A presentation at NCVER’s No frills conference in July looked at whether the mandated upgrade to the Cert IV TAE in 2016 was actually seen as worth it by teachers required to do it.

The requirement for the upgrade had downsides, but good things came out of it too.

Some context

We all know that the Cert IV TAE has been problematic for some time now. Hugh Guthrie and Anne Jones highlighted this in a paper in 2018, and ASQA continues to have it on their watchlist, as we highlighted briefly in an article in the last issue. Teacher capability also continues to be an area of regulatory concern.

Chris Ho and Jane Court’s presentation, entitled “Mandated Upgrade from Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40110) to (TAE40116). Was it a necessity? What was the outcome?” tells the story. They point to the addition of core units and a changed qualification structure to address perceived skill gaps. A date by which all were to requalify with new awards was set at – paradoxically – 1 April 2019, but that was later pushed out to 1 July that year.

What Chris and Jane found

The presenters set out to find out what teachers knew about the mandated upgrade; what their initial reaction was to it; whether they thought it was necessary; what they learnt, if anything, from doing the upgrade and how their practice and skills might have changed.

First, many saw the upgrade as “a waste of time” and “unnecessary professional development.” Whether it was necessary or not, the view seemed to be that it was not for experienced teachers, but it was necessary to stay up to date and was of value to more novice teachers in particular. So, a mixed bag of views there!

Second, did they learn anything new? The answer is yes, and some were pleasantly surprised to develop new skills and knowledge. The areas of particular note were gaining important online learning and teaching skills, and some learnt more about the principles of assessment.

Third, were they doing anything new? Again, the answer is yes and in a COVID-affected VET world, what some were doing was altering their assessment strategies, adopting online assessment delivery while others adopted new online facilitation methodologies. As the presenters noted: “Participants have gained new skills and knowledge which are relevant and applicable.” And these new skills are particularly applicable right now.

So, what were the outcomes? Some still saw it all as a waste of time, but others “have gained a better understanding of why and how audits are carried out. Some have enhanced their productivity.”

Are we there yet?

Chris and Jane point out that: “We don’t yet know how many VET teachers and assessors successfully completed the Upgrade.” Oops! However, there have been upsides – but these might have been attained by other means and, possibly, with less angst they feel. So, if ‘mandation’ is used in the future Chris and Jane suggest good communication about the mandated requirements is needed, the upgrades need to be delivered by the ‘right’ people who are “suitably qualified and experienced” and staff need to be given time off to do the training with RTOs compensated for the productivity losses incurred.

And are VET’s teachers digitally literate?

This was an issue that another No frills presentation by Allison Miller looked at. If those the VET sector educate and train now need to be digitally literate, it makes sense that those doing the training should be too. And COVID 19 has also accelerated the move from face to face teaching and ‘lecturing’ to facilitating students’ self-directed learning by using digital technologies. So, what might this mean for teachers? Certainly, this requires enhanced online facilitation skills. And, do they also need to undertake digital research? And should they help lead digital innovation? And do they need the mindset that will help them do all this? Yes!