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Activity 1

Reflection on Looney et. al. (2018) article.

As I reflect on my experiences in vocational education and training (VET) over the past two decades, particularly my time with the Country Fire Authority (CFA), I’m struck by how much the sector has changed – and not always for the better. When I began assessing in 2002, my focus was primarily on supporting learner development and evaluating competence. However, I’ve witnessed a concerning shift towards prioritising compliance over meaningful learning outcomes.

This shift aligns with what Looney et al. (2018) describe in their Teacher Assessment Identity framework. They argue that teachers’ assessment work involves more than just technical knowledge and skills – it encompasses beliefs, dispositions, and emotional engagement. My journey exemplifies this. While my assessment knowledge has grown, my beliefs about the purpose of assessment and my emotional response to compliance pressures have also profoundly shaped my practice.

My experience with the CFA provides a stark example of how regulatory pressures can overshadow learning outcomes. I was recruited to resolve major non-compliance issues, as publicly reported (The Age, 2021). I found myself spending more time addressing compliance matters than focusing on learners’ needs and development. This experience highlighted the growing bureaucracy in the sector, which I believe has reached an unsustainable level and is actually harming communities.

The challenges in recruiting volunteer trainer/assessors exemplify this issue. Potential volunteers, who could be excellent assessors based on their practical experience, are deterred by onerous compliance requirements like completing lengthy, often tangentially relevant courses such as the TAE (Training and Assessment). This has led to a shortage of trainers in brigades, resulting in fewer qualified emergency responders and compromising community safety.

These observations align with broader criticisms of the Australian VET system.  Joyce’s (2019) review of the VET sector also acknowledges the need for a more balanced approach that considers both compliance and the quality of education.

Furthermore, I have observed units of competency becoming more focused on box-ticking exercises rather than genuine competence assessment. The notion of nationally recognised qualifications is somewhat fallacious, as I’ve seen volunteers with these qualifications move between state fire services only to be told they must repeat their training. This aligns with Bennett and Smith’s (2018) critique of the reductive nature of assessment frameworks in education.

Reflecting on this journey through the lens of Looney et al.’s (2018) Teacher Assessment Identity framework, I recognise that my assessment identity has been shaped by more than just evolving knowledge and skills. My beliefs about the purpose of assessment, my emotional responses to compliance pressures, and my understanding of my role as an assessor have all been profoundly influenced by the changing VET landscape. The degradation of the VET system has led me to establish an alternative assessment system for the public safety sector, through developing an international certification scheme (IPSQA) that conforms to ISO 17024:2012 Conformity assessment — General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons.

In conclusion, my experiences since 2002 illustrate the complex interplay between personal beliefs, institutional pressures, and regulatory frameworks in shaping assessment practices. They underscore the need for a more holistic approach to understanding and supporting assessors in the VET sector, one that recognises the multifaceted nature of assessment identity as proposed by Looney et al. (2018). Moving forward, finding ways to balance compliance requirements with meaningful learning experiences remains a critical challenge for the VET sector, one that will require addressing not just the technical aspects of assessment, but also the beliefs, values, and contextual factors that influence assessor practice.


Bennett, R., & Smith, R. (2018). Assessment and the validity of evidence. In S. McGrath, M. Mulder, J. Papier, & R. Suart (Eds.), Handbook of vocational education and training: Developments in the changing world of work (pp. 1-15). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49789-1_72-1

Joyce, S. (2019). Strengthening skills: Expert review of Australia’s vocational education and training system. Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. Retrieved from https://www.dewr.gov.au/expert-review-australias-vet-system

Looney, A., Cumming, J., van Der Kleij, F., & Harris, K. (2018). Reconceptualising the role of teachers as assessors: Teacher assessment identity. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 25(5), 442-467. https://doi.org/10.1080/0969594X.2016.1268090

The Age. (2021, March 25). CFA warned of ‘serious security breach’ prior to fire season. Retrieved from https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/cfa-warned-of-serious-security-breach-prior-to-fire-season-20210325-p57dz2.html