After a year in development Safe Work Resources launched an online LLN/ACSF assessment tool to provide an indication of a person’s current skill levels. This indicator tool has been available online for free since the start of the year and has been used to assess thousands of learners in that time.
Before getting into the details of the assessment it is important to note that the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) does not match the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF).
- The Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) has 10 levels from certificate 1 to Doctoral Degree.
- The Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) has 5 core skills, each with 5 levels (1-5) as well as a pre-level 1.
Certificate 3 does not equal ACSF core skill level 3.
Core skill levels are not based on qualification levels – two different qualifications as the same certificate level can have very different core skill levels associated with them For example some certificate 4 qualifications reflect a higher understanding of mathematical processes (level 4 numeracy) while other certificate 4 qualifications have much lower focus on numeracy (level 2 numeracy).
Core skills are based on the requirements of a job that a qualification relates to or prepares you for. Core skills are not a pre-requisite for training, but are an outcome to be gained or bolstered through training.
Throughout this article when we talk about ‘core skills’ or the ACSF we are also talking about language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) as these form part of the core skills framework.
How The LLN Indicator Tool Works:
The Online LLN Indicator Tool is an evaluation test that has been developed in line with the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF). The purpose of the tool is to provide an indication of the level of a learner across the 5 core skills as a starting point for training. As streamlined training packages are released and updated over the next few years it will be important to ensure that all learners are at the appropriate level across the 5 core skills by the end of training. This will help to make sure they have the skills to meet the requirements of the job once in the workplace.
The test has a range of questions that addresses Learning, Writing, Reading, Oral Communication (Listening) and Numeracy. It is important to note that the core skill of Oral Communication (Speaking) is not addressed within this test and needs to be assessed using other means or methods.
The result of each test is displayed in a ‘spikey profile’. These results address ACSF levels 0 – 3. A result of 3 indicates the learner is at level 3 (or higher) for a core skill.
The results can be emailed directly from the web browser window and a copy of the result should be sent to the trainer. Once the browser window is closed the information is lost. No LLN results are kept after the completion of the test.
At this time ACSF levels 4 and 5 are not tested within the online environment due to the complexities of making judgements for these levels. However this is one area where further development is underway. More details can be found later in this article.
Interpreting the Results:
Results should only be considered as an indication and should not be used in isolation as a means of determining the ACSF levels of an individual. Our recommendation is that the test is conducted within a training organisation at the point of enrolment. This will allow all parties to prepare for any additional training that may need to occur.
There is always a margin of error that may occur based on the computer literacy of the learner, hardware malfunction or inadequacy or general user error. For this reason it may be useful to have a learner repeat the test to ensure accuracy of results.
Please refer to the ACSF website for information on how to interpret the results of the spikey profile and what each level indicates.
Testing Based on Qualification Enrolment:
One question that has come up on a number of occasions when discussing LLN/ACSF assessment with RTOs was whether or not a specific test is used based on the qualification level or subject. This may seem like a logical link to make however, the qualification level and topic should not necessarily influence the format or method of LLN/ACSF assessment. Both LLN and core skills are basic ‘Foundation’ skills that apply to all areas of a person’s life. For this reason the ACSF has provided examples of how core skills can be used or demonstrated in personal, workplace and training environment/s.
In an effort not to create a bias towards or away from people with experience in the workforce or in formal training environments the tool we have developed is placed firmly in the ‘Personal and Community Domain’. This keeps assessment of core skills in familiar, unbiased territory appropriate for all audiences regardless of industry or workplace experience.
But what about more difficult qualifications? Shouldn’t they have a more difficult test? The simple answer is no and let me explain why. The fact that a learner is enrolling in a particular qualification has no bearing on their current LLN/core skill levels and no expectation can be fairly applied. These skills are not a pre-requisite for entry to training and any deficit or gap should be managed using a range of options.
By using a single test that builds in complexity as the learner answers correctly you can determine the upper limits of that learner’s skills. The aim of the assessment is to find each person’s highest level for each core skill. This assessment should not be influenced by the complexity of the qualification, but rather the two profiles (learner and qualification) should be compared to inform future decisions about training – you don’t need a more difficult test to do this.
Limitations with Online Testing:
When developing an online assessment there are limitations on the level of complexity that can be used at higher ACSF levels. To give an example, level 5 writing consists of a range of sub-criteria that include ranging abilities from using logical organisational structures in writing to using specialised vocabulary and drafting and revision processes. In a testing environment, the assessment would consist of a number of smaller tasks building on each other and requiring highly accurate and successful completion of each step. Given the complexity of an approach like this there is more opportunity for an inaccurate result based on user, system or connectivity error.
Time constraints of LLN/core skill assessment is also a real issue and requiring a learner to complete hours of work just to determine higher ACSF levels is more often than not an unfeasible impost on both learner and RTO.
Given that the highest level ACSF skills are predominantly reserved for Diploma to Advanced Diploma and beyond it is not necessary to assess beyond level 4 ACSF as any person with at least level 4 will have the opportunity to develop the level 5 skills required throughout the training process. It is not a requirement that a person is already at level 5 before they begin training, but that they are skilled to level 5 by the time they enter the workforce with the completed qualification.
We have recognised that there is a need to gather indications of learner skill levels beyond level 3 ACSF and we are developing further assessment options to indicate up to level 4. But for the reasons discussed above we will not be developing assessments for level 5 in an online environment at this time.
Any LLN/ACSF assessment that you use within your own organisation needs to suit your purpose and your client base. A combination of face to face, practical demonstration (talking, listening, filling in forms etc.), RPL, workplace/3rd party evidence and an initial assessment will all contribute to building a picture of each person’s abilities and will help to inform both trainer and learner about the best training pathway to unlock future work opportunities.
Based on feedback received there is a definite need for consistent assessment of the ACSF at higher levels. Many Certificate IV qualifications contain units with level 4 ACSF core skills required to perform the job (after training has concluded). Based on this we have been working on further assessment to indicate results up to level 4 in an online environment. These additional assessments will be made available in the ‘Corporate’ subscription version of the indicator tool. Additional features include capturing all learner results in a database accessed via secure login and filtering and exporting results for use in other systems, including LLN Robot (for more information please click here).