Pragmatic means: “dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations”.

The RTO standards are clear that all RTOs must offer RPL to serve the different entrance situations of their students. Some have experience, some have qualifications, and some have a mix of both. So, RPL is a sensible and realistic requirement.

Ask most people who have been working for a while, “have you heard of RPL?” – you’ll generally get a nod. And, if this is the case, the people will also share a wide interpretation of what it means, which is to be expected. It’s not exactly a common topic discussed at school, social media or in the news. So why would anyone have a clear idea about it?

As an RTO therefore, we have two important roles:

1. Setting expectations – educating potential students about the legal requirements of accredited RPL such as meeting the rules of evidence.

2. Conducting a thorough, yet individualised RPL process.

For the latter, consider the following clear process and what it would look like in your organisation. Remember, you ultimately have control over what each step looks like – so this is simply offering a framework around which to create your tools and processes:

1.Initial Consultation: Begin with a detailed discussion with the candidate to understand their educational background, work history, and the competencies they believe they have acquired. This conversation should also set clear expectations about the RPL process.

2.Professional Portfolio Review: Request the candidate to compile a comprehensive portfolio of evidence. This should include formal qualifications, work experience, job descriptions, references, samples of work, and any informal learning experiences relevant to the competencies being assessed.

3.Gap Analysis: Conduct a gap analysis by mapping the provided evidence against the learning outcomes or competency standards of the qualification sought. This will identify areas where the candidate has demonstrated competency and where there may be gaps that require further training.

4.Competency Conversations: Engage in competency conversations where the assessor asks the candidate to elaborate on their experiences, providing a deeper insight into their skills and how they apply them in practical situations.

5.Practical Demonstration: Where possible, observe the candidate performing tasks or simulate scenarios where they can demonstrate their skills. This can validate their competencies in a practical context.

6.Third-Party Verification: Seek verification from third parties, such as employers or industry colleagues, who can confirm the candidate’s abilities and experiences.

7.Assessment Planning: Develop an assessment plan tailored to the candidate, specifying the evidence required, the methods of assessment, and the timeline for completion.

8.Recognition Decision: Make a judgment based on the evidence provided. If the candidate successfully demonstrates the required competencies, grant recognition. If there are gaps, provide feedback and guidance on how to address these, possibly through further learning or assessment.

9.Feedback and Support: Offer constructive feedback to the candidate, regardless of the outcome, and provide support on the next steps, whether it’s proceeding towards the qualification or undertaking additional development.

10.Continuous Improvement: Reflect on the RPL process and the candidate’s experience to identify any improvements for future assessments, ensuring the RPL process remains robust, fair, and effective.

Throughout this process, it’s crucial to maintain open communication, provide clear guidance, and uphold the principles of assessment: Validity, Reliability, Flexibility, and Fairness and Rules of evidence: Valid evidence, Authenticity, Currency and Sufficiency, to ensure that the RPL assessment is a true reflection of the candidate’s abilities and knowledge – and that it actually meets what RTOs are required to gather.

Stay PRAGMATIC my friends!

Dan Hill