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Assessment Philosophy: A Critical Consideration for Ethical Skills Recognition

Jen Hamer


Recognition of prior learning (RPL) is increasingly understood as a complex phenomenon, generating potential outcomes for the individual beyond formal accreditation and learning. It is argued here that all assessment practice is influenced by an underpinning philosophy that is an orienting and governing structure for the execution of the assessor’s professional task. The assessment philosophy consists of values, intentions and beliefs that shape the assessment interaction and its outcomes. If these foundations of assessment remain unspoken and unexamined, the assessor may fail to gain a critical understanding of their own approach to inform how to ethically manage these effects.  The explicit construction and articulation of a philosophical base enables a considered response to the operations of power within RPL, and in particular the ontological aspects of assessment. This brings ethical and practical rigor to the process and, as it is proposed here, increases the efficacy of RPL with nontraditional learners.

This article discusses a particular assessment philosophy described by a group of RPL assessors within the Australian vocational education sector. These assessors were participants in a doctoral study at the University of New South Wales, Australia, examining the experiences of RPL for nontraditional learners (Hamer, 2013b). The analysis presented here forms a component of the research findings.

Keywords: Recognition of prior learning, assessment philosophy, ontological, nontraditional learner, skills recognition, vocational education

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