What is holistic evidence for an NVQ?

Holistic assessment (also called ‘integrated assessment’) focuses on the assessment of whole work activities rather than specific elements. When assessing a unit of competence holistically, the assessment activities integrate a number of aspects of the competency. Holistic assessment, underpinned by professional judgement, can reduce the time for assessment, and can promote greater equity in the assessment process. It is also useful for identifying valuable applicants who may be overlooked in more conventional assessment processes.

To conduct a holistic assessment the assessor develops an image or picture of how a competent worker would perform the activity. The assessor then identifies the types of evidence needed to show competence and the techniques that would be used to gather that evidence. The evidence is then reviewed and a decision made about applicant’s competence.

The benefits of holistic assessments are that they:

reflect the real world and skill requirements of industry
save time and reduce costs
streamline processes and optimise evidence opportunities

Given the safety focus of the rail industry, assessors need to feel confident that their assessment strategies are robust, regardless of whether competencies are assessed through training pathways or through Skills Recognition. So how does the assessor decide which assessment methods are the most appropriate, especially for competencies that impact on safety?

The following matrix factors in two variables—risk associated with a workplace activity and opportunity to assess the activity in the workplace—to provide some guidance for assessors in selecting appropriate assessment strategies::

low risk, low frequency activities may be adequately assessed via oral techniques (competency conversation, narratives, questioning).
low risk, high frequency activities may be adequately assessed by workplace demonstration / observation.
high risk, high frequency activities are ideally assessed by workplace demonstration / observation, provided the risks are controlled.
high risk, low frequency activities may be assessed by simulation in order to control the risk, as the opportunity to assess under real work conditions is unlikely to arise.