• How we determine the level and size of our qualifications

    Have you ever wondered what makes a qualification a “level 2 award” or a “level 3 diploma”? In this blog post we outline how we make decisions about level of demand, guided learning hours (GLH) and total qualification time (TQT).

    Determining level of demand

    When designing our qualifications, we aim to produce content that targets:

    The level of demand provided within the relevant IfATE occupational standard or predefined specialist areas and duties.
    The level of demand of existing qualifications, including those endorsed against relevant CIMSPA professional standards. CIMSPA professional standards outline the knowledge and skills required for their practitioner membership (the sector’s minimum deployment standard).

    This includes careful consideration of the action verbs used (e.g. Identify, describe, explain etc) against the requirements for occupational competence and our regulators’ levelling descriptions (see Ofqual levelling descriptors). However, the overall level of each unit is only determined after its content has been finalised.

    The levelling descriptors use a hierarchical ordering of cognitive skills and allocates specific levels according to the depth/detail of:

    knowledge and understanding
    application and action
    autonomy and accountability.

    The unit is then assigned the level which corresponds to the predominant levelling criterion used by its content.

    Determining the size of a qualification

    The size of a qualification (Award, Certificate, Diploma) is determined by the total qualification time (TQT) assigned to the qualification. TQT is an estimate of the total amount of time – measured in hours – that the average learner would reasonably need to be able to show the level of achievement necessary for the award of a qualification.

    TQT is made up of the following two elements:

    The number of hours which an awarding organisation has assigned to a qualification for guided learning (see below).
    An estimate of the number of hours a learner will reasonably be likely to spend in preparation, study or any other form of participation in education or training, including assessment, which takes place as directed by (but not under the immediate guidance or supervision of) a lecturer, supervisor, tutor or other appropriate provider of education or training.

    Guided learning includes: 

    Face to face delivery (learning delivered by a lecturer, supervisor, tutor or other appropriate member of the training team).
    eLearning with a lecturer, teacher or tutor present/available in real time (the learner and tutor can be either remote or in the same physical place during eLearning).
    Invigilated assessment (external tests sat under controlled or open book conditions).
    Internal assessment carried out by the learner with a lecturer, teacher or tutor present/available in real time (the learner and tutor can be either remote or in the same physical place during assessment).

    It does not include unsupervised learning such as: 

    eLearning that the learner carries out unsupervised and with no real time support from a lecturer, teacher or tutor.
    Assessment internally carried out by the learner without a lecturer, teacher or tutor present/available in real time (for example, completing a Learner Assessment Record (LAR) at home).
    Any additional further study, revision and training activities that the learner does unsupervised to support their learning.

    Our process for determining the level and size of a qualification

    1. Independent review of the qualification content by two subject matter experts

    Subject matter experts review the content within the qualification specification – with reference to their own experience, similar qualifications and the Ofqual levelling descriptors – to assign values for:

    The expected tutor support and guidance time (GLH) required to support the average learner to reach the knowledge, skills and behaviour expectations of the qualification.
    The GLH plus the expected personal and independent study time required by the average learner to reach the knowledge, skills and behaviour expectations of the qualification, including working with real clients (TQT).
    The level of demand for each assessment criterion (AC) and/or learning outcome (LO).

    Often this activity is completed using members of the YMCA Awards team, who have a lot of experience teaching and assessing qualifications within health, exercise and wellness. We supplement the decisions from our internal team with external subject matter experts we call “Technical Contributors”.

    2. Standardisation with Lead Quality Manager

    All subject matter experts involved in reviewing GLH, TQT and levelling meet, along with our Lead Quality Manager/Quality Manager (also a subject matter expert). They discuss their guided delivery, independent study time and level of demand values. Where values differ, the subject matter experts explain the rationale for their decision.

    The Lead Quality Manager/Quality Manager applies their knowledge of our centres to support discussion of the rationales to reach consensus on the appropriate values.

    3. Sign off

    The Responsible Officer reviews the evidence and justification for GLH, TQT and level of demand to confirm the correct process had been followed to reach the values.

    Where evidence is sufficient to support justification of GLH, TQT and level of demand values, the judgements are confirmed as signed off.

    4. Ongoing review

    Once a qualification has launched, we collect feedback from our centres on level of demand, GLH and TQT to ensure that the values assigned remain appropriate. Feedback can come through surveys, as part of our external quality assurance process or through other interactions with our training providers.

    Where feedback suggests that we have under- or over- estimated the level of demand, GLH or TQT, we review the qualification and make changes where this is appropriate to ensure our qualifications remain fit for purpose.