Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Engaging a discipline in re-thinking assessment of competence. An example from nutrition and dietetics (#76)

Claire Palermo 1 , Susan Ash , Sandra Capra , Eleanor Beck , Helen Truby , Brian Jolly
  1. Monash University Dept of Nutrition and Dietetics, Mount Martha, VICTO, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

 For Australia to maintain and improve the nutrition and health of its population, a nutrition and dietetics workforce equipped to deal with the complexity of issues is vital. Appropriate, reliable and valid assessment linked to entry-level competency standards is an essential part of the education and preparation of this workforce. This project sought to engage the nutrition and dietetics education community in exploring the challenges in assessment of entry-level competence and to examine how to support best-practice assessment of competence.

A qualitative action inquiry methodology was employed whereby the challenges of assessment were explored with university-affiliated academics, experienced practice educators, new graduates and novice assessors in Australia. The findings revealed that current approaches to assessment are based on historical antecedents and individual assessor’s experience or familiarity with long-standing methods in use. These approaches do not generally place the student in control of their assessment or at the centre of the learning process. Future assessment should be based on informed judgement and be undertaken by a team of appropriately qualified assessors in both university- and practice-based settings. Professionalism was identified as one of the most difficult competency areas to assess. Among practitioners, there was a lack of clarity about entry-level competency and some misinterpretation of the current competency standards, especially in relation to borderline competence. Some work-based settings may not provide students with appropriate opportunities to demonstrate entry-level competence. These findings were utilised to gather further information and develop a range of resources to support assessors to implement best-practice competency-based assessment in nutrition and dietetics.

 This project was the first to systematically explore the impact of the current national assessment system in nutrition and dietetics. The action inquiry methodology facilitated engagement with the nutrition and dietetics education community to improve its capacity to implement effective competence-based assessment.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 This paper addresses the conference theme 'assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities'. It describes a national attempt by the discipline of dietetics to engage its education community in describing assessment of graduate capabilities or competencies. Its action inquiry methodology provides and unique insight in to the challenges of assessment for the profession and offers practical ways forward.