

http://www.freeimages.com/ 8/12/15
http://www.freeimages.com/ 8/12/15


Encourage learners to tune in to where numeracy is ‘happening’ in their lives. Go beyond the training context (if you have the opportunity) Each day on news – no matter where it is accessed, there are facts, figures , results, amounts, budgets, statistics ……- there is usually a context relevant to the learner group that could bring numeracy to life and/or be incorporated into training. Build opportunities to talk about numeracy in an ‘everyday’ conversation way.

Go beyond your comfort zone!

http://www.freeimages.com/ 8/12/15
http://www.freeimages.com/ 8/12/15

Building numeracy skills can feel ‘prickly’ if you are not usually involved with the numeracy task. Our everyday lives may not involve using the breadth of mathematical and measurement calculations, we can be a bit rusty, or there may be calculations we have never learnt; this can be the case in specific vocation areas.


  • Check your own capacity to do the task. Be sure of the underpinning steps involved, potential trouble spots, required skills and knowledge.
  • If you are feeling a bit rusty – go to where you might be able to revisit some important basics. This free 5 week MOOC Numeracy Skills for Employability and the Workplace starts again in February.
  • If you are looking for how to build your learners’ foundation skills training, We also have the Numeracy webinar recording available for purchase. We discuss Teaching Tips instruction strategies to  build learners’ numeracy skills within training, including use of elearning resources. Read more about the webinar here.

Go to where the learner is at

Purchased from Stocksy 4/8/15
Purchased from Stocksy 4/8/15
  • Learners may be a bit rusty too. Offer tasks and activities that enable you to see or hear how the learner approaches the calculations involved.
  • Offer step by step revision, scaffolded with resources to ‘see’ the steps again, or practise them.
  • Some calculations require steps in a particular order, to remain on-target, reveal the hidden traps.

Go to sites that encourage learners to use numeracy for personal use

  • Google Calendar
  • Google Maps
  • Google Spreadsheet
  • online calculators, currency converters

Go to resources that show how to do a specific calculations.

The following resources are a selection of from the Teaching Strategies page 2 Numeracy resources. There are many more, we encourage you to ‘go and have a look’!.

  • BBC Skills wise – range of familiar getting started concepts presented at three levels. Includes teacher explanation, practice worksheets, many with answers available, some videos and quizzes.
  • VALBEC Strength with Numbers – range of familiar getting started concepts. Includes teaching strategies, activities and games, worksheet tasks
  • Khan Academy (need you own login) – may take a little navigating but once you know your way around there are video explanations, practice tasks (self correcting) quizzes for many mathematical calculations.
  • Mathcentre resources  – four examples
  • Facts and formula for functional mathematics (Leaflet)
  • Reading tables and graphs (PDF)
  • Finance – range of topics (PDF)
  • Percentages (VIDEO)
  • 10 You Tube channels showing a variety of strategies – check these out first. Aim to to avoid resources prepared for use with children, especially if they look very child-friendly





It’s that time of year! Here’s a gift to kick start 2016.

Seasons greetings and best wishes for 2016

 Are you keeping track of how many days until THAT day – Christmas? Are you organised with gifts for people on your list? Or, perhaps you are looking for something to treat yourself with.

For a limited time (two weeks), the webinar series: Teaching Tips to build your learners’ foundation skills can be purchased at a special offer 20% off GIFT price.


What better way to start the new teaching year, or the new learner group, than being ready with new strategies to promote foundation skills development. You can select from three (3)  purchase options. This enables you to select the gift best matching your specific interest. GIFT prices (20% off) are available for two (2) weeks from Monday 23/11 to Monday 7/12 .

The six (6) webinars form a series to assist you to build your learners’ foundation skills. The series comprises

  • an introductory webinar; foundation skills in the Australian context
  • 5 webinars, each focusing on one of the five Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) core skills; Learning, Reading, Writing, Oral Communication and Numeracy – with linkages and reference to the Core Skills for Work (CSfW) Framework.

Each webinar addresses instructional strategies to promote a seamless and explicit approach to embracing foundation skills within vocational training.

Participants found the content relevant and interesting:

“Currently writing learning materials so wanted to ensure I was on the right track with foundation skills. Picked up lots of useful ideas.”

Webinar series purchase options: for a limited time only (23/11 to 7/12)

The webinar recordings include  the power point commentary from the three presenters: Chemène Sinson, Ann Leske and Allison Miller (profiles below). Explanation, key points, examples, and more tips are revealed. You can also see the participant strategies and comments in the chat box.

With each purchase, the matching power point/s will also be provided. Each power point includes links to relevant content and suggested resources.

The 20% off GIFT prices are:

  • one webinar $20
  • a selection of webinars, each costing $20
  • six webinars (the series) for the price of 5 webinars $96

Share this with colleagues and friends keen to refresh and renew delivery approaches in 2016. To share: click the post title, the Share options appear at the bottom of the page

Purchase webinars here: 

Please note: The webinar recordings and power points will be forwarded by email within five (5) working days.

Build it in: Tips to build foundation skill webinar series
Webinar 1: Foundation Skills $20.00 AUD
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Webinar 2: Learning $20.00 AUD
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Webinar 3: Reading $20.00 AUD
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Webinar 4: Writing $20.00 AUD
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Webinar 5: Oral Communication $20.00 AUD
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Webinar 6: Numeracy $20.00 AUD
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Webinar Series (6) webinars $96.00 AUD
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What the webinar series covers

webinar series content

These webinars identify strategies to recognise, support, and build foundation skills into your existing adult education and training practices.  I

Workshop 1 – Foundation skills in adult education and training

  • foundation skills clarified
  • how foundation skills relate to the trainer and assessor role
  • considerations for merging foundation skills development into education and training

Workshops 2 to 6 – each workshop focuses on a different foundation skill

  • Integrating development of the foundation skill into adult education:
    • clarifying the foundation skill and its components
    • instructional tips for this skill:  approaches, resources and support
  • Ongoing foundation skills development:
    • for learners: where to direct learners for practice and support
    • for trainers: where to find networks and resources.

Ideal for

  • Adult educators – VET, ACE or L&D trainers
  • ‘Management’ – anyone in a position to influence foundation skills support systems or strategies in their organisation
  • People currently studying any TAE LLN unit or qualification

If you would like to receive updates, read posts, and remain in touch, click the Follow tab on the home page. We look forward to you being part of this community of practice

About the facilitators – Join our three experienced facilitators whose complementary areas of expertise combine to offer a range of perspectives:

Ann LeskeAnn Leske has a Master in Education and has been involved in education and training for 17 years as an Adult Language Literacy and Numeracy teacher, Project Manager, researcher, and innovator. Ann has contributed to published outcomes that have influenced others and provided new approaches. Ann leads professional development and consultations across Australia which enable workplaces, RTOs, and teachers to obtain LLN insight and confidently approach LLN delivery. Ann has taught LLN and VET teachers the current Language Literacy and Numeracy Certificate IV units and Graduate level qualifications.

Chemene-SinsonChemène Sinson is a learning and development consultant who specialises in TAE qualifications and other non-accredited programs.  She has extensive experience consulting, designing and delivering TAE Certificate IV and Diploma programs for various private, community, government and industry-based RTOs. In recent years she has focused her own professional development on language, literacy and numeracy development through VET.

Allison MillerAllison Miller has been a professional learning and business development leader for 20 years. She is the director and principal consultant of Vanguard Visions, an organisation which specialises in cutting edge e-business and e-learning solutions, and provides essential connected services. Allison has a Master of Learning and Development (Organisational development).  She also leads the Digital Capability – Doing it Smarter online community, the ePortfolios Australia professional network and the national Moodle-Mahara Meetup event..

Ann and Chemène have joined forces to create the LLN and VET Meeting Place, an intersection of LLN and VET practitioners. They are delighted to have Allison of Vanguard Visions join them for this workshop and contribute her expertise.

Overcoming the first sentence syndrome

accessed from https://download.unsplash.com/1/irish-hands.jpg 210715 under creative commons license

Writing can be hard work, especially getting started. Finding  the words to write the first sentence can pose a challenge and potentially block the flow of ideas and actions to complete the writing task.

Start a sentence v2The first sentence provides the expectation of what’s next, or indicates what the text is about. The audience (reader) refers to the style, complexity, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary as clues to gain meaning. Learners can stumble at this important writing stage.

How can we assist learners to overcome the first sentence syndrome?

If your learners need to write –reports, procedures, policies, business letters, abstracts, conclusions, introductions, summaries, emails, personal journals, opinion pieces, WHS reports, narrative pieces, blog posts, learning reflections …………and they are challenged to get started, then providing focused and direct scaffolding can enable learners to progress independently.

It’s easy to assume that scaffolding writing skill is usually necessary for learners with limited foundation skills capacity and higher level learners don’t need this type of support. When faced with writing an unfamiliar text type, learners may feel like a Novice, or Advanced Beginner (CSfW) uncertain about how to get started. Regardless of the text type and complexity, learners appreciate knowing how to approach writing for the intended purpose.

If you are introducing new writing genres or text types, reveal:

  • the text purpose and audience: what message is intended, and who will be reading this?
  • the text type: what is the expected vocabulary, language and text format?

Encourage learners to:

  • spend time planning (key points, heading sub-headings): gathering ideas or specific information, and locating resources
  • edit and rearrange their writing: know it is normal to redraft, many writers visit and revisit
7 Sentence Writing Strategies

The following strategies:

  1. can be used within different text types and complexity.
  2. adapt to different delivery models and web-based tools.
  3. support foundation skill development across ACSF and CSfW levels.
  4. are accessed from different sources:
  • Teaching Adults to Write to Communicate: located on this site in the Resource Links Teaching Strategies  (page 2)
  • QCAL Tutor Tips:  located on this site in the Resource Links Teaching Strategies  (Page 1)
  • Gelman, H. Everyone can write: A Guide to get you started  (book details see below)

Running Dictionary. A skill building activity featuring relevant grammar , punctuation or vocabulary features.

For a detailed description, access QCAL Tutor Tip Running Writing

Sentence Soapbox. Learners individually write a sentence for a specific purpose. Sentences are redistributed anonymously, read, shared and edited by peers.  

 For a detailed description, access QCAL Tutor Tips Sentence Soapbox

A shared (or guided) approach to writing. This enables the trainer to discuss and model writing strategies as the learners try independently.

 For a detailed description, access Teaching Adults to Write to Communicate, page 28.

Provide a writing frame.  For example ask questions, or provide a short description of what should be included within the sentence.

. For a detailed description, access Teaching Adults to Write to Communicate, page 31

Provide example sentence starters for different text types.

Gelman, H. (2014) Everyone can write: A guide to get you started Exisle Publishing PTY Ltd

Build Word Maps. Explore learners’ known relevant vocabulary, introduce new vocabulary, demonstrate linkages, antonyms, synonyms.

  For a detailed description, access Teaching Adults to Write to Communicate, page 36.

Encourage learners to collect samples of opening sentences for particular text types or text sections. These can be shared, building a group collection or resource.

Gelman, H. (2014) Everyone can write: A guide to get you started. Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd

Building foundation skills through vocational training: first steps


If developing learners’ foundation skills is important to you or your RTO, this post will give you:

  • some practical ways to get started, and

  • links to information about our forthcoming workshop titled:

“Build it in: How to merge foundation skill development with adult education and training”

 7th August 2015, in Sydney.

Access the details here or download the workshop flyer

Before we start, if you are new to foundation skills, background information about the national agenda and the current foundation skills description, is available here.

Focusing on foundation skills within training is a National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults priority..

Building foundation skills through vocational training:  fact vs myth

VET ad FS togetherMyth: By teaching the vocational task (e.g. hairdressing), all learners build competence in both the vocational task and in the foundation skills needed to perform that task.

Fact: To develop foundation skills, some learners need explicit foundation skill-building strategies merged into vocational programs

So what are explicit foundation skill-building strategies?

The key word here is, ‘explicit’.  To be explicit is to be proactive and make foundation skill development in our vocational training both obvious and

highly visible

… i.e. explicit.

We can’t just hope that if we concentrate on teaching the vocational task, foundation skills will come. They may, but with many learners they may not.

How can I get started?

To get started, adopt a dual-delivery focus to your vocational training programs.  Focus on:

  1. How to build vocational skill – e.g. ability to cut hair, AND
  2. How to build the foundation skills needed to perform the skill at work – e.g. speaking and listening skills needed to converse with clients while cutting hair; numeracy skills needed to calculate the bill for the hair treatment.

Devise training strategies that cover both vocational skill and foundation skills.

Here’s a 2 step process to consider

  1. Explore the training content foundation skills

  2. Explore how you can reveal the foundation skills ‘how to do it’ steps’

1    Explore the training content foundation skills

What do the learners need to do?

Look at the task from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on the task only from the perspective of the what you intend to deliver, align your reflection towards the foundation skills and ask, when the learners do this, what will they actually need to do? What skills or knowledge are involved with this task?

For example, what is involved with:

  • recording case notes?
  • developing spreadsheets?
  • completing this project?
  • costing electrical installation?
  • analysing policy documents?
  • preparing a speech?

Ask, what will the learners actually need to do to complete the tasks? What skills and knowledge are involved to be able to perform that task? If you find examples helpful, here are some resources describing foundation skills within a mix of industry, and government roles.

2    Explore how to reveal the ‘how to do it’ steps

You may think it’s obvious, but for many learners the foundation skill ‘how to do it’ steps are invisible. It may feel odd, or uncomfortable, but finding your voice, or a resource, that reveals the foundation skill ‘how-to-do-it’, can make all the difference to learners really ‘getting it’ and being able to apply, and transfer the foundation skills, or not.

Tasks seem so natural to us, we forget that we have a subset of procedures, strategies, specific skills and knowledge enabling us to do the task so seamlessly. Have the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) and Core Skills for Work (CSfW) easily accessible. The performance descriptions will help to clarify what is involved – the skills and knowledge.

Locate resources that reveal the skills and knowledge involved. For example this Youtube focus shows and explains the fundamentals of  writing a paragraph. The Queensland Council of Adult Literacy Tutor Tips provide a range of foundation skill ‘how to do it’ strategies for trainers. For example, if your learners need to develop report writing skills this report writing pdf reveals the structure, features, purposes of this text type.

The workshop details again …

If you would like to know more about building foundation skills through vocational training, then check out our workshop…

“Build it in: How to merge foundation skill development with adult education and training”

 7th August 2015, in Sydney.

Access the details here or download the workshop flyer