Developing Qualifications Differently

Developing Qualifications Differently

What does CFI Awarding do?

Did you know that there are currently over 16,000 qualifications on the Regulated Qualification Framework? But many of them do the same thing and test the same or very similar things in the same way.

The challenge that CFI Awarding embrace is to create new and different qualifications – often in specialist fields where nothing currently exists. More than this, we look to help develop qualifications which feel meaningful and relevant to today’s learners and their aspirations for the future.

A wonderful example of this is something like the Crossfields Institute Level 3 Certificate in Community Orcharding, as community orchards are consistently growing in popularity and will need skilled people to develop and maintain them in years to come.

Similarly, the Certificate in Lifestyle Medicine was developed to reflect rising levels of interest in lifestyle interventions and person-centred medicine, and is designed to help clinicians and non-clinicians develop their personal practice.

The Qualification Development process

The process of developing a qualification begins with CFI Awarding talking to schools, learners, employers, the public, government – anyone really, to establish a need.

If a new qualification is needed, how many students are likely to want to take the qualification in any given year and then: what knowledge, abilities and skills the qualification should be instilling?

This is not a simple process. A qualification can be for hundreds of schools, or just one college or employer; it can be a large qualification that takes up to 3 years to complete or a small qualification that only lasts for one day.

Having agreed that a qualification is necessary and desirable the next step is to work together with a group of staff and stakeholders and agree what should be covered and how the student’s progress and achievement should be measured or tested.

Traditionally a lot of assessment of learners has been done by exam, but this can be unpopular with learners and many argue that this “high stakes testing” is just not the best way to find out what a student actually knows. 

Exams are also rarely designed to show what a student can do. A person’s future can rise or fall on the outcome of one day – and that is very stressful.

Because of this, CFI Awarding favour using portfolio-based assessment which looks at a wider variety of what a learner can do over a longer period of time, and in context.

If an awarding organisation is developing a qualification with this kind of assessment in mind, it has to be done carefully and with very strict quality controls around it so that the evidence of student achievement can be relied upon. Our role is to ensure rigorous quality assurance procedures around assessment before certificates are issued to learners.

Qualification Development in a changing world

Many people these days are more concerned with knowing that a learner can actually demonstrate what they have learned, rather than simply writing about it in a test. So some awarding organisations are evolving to make their qualifications more integrated, and about practice as much as theory.

Also, with information being so readily available, good qualifications these days shouldn’t be just about facts, but about how you interpret them, what you think about what you have learned and how it relates to your life or work.

Qualification development is an intense process of making sure that the qualification is asking the right questions of the learner, in the right way, at the right time and that you can be confident of the result.

Typically we will work with the stakeholders and ask questions like:

  • What exactly is the subject of the qualification?

  • What level should the qualification be? (for example, level 2 – GCSE level – or level 6 – degree level)

  • Who are the learners taking this qualification?

  • What experience or qualifications do they need before they start?

  • What are they likely to do after they complete this qualification? (for example, further study/work)

Once we have a clear idea of who the learners are and what the qualification is aiming to do, the next stage is to ask more detailed questions, such as:

  • What are the key things that the learner needs to know, understand and be able to do at the end of the qualification? (these are the learning outcomes and are a key part of any qualification)

  • How are we going to confirm that the student understands what they have been taught?

  • What experience or qualifications do those teaching the students need?

  • What quality assurance processes and systems do we need to put in place so that we can be sure that the qualification can be relied upon?

All these are important to know in order to contextualise the qualification and ensure that it is relevant and valid. This is how employers or the public in general know that someone really can do what a qualification says they can.

After asking all these questions, a qualification specification will emerge, examples of which can be found here. The specification is the key document which full information about the qualification as well as guidance to teachers.

Does my programme need to be regulated?

In many cases, developing an Ofqual-regulated qualification is the option which best meets the needs of all stakeholders.

However, there will be occasions when it makes more sense to develop a CFI Quality Mark programme.

This could be because:

  • the learners are already educated to a level where a regulated qualification wouldn’t benefit them and are looking instead to further their professional development.

  • the course sits within an industry that doesn’t require a regulated qualification.

  • the training provider prefers the additional flexibility that a Quality Mark programme offers them in terms of shaping their course just the way they want.

A Crossfields Institute Quality Mark means that a programme and centre is endorsed by Crossfields Institute. We will develop the Quality Mark with an approved centre and then monitor and review its delivery to learners. A Quality Mark can be quite flexible with regards to process and structure and is built around the specific needs of the provider. Nevertheless, our quality assurance team will work closely with the centre to ensure that standards are upheld and learners are at the centre of all assessment and administrative processes.

Quality Mark certificates bear the training provider’s logo and the CFI logo. As with the process for the delivery of regulated qualifications, a prospective centre must go through the Centre Approval process, in which we ensure that the centre has the correct staff, systems and processes in place to deliver this training (our existing centres would not need to repeat this process if interested in developing a Quality Mark programme). This is reviewed at least annually with an external quality assurer to ensure all our centres are delivering programmes to an CFI-approved standard.

Why develop a qualification?

Qualifications are important because they confirm to a learner, a future employer, a member of the public or whoever sees the certificate that this person has successfully studied and achieved something at a particular level.

Usually the certificate has a front sheet with the name of the qualification and a transcript, which describes in detail that modules that have been covered, the level of study and length of time it took to complete.

This is important because it allows (for example) a future employer to know what you are capable of. The transcript also shows exactly what a student knows about a subject and how to carry out particular tasks or processes. This is particularly important in some areas, for example, health and social care.

The real point of an awarding organisation is that an independent organisation, separate from a learner’s college or workplace, is confirming through a rigorous process what the learner has achieved.

This is very different from when a college, employer or training provider issues its own certificates. With an awarding organisation the level of independence and the “outside in” perspective gives a strong measure and assurance of the quality of the learning.

If you’d like to explore the qualification process further, or have an idea you’d like to discuss with us, please get in touch:

About Crossfields Institute

Crossfields Institute is an educational charity specialising in holistic and integrative education and research. The Institute develops specialist qualifications which aim to support the development of autonomous students with the intellectual rigour, practical skills, social responsibility and ability to think creatively and act decisively.

Crossfields Institute
Stroud House | Russell Street | Stroud GL5 3AN | United Kingdom
T: +44 (0) 1453 808118
Company no: 06503063 | Charity no: 1124859

IQA Q & A

Internal Quality Assurance – Questions & Answers

As the Level 4 Award in Internal Quality Assurance enters its second year since launch, we wanted to dive a little deeper into the topic of IQA, for those who are interested in learning more about the area in general and how our qualification prepares participants to undertake high-quality quality assurance within their organisation.

Below, we explain what IQA is, why it matters to an organisation and how our course works.

To get more information on the qualification or register on the course, please contact course providers Kato Education via: hello@katoeducation.com

What is ‘IQA’?

Internal Quality Assurance. It is a process that seeks to ensure that assessments are undertaken using a consistent and fair approach across one or several assessors.  It monitors the teaching, learning and assessment systems and processes of a programme of learning as well as the evidence produced by the learners. This ensures that the requirements of the awarding organisation and the qualification have been fully met and helps to keep the centre in a continuous improvement cycle.

Why is IQA important?

Internal Quality Assurance helps a centre to identify areas of good and not-so-good practice. When used as a continuous process throughout the year, a well-planned IQA strategy can efficiently and effectively scrutinise every aspect of a programme to allow for continuous improvement of the process and the assessment practice of the assessor.

What can effective IQA do for an organisation?

Effective IQA will support the whole assessment process from all aspects of teaching and learning through to assessment of the learner.  Areas of good practice will be identified, shared and built upon whilst any areas of poor practice can be addressed through working with individuals who need professional development to improve their teaching and assessment skills.  Ultimately effective IQA will ensure that a centre is meeting all relevant requirements whilst also giving the learners a positive teaching, learning and assessment experience.

What makes the IQA course delivered by CFI unique?

The CFI course is unique because it allows the trainee IQA to focus on their own organisation’s programme(s) of learning and to generate naturally-occurring IQA evidence that they will be required to undertake by their awarding organisation as part of being an approved centre.  

This means that the evidence requirements are possible to meet (unlike other similar IQA qualifications).  Another unique point is that the course starts with the trainee IQA demonstrating that they understand the assessment requirements of the qualifications they will be quality assuring before moving on to the knowledge they are required to have around IQA systems and processes.  It then moves on to a more practical element, where by doing their job, the trainee IQA will be generating appropriate evidence.

What kinds of organisations have taken the IQA course?

Organisations that have a programme of learning with learning outcomes and/or assessment criteria.  These organisations have had a mixture of regulated (RQF), self regulated (SRQ) and quality mark (QM) programmes.  The types of organisations have ranged from schools and training organisations to employers who train their own staff.

What is important for people to know about IQA?

Knowing about IQA is the first step to being able to implement IQA.  Without it, a centre is not likely to be meeting the requirements of the awarding organisation and therefore the qualification.  They will also less likely to be in a position to ensure consistency and fairness in the teaching, learning and assessment of the learners within their centre.  They certainly will not be demonstrating best practice.

How can people sign up to the next course?

They can contact the course providers, Kato Education, via hello@katoeducation.com, to express an interest in signing up or ask for more information about the qualification.

Blog – Education for Regenerative Practice and Sustainable Development

Education for Regenerative Practice and Sustainable Development

Beki Aldam, Crossfields Learning

As we launch our Level 3 in Integrative Education, we look at why we created it, what inspired us, and what we aim to achieve 

Our approach 

The Integrative Education set of qualifications was created to inspire learners to engage with their learning, and create work they are proud to have produced. It aims to raise attainment for all learners and reduce the numbers of early school leavers. 

Crossfields Institute lead a project to explore and develop a type of learning and assessment that focuses on the use of portfolio assessment, and evidence of achievement from formal, informal and non-formal learning, designed to increase inclusion. This project was recognised and funded by Erasmus+ 2015 Key Action 2, School Education Strategic Partnership Project1, and has informed the development of these qualifications. 

More widely, this qualification was developed as a way to address concerns that education is increasingly politicised and centrally-controlled, vulnerable to the short-termism that our political system often engenders, and the ideological views of those currently in power. The Federation for Education Development’s survey also concluded that, “81% of respondents believe a long-term plan for education should be driven by a politically neutral and independent organisation.” 

This qualification was therefore developed by looking closely at the evidence behind assessment, rather than being driven by ideologies or targets, and out of a desire to engage young people in their learning with renewed enthusiasm and joy.  

The Times Education Commission concluded that, “high-stakes assessment has become the tail that wags the dog. Of course some exams are necessary, but the single-minded focus on grades has undermined the broad and balanced education that should be offered to all young people.” 

An over-reliance on summative, exam-based assessment, in order to achieve a qualification, is not serving the needs of many school-age learners. There are over 2 million children currently not in school, and 416 students are being excluded from schools every single month. 

The pressures to achieve in such a system inevitably devalue and reduce time spent on integrating other important non-formal or informal learning opportunities. A headteacher quoted in an Institute of Education (IoE) report stated, “With high stakes testing, the whole of the school’s activity is based around passing tests.” 

Those learners whose learning styles and needs do not sit well with formal learning and summative exam assessments are at greater risk of becoming disillusioned, disengaged, stressed and even disruptive. Geoff Barton, the head of the Association of School and College Leaders argues against the “baked-in” system of failure, that sees one-third of children failing their Maths and English GCSEs each year, to keep to the correct ratios: “Our education system works well for about 70 per cent of children. The trouble is if you’re one of the 30 per cent it’s a national scandal.” 

At Crossfields Institute, we aim to create qualifications that work for all students, that bring the very best out of each learner, and exclude no one from a lifelong love of learning and a sense of achievement. This is because students are not made to learn material for exams, but can instead engage with exciting and interesting projects that will inspire them. 

An integrative approach 

The Level 3 IE set of qualifications has been developed to be integrative, in recognition of the fact that life does not easily fit into siloed subjects. 

For Crossfields Institute, there are three ways that education can be described as ‘integrative’. Integrative education: 

  1. Engages the whole person – both teacher and student. They use and develop their mental, physical and emotional skills.
  2. Connects the learner and their learning to their daily life. Their own experiences become valuable in their learning; their learning is useful in their own lives, within their particular context. The student’s educational experience remains relevant for them, and continues to do so as they leave the educational setting and move out into the world. 
  3. Connects or combines both different subjects and the skills those subjects seek to develop. 

Education that is integrative will be more engaging, more enlightening, more meaningful. Students will have the chance to love what they learn and apply it wherever it is most needed in their lives. 

 

Regenerative practice and sustainable development 

The Integrative Education qualifications also focus on how to teach the next generation of learners, to live in the world in which we find ourselves. We now live in a new geological age, the Anthropocene, where humans dominate the planet’s ecology and geochemistry.  Humans have become the single most influential species on the planet, causing significant global warming and other changes to land, environment, water, organisms and the atmosphere. 

The coming years represent a vital window of time, in which humans need to drastically alter the way they interact with the world, and work towards a more sustainable way of life. 

However, the world’s transformation to sustainable development is being impeded by the very way humanity currently functions, “at the core, we are the problem. The way we’re acting in the world, and the way we solve problems, is the problem. 

As humans, we currently, “lack the inner capacity to deal with our increasingly complex environment and challenges.” However, “modern research shows that the inner abilities we now all need can be developed.” 

The Inner Development Goals are an identified list of transformative skills for sustainable development. They show us which qualities and skills we need to develop and nurture, in order to be able to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

That’s why this qualification includes a module that enables learners to recognise and work on their own inner development. As well as enhancing their own capabilities, it may also help them to face the challenges and anxieties that climate change and other crises bring to their lives. Based on the Inner Development Goals, the module focuses closely on what individuals can do to improve their own inner development, and take care of their mental wellbeing through challenging times. 

The content of the qualification has also been informed by the Gaia Yes curriculum, which recognises that, “integrating knowledge and skills for sustainable development into schools is crucial for the future of our planet and, more specifically, for the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and EU sustainability policies. We are handing over to the next generation a planet that must face several serious environmental problems and the convergence of multiple crises. It is important to help young people develop the knowledge, skills, values and behaviours necessary for sustainable development.” 

At this unprecedented time in history, the development of this qualification is a response to the urgent need for relevant learning, preparing young people for the ecological challenges around them. 

In addition to the urgent need to address the climate crises, society needs to resolve a crisis of skills. According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), more than three-quarters of small UK businesses have struggled to recruit in the past 12 months, with 82% blaming a lack of candidates with the right experience, 

Young people are acutely aware of this skills deficit. Research conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Accenture, and Hays10 found that almost 1 in 4 young people (aged 17-23) do not feel adequately prepared by their education for the world of work. 

This qualification includes an emphasis on key knowledge and skills that are relevant to the world we live in, including communication skills and intercultural competence; systems-based thinking and economics; action-based research skills and awareness of global perspectives. 

Moreover, the Gaia Yes programme, which inspired this qualification, clearly outlines how important it is to develop students’ sustainability “competencies, twenty-first century skills and the outcomes of their national curricula in an integrated manner…. The emphasis must shift from information to imagination and from imagination to practical application through learning from experience. These competencies are crucial in finding solutions to various serious environmental problems and crises.” 

The CBI describes young people as ‘work ready’ when they have developed their knowledge, skills and character. The IE qualifications follow the same structure, working with the head (knowledge), hands (skills) and heart (character, or attributes), to enable the next generation of thinkers, leaders and citizens to thrive. Each module contains knowledge that the students will gain, skills they will develop and attributes they will carry forward. 

Education needs to enthral, engage and bring joy to learners. The aim of the Level 3 qualification is to do just that. As the Nobel prizewinning geneticist Sir Paul Nurse, said, “A curriculum needs to excite. It needs to create citizens as well as specialists.”