The Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104) has become the standard entry-level teaching qualification in the vocational education and training (VET) sector. This report explores the beliefs and experiences of new graduates of the certificate IV, with a focus on the graduates' sense of preparedness and confidence in planning, delivering and assessing training, as well as their views on the benefits and limitations of the certificate IV.
About the research
The Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104) is seen as the standard entry-level teaching qualification in the vocational education and training (VET) sector. The qualification is widely accepted and well supported as an essential requirement for VET practitioners. However, it has been criticised in relation to its ability to provide the level of skills and knowledge required. This report turns to the newly qualified practitioners themselves and asks them whether they believe that the certificate has provided them with an effective foundation for the delivery and assessment of training in the VET environment.
The report surveys new graduates of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, via an online survey just after they had completed the certificate, and again via semi-structured interviews six months later. The survey and interview focus on the graduates' sense of preparedness and confidence in planning, delivering and assessing training, as well as their views on the benefits and limitations of this qualification.
When taught well, the certificate provides some if not all of the essential skills required of new practitioners, particularly if they already have some experience of training if they are supported by mentors and if they undertake further developmental activities after they graduate.
Participants felt less well prepared to manage the needs of diverse learners, to undertake assessment, to use training packages and to manage classroom issues. These areas should be given more emphasis in the program.
A more flexible program structure is needed to cater for the diversity of job roles and responsibilities of VET practitioners, as well as for the differing levels of experience of training and VET that participants bring to the program. The authors suggest this might be addressed through the introduction of differentiated qualifications, skill sets and an orientation program for those unfamiliar with VET when they embark on the certificate IV.
Those delivering the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment must be appropriately experienced and qualified and capable of modelling good practice.
Managing Director, NCVER
This report presents the findings of a study examining the expectations and experiences of teachers and trainers with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104). This qualification was introduced in 2005 and is mandated as the nationally endorsed entry-level qualification for teachers and trainers in the VET sector. By 2008, however, there was clear evidence (Innovation & Business Skills Australia 2009; Precision Consulting 2008; Robertson 2008) that, like its predecessor, the qualification was seen not to be providing the essential 'toolkit' required by practitioners on entry to the sector.
This research was designed to provide a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the qualification by capturing the perceptions and experiences of teachers and trainers who had recently completed the program. The goal of the study was to ascertain the extent to which the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment added value to their skills in training and assessment.
The research involved a review of the literature on teacher preparation, the development of a discussion paper, an online survey of 56 new graduates of the certificate IV, and follow-up, through semi-structured interviews, with 20 of those graduates six months later. The focus of the online survey and interviews was on the graduates' sense of preparedness and confidence in planning, delivering and assessing training. Views on the benefits and limitations of the certificate IV programs undertaken were also gathered.
After an initial analysis of data, a focus group consisting of nine stakeholder representatives with a direct interest in the quality of delivery and outcomes of the certificate IV was convened to test the initial findings of the research. Stakeholder representatives were from state and territory training authorities, public, private and enterprise registered training organisations and Innovation and Business Skills Australia, the body responsible for development and maintenance of the certificate IV.
Drawing together the information collected through the questionnaire and the interview, it was evident that the majority of new graduates considered their experience with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment to be a positive one. Importantly, the general sense of preparedness amongst participants and the sense of confidence they had in their ability to perform the role of teacher or trainer were both quite high at the outset and improved further after six months of experience in the field. This increase in confidence and skill levels was, to a marked degree, influenced by individual practitioners having access to ongoing development and professional support from experienced colleagues in the workplace, a factor validated as crucial by both the literature and focus group participants in the study.
While the levels of satisfaction with the content covered were consistently high across the Learning Environment, Learning Design, Delivery and Facilitation and Assessment fields, participants questioned the usefulness and coverage of some of the qualification's content. The units of competency within the Learning Environment field, for example, were seen by those with some understanding of VET as 'bureaucratic' and 'mundane', although those with limited exposure to the sector found the units informative and useful. Additional concerns were registered about the lack of depth and amount of work in the Assessment field, and the majority of new graduates would have liked more time to develop and test different approaches to assessment. In addition, some reservations were expressed about whether the content prepared people well to work as trainers and assessors, with some content not meeting expectations and the program not being sufficiently practical for participants to 'do it rather than talk about it'. Focus group discussants affirmed the potential for such deficits to occur in certificate IV programs that were not taught well, suggesting that this revealed the lack of expertise by some training providers. With no regulation covering who can deliver the TAA40104, it was considered that inexperience was breeding further inexperience in certificate IV delivery.
Significantly, a majority of participants commented that they had entered the program expecting to learn much more about how to teach and were disappointed when this did not occur to the extent they had anticipated. As the intent of the qualification is to provide the initial step into training, this expectation is probably unrealistic. However, it does emphasise the importance of clear information being provided by training providers about what the intended outcomes are for the certificate IV.
The importance of offering more opportunities in the program to develop teaching techniques, to test different approaches to training, to tailor training packages to suit specific client needs and to practise the many skills being learnt were constant threads in participant responses. Other responses included the desire for more opportunities to develop: specific teaching strategies, including assessment; a greater understanding of how students learn and the psychology associated with learning; and skills in learner feedback, learner engagement and class-management strategies.
At the same time, suggestions were made about the structure and timing of the program, including 'block release' in tandem with opportunities to practise in the field, and multiple weekly sessions in longer programs to enable learning to be consolidated. Although a number of participants had undertaken the programs in 20 hours or less, there was general agreement that the material could not be effectively covered in shortened timeframes, particularly for those with a limited understanding or experience of training.
In offering suggestions for change, those with some training experience behind them voiced strong views about the need to recognise and to use the relevant training skills and knowledge people bring with them and to pitch the learning and assessment in a way that suited the needs of all individuals within the group, not just those with minimal understanding of training or the sector. Without such recognition, they considered the credibility of the qualification would be brought into question.
Despite having some concerns about aspects of the programs they had undertaken, new graduates in this study agreed that the Certificate in Training and Assessment had provided them with some survival skills and a degree of confidence in their own abilities. On initial completion most considered they had a firm foundation upon which to build and they felt sufficiently prepared and confident to plan, deliver and evaluate training. They considered themselves less well prepared to manage the needs of diverse learners, to undertake assessment, to utilise training packages or manage classroom issues. With six months of experience in the field, individual confidence levels were generally higher, with many supported by mentors and experienced colleagues. Importantly, most had undertaken additional formal training, professional development activities and informal work-based learning. For the less experienced, these additional developmental activities were seen to be absolutely critical to their survival as trainers and assessors.
This research does confirm that the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment can provide some if not all of the essential skills required of new practitioners, particularly if they come to the program with some understanding or experience of training. However, it is also evident from this study that outcomes from the certificate IV could be markedly improved if serious consideration were given to a number of critical factors, namely:
the allocation of sufficient time and space for program participants to practise and apply their teaching and assessment skills and techniques and to develop their ability to recognise and respond appropriately to the diverse learning needs of VET students and clients
the creation of a more flexible program structure, one which can be readily adapted to cater for the diversity of job roles and responsibilities of VET practitioners, possibly through the introduction of differentiated qualifications, skills sets and an orientation to VET programs
an expectation of continuing professional support and advice through mentoring, coaching and supervised practice, particularly for those who have no previous experience of training or the sector, built into the certificate IV
the provision of appropriately experienced and qualified teachers and trainers capable of modelling good practice in the delivery of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.