Recognition of Prior Learning
If you’re thinking about studying or training, you can use the skills you already have to reduce the time it takes to get your qualification.
Organised learning can occur in the workplace or in an educational institution. Both provide important and valued opportunities for people to learn skills, knowledge and attitudes needed for work. However, these are not the only ways in which people learn. Individuals gain skills and knowledge through a range of work, study, life and other experiences. Previous learning however achieved, can contribute greatly to a person’s current competence. This has led educators to establish ways in which evidence of such learning may be examined and judged to confirm competence. The initial term to describe this process was called Recognition of Prior Learning or RPL. This term focused on previous learning and how this contributed to the person’s current competence.
Later processes tended to use the term Recognition of Current Competence or RCC. This emphasised the need for the person to be currently competent in the skills and knowledge gained through prior learning. The meaning of both terms is the same. We use the term Recognition as the preferred alternative to RPL and RCC, to describe this important process.
Recognition is a process whereby evidence is collected and a judgement is made by an assessor or assessment team against the requirements of one or more endorsed units of competency from a relevant industry Training Package. The judgment is made on evidence provided by candidates of the skills and knowledge that they have previously learnt through work, study, life and other experiences, and that they are currently using.
This evidence may include:
- Work records
- Records of workplace training
- Assessments of current skills
- Assessments of current knowledge
- Third party reports from current and previous supervisors, trainers, managers and customers or clients
- Previous qualifications
- Confirmation of relevant unpaid or volunteer experience
- Examples of work products.
- Copies of school reports, certificates, statements about your education and training, statements of results, outlines of any courses that you have undertaken including a subject synopsis
- Relevant work samples such as memo’s essays, completed work projects
- Copies of statements, reference or articles about your employment of community involvement
- Any further information that you may feel is relevant.
In many ways, Recognition is like other forms of competency-based assessment.
Organisations and individuals seek Recognition for a range of reasons
Some reasons for organisations include:
- Confirming eligibility for employees to gain a qualification or Statement of Attainment
- Identifying training needs of employees to achieve competence in specified units of competency
- Determine appropriate qualification for New Apprentices
- Confirming competence for an appointment to a workplace position
- Confirming competence for a classification to a job within an industrial agreement or award
- Identifying the current skills and knowledge of new and existing employees
- Confirming compliance with competency requirements of a licensing or regulatory authority
Individuals may seek Recognition to:
- Confirm competence for appointment to a workplace position
- Confirm eligibility for a qualification or Statement of Attainment
- Confirm eligibility for entry to a course
- Identify credit within a course based on current competence held.
In practice, Recognition may be undertaken for various combinations of these purposes. For example, a candidate may seek Recognition for a qualification and use this in applying for a new job.
Competence is made up of a number of concepts. For a person to be regarded as competent, there must be appropriate evidence of:
- The ability to perform an activity (in one or more contexts) in accordance with the elements and performance criteria of the relevant units of competency
- Sufficient knowledge of relevant principles, procedures and legislation to understand ‘why’, ‘what if’, ‘how’ and ‘when’, as defined in the evidence guide of the units of competency
- The ability to adapt those skills and knowledge to other contexts falling within the bounds described by the range statement of the units of competency
- The capacity to satisfy all the aspects of competency (task skills, task management skills, contingency management skills and job/role environment skills)
- The ability to apply the set of generic or enabling skills usually referred to as the key competencies.
- Competence as defined in a unit of competency is the demonstrated performance of knowledge and skills to the standards required by industry.
- Competence can be demonstrated in the workplace or a suitably simulated work environment.
When evidence is being assessed it is critical that the assessor ensures that it meets the established rules of evidence.
The rules of evidence = “Validity + Currency + Sufficiency + Authenticity”
Does the evidence relate directly to the unit(s) of competency? The assessor needs to ensure that the evidence provided by the candidate directly covers the unit(s) of competency for which they are seeking Recognition. This may be more difficult with historical evidence than recent evidence. Therefore it is important to start with the recent evidence and to use the historical evidence to confirm and verify judgments. Additional evidence can be gathered through observation of performance or questioning to ensure that the evidence provided relates directly to the units of competency concerned.
Does the evidence provided indicate that the candidate is currently able to use the skills and knowledge? While historical evidence can be used to confirm competence, it is critical that appropriate evidence is available or is obtained to show that the candidate is currently able to use the skills and knowledge for which Recognition is sought. The historical evidence can be an important indicator of the extent to which prior learning may have contributed to the candidate’s current competence. However, prior learning achieved many years previously may not contribute much to current competence if it has not been reinforced through relevant experience or further learning opportunities. Qualifications, documentation of experience and other indicators of prior learning obtained five years prior to the Recognition process or earlier are unlikely to be adequate evidence of current competence. The assessor needs evidence that the skills and knowledge have been used, reinforced and updated by more recent learning or work opportunities.
Is the evidence provided enough to ensure that the candidate is competent in the area for which they are seeking Recognition? While there is no exact amount of evidence that needs to be collected, assessors need to ensure that the candidate has provided enough to enable them to make a confident judgement that competence has been achieved. It is important to ensure that the candidate can apply the skills and knowledge over time and transfer the skills and knowledge to a number of different contexts. It is critical that the evidence addresses the full range of skills and knowledge identified in the relevant unit of competency and the four dimensions of competency – task, task management, contingency and job/role environment skills. Sufficiency of evidence is really a question of the coverage of the unit of competency rather than the number of pieces of evidence collected by the assessor.
Is the evidence collected that of the candidate? The assessor needs to ensure that the evidence is actually the work of the candidate and not someone else. This can be a particular issue if assessments are carried out online. To ensure authenticity, the assessor may check records, get confirmation from supervisors or trainers, and have evidence sighted and signed by a Justice of the Peace.
The RPL application is a portfolio of your experience and work and must be presented in a professional fashion. RPL applications must be complete and be in hard copy only. Only one unit will be assessed at a time.