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