Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

An Old Chestnut Revisited: Teachers' Opinions and Attitudes toward Grading within a Competency Based Training Framework

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

An Old Chestnut Revisited: Teachers' Opinions and Attitudes toward Grading within a Competency Based Training Framework

Article excerpt


Since the introduction of competency based training (CBT) in the Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) system in the early 1990s, VET teachers in Victorian Technical and Further Education (TAPE) institutions have continued to grade meritorious student performance above that of competent. Towards the end of the 1990s, a number of researchers started to question the legitimacy of grading within a CBT framework. They did this from two viewpoints.

The first was to question the appropriateness of grading in the CBT environment, arguing that grading introduced a competitive element to training that was contrary to the perceived mission of vocational training institutions operating within a CBT framework. This mission was seen as engaging at risk learners who had not (and might not) perform well in competitive learning environments such as are found in higher education and who might not have aspirations to continue to higher education (Thompson, Mathers & Quirk, 1996; Wilmut & Macintosh, 1997; Maxwell, 1997; Mitchell, Chappell, Bateman & Roy 2006; Wheelahan, 2010).

The second argument questioned the definition of the word 'competent'. That is, whether a person can be more competent than competent and whether the introduction of higher levels of competency would undermine agreed workplace standards (Dickson & Bloch, 1999; Wilmut & Macintosh, 1997; Maxwell, 1997).

However, by the mid-2000s arguments against grading appeared to become silent. At that time academic research was claiming that competency was a developmental continuum and that higher levels of competency within a criterion referenced framework could be justified through the use of rubrics (Williams, Bateman & Keating, 2001; Williams & Bateman, 2003; Gillis, 2003; Gillis, Bateman, Foster & Griffin, 2005).

It was at this time that many reports from external stakeholders (mostly at state level) were calling for more attention to be devoted to grading in any enhancement of the nationally endorsed training packages (Williams, Bateman & Keating, 2001; DET, 2005; Schofield & McDonald, 2004; Gillis et ah, 2005; Learning Australia, 2005). This was seen as supporting the selection procedures of both employers and higher education.

Despite these appeals, there appears to have been very little action taken at the national or Victorian state level to introduce a standardised grading system. Some states including Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland did attempt to introduce standardised grading methods. However a study of the failure of the Western Australian experience in the early 2000s revealed detrimental effects on teacher workloads and a high level of teacher dissatisfaction (Bateman & Gillis, 2005). In Victoria, the grading process was left to individual institutions and, in turn, to individual teachers. In many cases, formalised grading rubrics were introduced to assist teachers with the grading process and to clarify concerns as to the value of grading. Nevertheless, teachers appeared to remain concerned about the impact that grading was having on their perceived role as industry experts able to grade performance based on industry standards and their own industry expertise.

The purpose of this study was therefore to explore teachers' opinions with regard to the value and process of grading within a CBT framework, following the introduction of a formalised grading system at a specialist TAPE centre for hospitality and tourism training in Melbourne, Australia.

Literature review

This literature review focuses on two particular aspects of grading that were considered would impact on VET teachers' opinions and reactions to grading. The first considers the benefits of grading within a CBT framework (why grade), from a philosophy of education viewpoint, while the second considers the more practical aspects (how to grade), such as who should grade, timing, design of rubrics and workload implications for teachers. …

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