With internal quality assurance, you can check if assessors are following the principles of assessment and more. Even outside of assessment, it can help you maintain high standards of quality. After all, ensuring quality is a common objective in most settings and knowing how to do internal quality assurance well is a valuable skill to have.
In this article, you will learn what is internal quality assurance, the relationship between assessment and IQA, and how IQA helps assessors give recognised qualifications to learners.
What is Internal Quality Assurance?
Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) is the practice of monitoring the learning, training, and assessment activities within or provided by a business, training organisation, or academic institution. From a more general perspective, IQA is the internal process by which companies ensure the quality of their products and services.
Though IQA is used in professional environments as well, the majority of research on its effectiveness is in the context of Higher Education Institutions (HEI). For example, the International Institute of Educational Planning (IIEP) conducted research on specific IQA tools and found that program evaluations were more effective than course evaluations.
More specifically, regarding the IQA of assessment, the key concepts and principles of internal quality assurance are that:
- An assessor cannot IQA their own assessment decisions.
- IQA should be carried out, not just at the end of assessment, but throughout the entire assessment cycle.
What is the Difference between Internal and External Quality Assurance?
External Quality Assurance (EQA) is the practice of ensuring that assessment and IQA activities have been performed in a consistent, reliable, and fair manner. The main difference between IQA and EQA is their focus. The focus of IQA is to monitor the assessment system, while the focus of EQA is to monitor the IQA system.
What are the Roles of Practitioners involved in the Internal and External Quality Assurance Process?
An internal quality assurer checks the work of assessors. An external quality assurer checks the work of the internal quality assurer. External quality assurers answer to the awarding body that assigned them, while internal quality assurers answer to the lead internal quality assurer and/or the head of quality management.
What is the IQA Process?
The internal quality assurance process can be divided into three stages: preparation, sampling, and quality management.
Stage 1: Preparation
Sampling plans are a core part of the preparations that need to be made for internal quality assurance. A sampling plan generally consists of:
- Observation and Monitoring Activities
- Assessment Decisions
- Learner Evidence
- Learner Feedback
In the preparation stage, the internal quality assurer does not do any actual sampling, but decides on what to sample, who to sample it from, and when to sample it.
Stage 2: Sampling
The internal quality assurer performs the IQA activities planned in the earlier stage.
- Observe the performance of assessors and trainers
- Evaluate the chosen sample of assessment decisions
- Review learner evidence (such as written work and witness testimony)
- Obtain and analyse learner feedback on assessment and training processes
Note that the list above merely contains examples of internal quality assurance activities and is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all the possible activities under IQA.
Stage 3: Quality Management
Based on what they’ve sampled, the internal quality assurer highlights problems that need to be fixed and starts coordinating with other staff members to make the necessary improvements. They might hold team meetings to reach a consensus on assessment approaches and develop standardisation activities to ensure that assessors are working towards the same standards.
IQA Strategy: Best Practices for IQA
This section contains guidance on what’s considered good practice in IQA.
Tip #1 Give constructive feedback to assessors and trainers
Similar to how assessors and trainers need to give this kind of feedback to learners/trainees, IQA has to consciously provide helpful information and support. Just like how assessments shouldn’t be a stick to beat learners with, IQA should be a developmental process. Though internal quality assurers are in the end responsible for IQA, they still need to actively work with other stakeholders to come up with sustainable solutions to issues they’ve identified.
Tip #2 Check qualification requirements of the awarding body
The qualification requirements of the awarding body may include requirements for both learners/trainees and assessors. For instance, a learner might need to show their proficiency in the subject area of the qualification. For this demonstration of proficiency to be considered valid by an awarding body, it most likely has to be assessed by a qualified assessor (i.e., one who has the qualification to assess a learner’s proficiency in that specific subject area).
Tip #3 Keep in mind your organisation’s risk factors
Each organisation’s system of teaching, learning, and assessment is different and may have unique weaknesses which prevent it from becoming effective. Hence, each organisation’s IQA needs to be moulded with these inherent weaknesses in mind. Risk factors can be divided into three categories:
- Assessor: qualifications, knowledge, attitudes, and tendencies
- Assessment: method, type, languages, and technology
- Learner Evidence: reliability, quality, type/s, and storage
The 6 Keys to IQA Success
A case study from the Vienna University of Economics and Business found that administrative and academic staff considered the following to be very important success factors of IQA:
- Legitimacy of data and reports
- Support from higher education management
- Transparent information about IQA processes
Meanwhile, the case study authors stated that students “defined the success of an IQA system not in terms of its processes but by its impact on their learning.” They considered the following to be important to getting a quality education:
- Regular communication between administrative or academic staff and students
- Lecturers with appropriate professional and teaching skills
- A curriculum that is meaningful and can be completed within an acceptable timespan
For businesses and training organisations, these findings can still be useful for successfully performing internal quality assurance on their assessments and training processes. The case study results show that for IQA to be effective, it needs to:
- Verify assessment records and documentation on training procedures
- Have the support of business executives and other stakeholders
- Be transparent about monitoring and standardisation activities
- Ensure that assessors are giving feedback to learners/trainees
- Evaluate assessor knowledge, qualifications, and competency
- Evaluate the appropriateness of learning outcomes and progression routes
Importance of IQA in Assessment
The internal quality assurance of assessment processes and practices is important for both training organisations and businesses.
For training organisations, incorrect assessment processes and practices can lead to inaccurate data on the effectiveness of their training. This can prevent them from providing the level of training required by businesses and awarding organisations. According to the British Council, national quality assurance agencies can even remove low quality training providers.
For businesses, assessments are crucial to their decision making in areas such as:
- the application and interview process
- promotion or termination discussions
- workplace skills training development
Given that assessments are used as the basis for such critical decisions, businesses need to ensure that their assessments are of the highest quality possible.
Internal Quality Assurance FAQs
1. What are the appropriate criteria to use for judging the quality of the assessment process?
The appropriate criteria to use for judging the quality of the assessment process include validity, reliability, consistency, fairness, flexibility, transparency, and learner engagement.
- Validity: Assessments are considered valid by the awarding body.
- Reliability: Assessment decisions are uniform and comparable.
- Consistency: Assessments are carried out without deviation from procedures.
- Fairness: Assessments should be able to accommodate all learners.
- Flexibility: Consideration is given for the use of alternative assessment methods when the situation calls for it.
- Transparency: The assessment process is clearly communicated to all stakeholders.
- Learner Engagement: Learners perceive assessments to be effective and supportive of their learning and overall competency development.
2. What are the functions of internal quality assurance in learning and development?
The functions of internal quality assurance in Learning and Development (L&D) are:
- To improve the quality of training and assessment activities
- To maintain clear and detailed records of training and assessment
- To align the training and assessment expectations of trainers and learners
- To standardise training and assessment procedures across the organisation
3. What are the duties of internal quality assurance?
Internal quality assurers (or internal verifiers) are responsible for the following:
- Reviewing learner evidence and checking its integrity
- Analysing learner feedback to identify recurring issues
- Ensuring that learners are assessed fairly and consistently
- Satisfying the requirements of the awarding organisation
- Determining if the same standards are being adhered to
- Providing IQA guidance to staff members and assessors
To become an internal quality assurer, you’ll need to take an IQA course in order to receive an IQA qualification. You might also need assessor and subject area qualifications.
In summary, internal quality assurance ensures that assessments are reliable and consistent through activities such as observation and monitoring. With IQA, learners can get recognised qualifications in the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.