Validity has been a buzzword in the world of qualifications for a while now. It is rather an abstract concept, but it has real implications for the value of qualifications for both learners and employers. This article attempts to define what the term means in this context and then explain the steps we are taking at Open Awards to prove that our qualifications are valid.
So what is validity? In the words of the sector it is whether qualification provides an appropriate output of skills and knowledge in relation to its title and purpose. In simple language this translates to ‘does it do what it says on the tin?’ This means a qualification must deliver what its title indicates it does to learners, employers and educational institutions.
In practical terms this means that someone who holds a barbering qualification should be able to cut men’s hair, or an individual who holds a qualification in Spanish should be able to communicate in this language. This sounds simple enough, but as an awarding organisation we must be careful to ensure when we design a qualification that this is the case.
To continue with the barbering example this would mean ensuring the assessments we set ensure that those who achieved the qualification had the skills reflected in the title. This means that we would need to stipulate a practical assessment were the learner demonstrated they had the required level of skill in cutting men’s hair. A written exam alone, where the learner had to explain how they might cut a person’s hair, would not be a valid form of assessment for the qualification as the individual would not have demonstrated practical skill in achieving it.
Validity is also a consideration when setting the pass mark for a qualification. When setting a pass mark for an English qualification it is reasonable to suppose that a person holding this type of qualification gets their English right most of the time, so a pass mark of 50-70% could be acceptable. However, for higher level professional qualifications for critical occupations such as a doctor or pilot it would be hard to argue that a pass mark of anything less than 90%-100% would be valid. Would you want a pilot who passed their assessment with a 50% pass landing your plane?
At Open Awards we are set on making sure that our qualifications are valid. We have introduced a validity policy that requires us to check on a regular basis that our qualifications are performing as they were originally intended. For every qualification, we will be monitoring things like the number of registrations; feedback from centres, employers and learners; and changes in government priorities and policies. Where things change we will review the qualification and make sure it still meets its purpose. All our qualifications also have regular predetermined review points and we will continue to use these marker dates as opportunities to ensure the content is still up to date and appropriate.
As you can see, validity is really important in ensuring that qualifications are valued by our stakeholders. If you have any feedback on our qualifications then we would love to hear from you. Get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Rockliffe - Head of Business and Strategy