ASCOT+ research and transfer initiative

ASCOT+ aims to develop digital learning and assessment instruments to measure the competencies of trainees and to pilot these in practice.

Frau vor Computer

In computer-based measurement methods trainees work on tasks to determine their professional skills.

iStock / boggy22

What is ASCOT+?

ASCOT+ is a research and transfer initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). ASCOT stands for “Technology-based Assessment of Skills and Competences in VET”. The “+” denotes transfer into training and examination practice of the results which emerged from the predecessor initiative ASCOT (2011–2015).

What is the aim of ASCOT+?

The idea behind ASCOT+ is to create computer-based learning and assessment instruments which can be used to promote and measure the competencies of trainees. For this purpose, the BMBF is funding a total of six projects (term 2019–2022) from the fields of the industrial and technical occupations, the commercial occupations, and the healthcare occupations. The projects being supported are picking up on the instruments and procedures drawn up in the predecessor initiative ASCOT. They are developing these further and establishing new instruments which build upon the approaches adopted in ASCOT.

ASCOT+ aims to make contributions in the following areas.

  • Improve teaching-learning processes in company-based and school-based vocational education and training.
  • Identify trainees’ performances in a more objective manner.
  • Support regulatory stakeholders in the competence-oriented formulation of training regulations.
  • Pursue the further development of competence-oriented examinations.

Find out more about the ASCOT+ projects.

What was the predecessor initiative ASCOT?

The projects in the predecessor initiative ASCOT created competence models and computerised assessment procedures for competencies in six training occupations from the commercial, industrial and technical, and healthcare sectors on the basis of typical work and business processes. These allow the occupational and cross-cutting competencies of trainees to be assessed in an objective and valid way. The projects developed over 800 test tasks, 560 of which were computer-based. These were piloted by 12,000 vocational school trainees from 13 federal states. The outcome showed that the assessment procedures trialled were able to facilitate the objective and valid identification of occupational competence (i.e. the competencies needed to fulfil the job).

Learn more about the ASCOT research initiative and its results

What do the ASCOT+ projects do?

The projects being funded by ASCOT+ are continuing to develop the instruments and procedures from the predecessor initiative ASCOT and are making them applicable for broader use in practice. Two funding topics are being addressed—transfer into teaching-learning situations of the instruments developed in ASCOT (Funding Topic A) and transfer to the examination system and to the regulation of recognised training occupations (Funding Topic B).

Transfer to teaching-learning situations (Funding Topic A)

The ASCOT+ projects

  • pursue the further development of assessment instruments from ASCOT, create new instruments and/or adapt existing instruments for deployment in related occupations;
  • expand assessment instruments or develop new assessment tools to enable the mapping of social, emotional and language competencies;
  • develop and pilot new instruments in the form of digital teaching-learning media;
  • trial and extend the competence assessment procedures for use as support diagnostics instruments in order to identify trainees’ development and learning needs;
  • investigate competencies with regard to their causation and their effect at the company and vocational school.

Transfer to the examination system and to the regulation of recognised training occupations (Funding Topic B)

The ASCOT+ projects

  • develop criteria for examinations which are formulated in a competence-oriented way;
  • analyse existing assessment instruments in accordance with the criteria stated above and in light of the requirements of the examination system and develop and pilot new assessment instruments; process their empirical results in a way which permits inferences to be made in respect of competence-oriented training regulations.

The following applies to both funding topics.

The ASCOT+ projects

  • foster dialogue and networking between specialists from the occupational fields, the competent bodies, experts, and educational researchers;
  • scrutinise the general organisational conditions relating to the (further) development of computer-based examination procedures and/or teaching-learning instruments, including legal conditions, availability of the necessary technical equipment or training requirements of training and examination staff;
  • develop and pilot continuing training provision for qualified trainers and/or examination task setters and examination staff;
  • work in conjunction with experts in the occupational fields to formulate recommendations for practice-related deployment scenarios of computer-based competence assessment procedures and transfer concepts.

Funding announcement of ASCOT+ on the website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Transfer – from research to practice

Why transfer?

In a position paper presented in 2016, the German Council of Science and Humanities stated that the transfer of research findings and technologies into various practical areas of application is becoming increasingly important in a society which is seeking to develop along scientific lines. This means that, alongside research itself and teaching, transfer is a core task of the academic research system. However, the Council of Science and Humanities also emphasises that simply communicating knowledge to other societal areas is an unrealistic approach which falls short of the mark. The transfer of knowledge and technology is a highly complex matter which requires networking processes between academic and scientific research and society and translation into a language which is generally comprehensible and accessible. 

Position paper of the German Council of Science and Humanities

Transfer in ASCOT+

The transfer of academic research findings and the networking process between the research sector and practice which is necessary in order for this to happen are a central objective of ASCOT+ and were taken into account at the very outset of the design concept of the projects. The aim is for academic research findings to be transferred into teaching and learning contexts, into examination practice and into VET regulatory work. The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) is evaluating and supporting this transfer.

Within the scope of ASCOT+, transfer is defined as a continuous, interactive and iterative networking process between stakeholders in the fields of academic research, practice and policy making. The goal of transfer is the transmission and utilisation of professional, methodological and technical knowledge, of high-quality learning and assessment instruments and of instruments which support examination practice. The intention is that teaching and learning practice, the examination system and VET regulation will all receive sustainable support.

ASCOT+ definition of transfer

The transfer concept

BIBB has developed a transfer concept with a strong basis in academic research to act as a framework model for project evaluation in ASCOT+. This concept contains five transfer dimensions with a total of 23 requirements (see below). These are important for the transmission and utilisation of knowledge and of the learning and assessment instruments. The concept enables timely action to be taken during the project term to scrutinise, plan and document transfer.

The transfer concept was based on a literature analysis and on a requirements analysis conducted via expert interviews and workshops. An outline approach was discussed with participants at the first project meeting. BIBB is cooperating with providers to adapt the transfer concept to each project individually. Joint work is taking place to draw up an overview of transfer requirements and possible transfer activities. The transfer concept is capable of ongoing further development during the course of the project and offers an opportunity to add other relevant needs. 

The transfer concept encompasses the following five transfer dimensions together with their respective requirements.

Transfer dimension context reference

  • Alignment to teaching-learning realities
  • Alignment to examination realities
  • Consideration of occupation-specific context conditions
  • Links with external projects

Transfer dimension participation

  • Orientation to issues from practice
  • Development and piloting within existing contexts and references
  • Inclusion of relevant bodies in the development and piloting process

Transfer dimension communication

  • Dissemination and application of findings/products
  • Regular networking on the projects with BIBB and the ASCOT+ advisory board evaluation research group
  • Regular networking on the ASCOT+ projects between the participants themselves
  • Regular communication to stakeholders
  • Development of a marketing strategy for the project results
  • Communication in a recipient-appropriate way

Transfer dimension results

  • Achievement of an increase in quality
  • Transparency in respect of functionality and contents of the instruments/tools
  • Transferability of the instruments/tools
  • Enablement of users; training courses
  • Sustainable use of the instruments/tools

Transfer dimension practicability

  • Consideration of general technical conditions
  • Issues relating to legal certainty
  • User friendliness
  • Consideration of neutrality and variability
  • Considerations regarding value for money