Understanding assessment and the role of the assessor 7

Assessment is the process of making judgments about an individual’s competence through matching evidence collected to the appropriate outcomes related to a specific unit standard, a series of unit standards, or a full qualification that have been registered by the south African Qualifications Authority. 

Candidates who are deemed not yet competent on a summative assessment (following training) will normally not be allowed to be re-assessed on more than two occasions. 

When learners have to undergo re-assessment, the following conditions will apply 

  • Specific feedback will be given so that candidates can concentrate only on those areas in which they were assessed as not yet competent
  • Re-assessment will take place in the same situation or context and under the same conditions as the original assessment
  • Only the specific outcomes that were not achieved will be re-assessed 

Candidates who are repeatedly unsuccessful should be given guidance on other possible and more suitable learning avenues. 

A candidate for assessment has the right appeal against assessment decisions or practices they regard as unfair on the basis of 

  • Unfair assessment
  • Invalid assessment
  • Unreliable assessment
  • Unethical practices
  • Inadequate expertise and experience of the assessor 

In order to ensure assessments are fair and reliable there are various principles that must be adhered to. These are 

  • Appropriate: The method of assessment is suited to the outcome being assessed
  • Fair: The method of assessment is fair in relation to the subject matter and outcomes to be assessed.
  • Manageable: The methods used allow for ease of arrangements, are cost-effective and do not interfere with learning or assessment process
  • Integrated: Evidence collection is integrated into the work or learning process where this is appropriate and feasible
  • Valid: The evidence focuses on the requirements laid down in the relevant unit standards and match the evidence requirements of the specific outcomes
  • Current: The evidence is up to date and does not refer to old or outdated information and knowledge.
  • Authentic: The assessor is satisfied that the evidence is attributable to the person being assessed
  • Sufficient: The evidence collected is sufficient to establish all criteria, as set out in the specific assessment criteria have been met
  • Systematic: The overall process ensures assessment is fair, effective, repeatable and manageable
  • Transparent: The process is transparent i.e. candidates understand the entire process and the criteria that apply and can contribute to the planning and accumulation of evidence
  • Reliable and Consistent: The same assessor or another assessor would make the same judgment in similar circumstances 

Qualities of an assessor 

Assessors need to have certain skills and expertise in order to be competent. Generally assessors need expertise in the following areas 

Interpersonal skillls 

It is important for the assessor to have good interpersonal skills and to be able to communicate effectively with learners. The assessor needs to establish a trusting relationship with learners – not only so that they can perform optimally during an assessment, but also can trust the assessor has their interests at heart. The candidate should feel

  • The assessment is fair
  • The assessor acts with integrity
  • The assessor maintains confidentiality
  • The assessment is conducted according to the principles of a good assessment

Subject matter experts

Assessors must be proficient in the subject matter of the learning area in which they are assessing. They should be experts in their field of knowledge with a thorough understanding of the unit standard requirements or qualifications for which they are registered to assess. 

In addition, the assessor’s subject matter knowledge should be at least one level higher than that of the unit standard being assessed. 

Assessment expertise

All assessors must have completed the relevant assessor training and should have been assessed as competent following the submission of a portfolio of evidence.

He or she should have been awarded a certificate of competence by the ETDP SETA.

In addition the qualified assessor should be registered as a constituent assessor with the relevant SETA and should have a certificate indicating what unit standards and/or qualifications he or she is registered to assess. 

The role of the assessor

  1. Ensure the assessment is appropriate to the requirements of the unit standard and/or qualification to be assessed.
  2. Inform the learner about the qualification or unit standard requirements
  3. Support and guide the learner in the collection of evidence
  4. Help the learner plan for the assessment
  5. Inform the learner about the timing of the assessment
  6. Conduct the assessment and give relevant and appropriate feedback 

In addition to being responsible for, and managing the assessment process, assessors will be required to 

  • Conduct assessments according to the relevant ETQA/SETA principles and policies
  • In association with the training provider, complete the documentation and recording requirements, and forward the results to the SETA to ensure the candidate is registered on the National Learner Record Data Base (NLRD)
  • Regularly review and update knowledge on the assessment process and implement changes as and when required
  • Comply with all assessment and moderation requirements 

The assessor must manage the assessment process so as to ensure the following are part of the process 

  • Familiarity with the standards being assessed
  • Knowledge of current practices associated with the role against which performance is being assessed
  • Communication with relevant parties
  • Assessment details are worked out, including learning outcomes/standards to be assessed, methods of      assessment, time frames, technical details and understanding the process
  • Assessment is carried out in accordance with agreed procedures
  • Feedback and guidance are given
  • Evidence is evaluated
  • The assessment decision is made
  • Achievements are recorded
  • Appropriate people are advised of results
  • Candidates are advised of alternative options as appropriate
  • Reports are provided
  • Personal competence is maintained throughout the assessment process 

To this end all documentation as required by the relevant SETA and/or the training provider must be adhered to and completed





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About Des Squire

I specialise in Employment Equity and Skills Development issues. Qualified facilitator, assessor, moderator, verifier and SDF. Available for any related assignments and or freelance work. If ou have a need let's meet to discuss. Quotes for training on request.

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7 thoughts on “Understanding assessment and the role of the assessor

  • Des Squire Post author

    Hi Hugo, Irene and Loshni

    The need for assessment instruments and a marking memorandum is a requirement of the accreditation process and is important as such. However many of the course developers align their assessment requirements to the content of the training manuals and not to the subject matter – there is a difference.

    In the unit standard “Design Assessment” it states “This unit standard is for people who design and develop assessments to facilitate consistent, credible, reliable, fair, and unbiased assessments of learning outcomes. The outcomes may be defined in a range of documents including but not limited to unit standards, exit level outcomes, assessment standards, curriculum statements and qualifications.” As stated most of the assessments I have seen are aligned to the training material and are therefore not broad enough. If requested to conduct assessments I would normally make use of my own assessment instruments but would ensure through discussion with the facilitator and on checking the training material that the learner will have gained sufficient knowledge to cope with the assessment.

    If practical application is necessary then this will be outlined in the unit standard by means of word such as “Demonstrate” “Show” “Conduct” or similar action words. Assessors must at all times be guided by the requirements of the unit standard and the assessment criteria.

    It is also the responsibility of the assessor and Moderator to comment on the appropriateness of the assessment process and the relevance of the assessment instrument to the unit standard and to make recommendations and proposals in this regard.    

  • Des Squire Post author

    Hi Jaco

    The decision regarding what has to be re-assessed will depend on the assessor requirements.

    If the subject matter requires a full re assessment then that is ok, however then the learner should be assessed as NYC.

    If only specific outcome 2 requires re-assessment then the learner is deemed competent in all outcomes but NYC in outcome 2. The assessor would then outline his or her specific requirements and explain this to the learner.  

  • Loshni Naidoo

    I am afraid to sometimes assess from an OBE perspective or my own subject matter experiences and expertise, as I’m not sure who will be moderating and they may not understand my comments in POE. 

    I therefore usually do more facilitation work than assessing. Nevertheless many learnerships require the facilitator to mark the work for completion, and its here where I cannot help but notice where the learner has not read and understood the question, then go about explaining it. So in essence we are assessing without writing in the comment.

    Irene, I understand what you are saying about subject matter experts, however I have to add that its far better to also have model answers as each material developer also has their own idea of what they are looking for based on the general subject or specifics. I don’t mind having a guideline of a particular training program and their criteria for Competence.

  • Irene James

    Yes, Hugo.  I agree that the material and assessment should be customised for the client.  That’s why I find it even more incredible that the SETA moderators/verifiers insist on a “model answer” – one size fits all.  An OBE Assessor uses the assessment criteria to gather sufficient relevant evidence to make a judgement call as to whether or not the Specific Outcome has been achieved, or “not yet achieved”.   That is why they need to be Subject Matter Experts – so that they know what to look for and can make reliable, fair, valid etc judgement calls. Unfortunately, many ‘academic’ assessors have gone from the classroom to the classroom and do not have realistic workplace experience – essential for good assessors of vocational and occupational assessors to have. (Not so much, the academic degree).   That’s why their crutch is often a “model answer”. They do not have the conviction of their own judgements. It is time we stopped this stupid practice of having to supply model answers for the parrots to regurgitate and comply with to “pass”.   I prefer to see candidates and learners exhibiting the CCFOs when they submit their learning solutions.  

  • Jaco Koortzen

    “Only the specific outcomes that were not achieved will be re-assessed” – If it’s ‘practical’ then I do a complete re-assessment: Weld a pipe/Fabricate a development/Cut out ….

  • hugo john

    Great post and easy for all to comprehend – hope all assessor s and moderators read this and take it to heart.
    One of the setbacks may be that due to many unit standards overlapping, many do not realize that the presentation should be adapted for that specific sector and should be work related. That way the learning experience becomes fun for both learner and assessor.

  • Irene James

    Dear Des

    Great post – thank you!  You have clearly outlined an OUTCOMES BASED approach to assessments.

    The problem is, however, that many of the SETA moderators and verifiers do not understand that an OBE approach is NOT just about writing tests and exams, and having model answers, and ticking to count the marks to see if the learners has achieved the classic 50% pass mark.   It drives us NUTS when they arrive and insist on seeing these old fashioned, traditional (useless) indicators of ‘competence.’  I usually end up chasing them off site or putting complaints in about them.  Goodness knows who has trained these so called moderators and verifiers.  The last one we had did not even know how to give feedback!!  Is anyone else out there experiencing the same nonsense?