Learning facilitation

What are these qualities? What are the behaviours?

Lets’ start with the behaviours, or skills, if you like. This is what facilitators do when with a group…

  • Challenge habitual thinking and behaviour
  • Hold space
  • Model behaviours
  • Notice and reflect back
  • Look for opportunities to get out of the way

Do I hear a how? How do facilitators do all of this? By…

  • Selecting appropriate activities and processes
  • Providing a suitable environment/space
  • Keeping track of time and progress
  • Clarifying, questioning, sometimes challenging and summarising
  • Being non-partisan, not taking sides, not having pre-determined answers/outcomes
  • Ensuring the group does the work
  • Ensuring that the group’s work is captured, when necessary (which implies knowing when that is)

Hmmm….Is that all there is to facilitating? What distinguishes pedestrian facilitation from great facilitation?

Maybe it’s the personal qualities, or attitudes, that facilitators bring…

  • Humility
  • Empathy
  • Bravery and a willingness to fail gracefully
  • Playfulness
  • Presence
  • Curiosity
  • Flexibility
  • Responsiveness

If I’m learning to be a facilitator, I probably want to learn the how (processes, techniques, tip and tricks) first. Then I’d want to know about application, when and why I would use one and not the other. Problem is, learning is not linear. It happens in loops and leaps, in small moments of clarity, in confusion and messiness. In other words, learning, and meaning, emerges. It can’t be structured in a way that makes sense to everyone because everyone learns differently (and no, I’m not thinking learning styles – that’s been well and truly debunked).

Here’s the dilemma. While learning is non-linear, the training is. It starts on Monday, finishes on Friday. Each day has a start and an end. We progress from one day to the next. Doing what? There’s no end of choices really.

It’s the curse of the agenda: in advance, we’ll decide we’ll do this, then that, then something else. I don’t know until I’m in the room with the group what the group really needs. The group becomes its own learning laboratory – it has within it all the complexity and messiness of any group of humans. It comes down to the curse of planning. We have the ability to think ahead, to plan what we’ll do. In many cases that’s a sensible thing to do. If I have to catch a plane I need to plan when to get to the airport, and make sure I go to the right airport. The consequences of not planning are pretty clear. I can apply the same thinking to working with a group of people. I can plan certain things – when we’ll start, when we’ll finish, where we will meet, when we will break for lunch, why we are meeting. It’s harder to plan for what might happen with a group of people, especially once I use a process that is participatory. If I follow a plan meticulously, I might miss some opportunity, or something important. If I have no plan at all…

I’ll need to draw on my ability to be spontaneous and improvise, to use what’s available (including the people in the room) combined with my own skills and knowledge of facilitation.

If an agenda is not so helpful, what is? Learning outcomes? At the end of this training, you will be able to…will understand…will know… Hmmm… There might be a shift towards these things. Learning may happen during the training. Most likely it won’t. It might happen next time one of them is in front of a group. Who am I to determine what learning you need? Nope, learning outcomes don’t help me.

In the end I need to do what I usually do – start somewhere, see what happens. Notice. Respond. Do something else. Explain what I’m doing and why. Provide opportunities to experience different approaches (processes) – not just watch, actually be a part of them, exploring topics that illuminate even more about working with groups. I need to be prepared for a number of possible approaches and to offer a rich and diverse, human, experience that enables people to learn at their own pace, to struggle in their own way, to allow meaning and insight to emerge by providing space and opportunities for them to make their own meaning, rather than me impose my meaning.

The topic of facilitation is so large, I need some anchors, some boundaries: time is one (a one-day course is very different from a five-day course); the participants and their current level of understanding is another (I won’t know that until I work with them). Briefing from the client? Can be unreliable, especially if they’re not sure themselves what they want. Facilitation principles? Too abstract. Qualities of a facilitator? Too obscure.

What is the QCTO

What is the QCTO

The QCTO will manage and  coordinate the qualifications in the occupational qualifications  framework  in terms  of their development, provision,  assessment and  impact.  Its scope will be the development and  quality assurance of fit-for-purpose  occupational qualifications and  unit standards as required by the labour  market  for work and  employment purposes.

The QCTO will develop fit-for-purpose  occupational qualifications that will be certificated as National  Occupational Awards  or National  Skills Certificates. The awards will name the relevant occupation that the learner is now competent to practice. The focus  of occupational qualifications will be the development of occupational competence which, in turn, contributes to increased employment rates and  productivity.

The envisaged structure and  functions  of the QCTO reflect a new approach to quality assurance, in which quality assurance permeates all activities  and  is not seen as a separate function. This model  was  developed in response to appeals to bring qualifications development and  quality assurance ‘under one  roof’.

The quality assurance of the learning  process for the QCTO’s qualifications can be visualised as a structure in which the roof is supported by two pillars: design and  development on the one  side,  and  the assessment of occupational competence on the other.  The system is quality managed from the overarching ‘roof’, representing monitoring  and  evaluation through  data  analysis and research. This entire  structure illustrates the quality-assurance model.

QCTO – Quality Council for Trades and Occupations

The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) is a Quality Council established in 2010 in terms of the Skills Development Act. Its role is to oversee the design, implementation, assessment and certification of occupational qualifications on the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF).

The QCTO is one of three Quality Councils (QCs) responsible for a part of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). Collectively, the Quality Councils and the South African Qualifications Authority (whose role is to advance the objectives of the NQF and oversee its development and implementation), all work for the good of both learners and employers. Another important role for the QCTO is to offer guidance to service providers who must be accredited by the QCTO to offer occupational qualifications.

Following the format of the organizing framework for Occupations (QFO), occupational qualifications are categorised into the eight major employment groups.

  • Managers;
  • Professionals;
  • Technicians and Associate Professionals;
  • Clerical Support Workers;
  • Service and Sales Workers;
  • Skilled agriculture, forestry, fisheries, craft and related trades
  • Plant and Machine Operators and Assemblers; and
  • Elementary Occupations.

Our vision is to qualify a skilled and capable workforce; our mission is to effectively and efficiently manage the occupational qualifications sub-framework in order to set standards, develop and quality assure national occupational qualifications for all who want a trade or occupation and, where appropriate, professions.

QCTO accreditation of assessment centres

Summative assessment A component of the assessment process and refers to the culmination of the summative process when learners are subjected to a final sitting at the end of the learning cycle for an integrated externally conducted assessment.
Verification The process managed by the relevant AQP for externally checking moderation processes and confirming or overturning moderation findings.

1. Preamble

The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) was established in 2010 in terms of section 26G the Skills Development Act of 1998 as a juristic person. It was listed as a public entity in Government Gazette No 33900 of 31 December 2010 effective from 1 April
2010 to establish the sub-Framework for Trades and Occupations. The QCTO is responsible for the development, maintenance and quality assurance of qualifications within its sub-
The QCTO focuses quality assurance of the provision of assessment on the final external integrated summative assessment. The external integrated summative assessment of all QCTO qualifications will be conducted in accredited assessment centres or approved assessment sites to ensure that the required facilities and processes are in place to conduct standardised assessments for determining the required occupational competence to be awarded the qualification.

2. Objectives and criteria for assessment

This policy outlines the criteria applied by the QCTO for the accreditation of assessment centres. It provides guidelines for bodies wishing to apply for accreditation as assessment centres. Accreditation describes the process followed by the QCTO to determine if a body meets the QCTO’s minimum specified criteria and has the capacity to conduct secure, reliable and objective external summative assessments.

3. Legislative and regulatory framework

In terms of the Skills Development Act, 1998 (Act 97 of 1998) the QCTO will accredit assessment centres, including trade test centres to conduct the external summative assessment for specified occupational qualifications, part qualifications or trades recorded on the NLRD but without an associated occupational qualification.
This policy and criteria is based on the QCTO Policy on Delegation of Qualification Assessment to Assessment Quality Partners (AQPs) and the Assessment Policy for Qualifications and Part Qualifications on the OQSF.

4. Audience and applicability

This policy applies to assessment centres seeking accreditation to assess occupational qualifications, part qualifications and trades recorded on the NLRD but without associated occupational qualifications. Assessment centres may include accredited trade test centres, workplaces, providers, education and training institutions (e.g. FET Colleges or Universities of Technology) or professional bodies. These bodies should have the required facilities and meet the requirements specified by the relevant AQP for the related occupational qualification or part qualification.
Bodies seeking accreditation as an assessment centre must apply to the relevant QCTO appointed AQP responsible for recommending the accreditation of assessment centres to the QCTO.

5. Responsibilities of an assessment centre

An assessment centre must:
a) assess the occupational qualification or part qualification in accordance with the standards set by the delegated AQP;
b) comply with the QCTO and AQP assessment policies and procedures;
c) conduct integrated external summative assessments in accordance with the AQP
d) adhere to standards set by the AQP in order to maintain accreditation;
e) enter into a formal agreement with the relevant AQP;
f) if also a training provider, provide an assessment area separate from the training area;
g) only allow candidates registered for assessment and assessment practitioners
conducting the assessment into the assessment area;
h) ensure that candidates are not assessed or moderated by the facilitator responsible for their training; and
i) have appropriately qualified human resources to conduct assessments as specified by the AQP.

6. Responsibilities of the AQP

6.1 The relevant AQP will recommend to the QCTO, in the form and manner required by the QCTO:
a) the accreditation of assessment centres for all occupational qualifications and
part qualifications that require the use of assessment centres for conducting external summative assessments; and
b) the de-accreditation of accredited assessment centres where required.
6.2 In respect of each occupational qualification or part qualification falling within its scope, and requiring the accreditation of an assessment centre an AQP will:
a) ensure standardisation of the external integrated summative assessment through the development of nationally standardised assessment instruments;
b) determine criteria for accreditation of assessment centres to be able to conduct the external integrated summative assessment;
c) conduct external moderation to ensure that the external integrated summative assessment is conducted in an appropriate manner; and
d) make recommendations to QCTO for the issuing of certificates.
6.3 In respect of an assessment centre accredited to assess competence against an occupational qualification or part qualification, an AQP will:
a) provide criteria, guidelines and procedures for registration for assessment;
b) provide criteria and guidelines on security processes required to curb irregularities during the assessment process;
c) provide criteria and guidelines for capturing learner achievements according to
the QCTO’s MIS requirements;
d) monitor the performance of the accredited assessment centres;

e) ensure that candidates are not assessed or moderated by the facilitator responsible for their training; and
f) report to the QCTO on the assessment centre’s performance in the form and
manner required by the QCTO.
6.4 In the event of de-accreditation of an assessment centre the AQP must arrange an alternative assessment centre for candidates already enrolled for assessment.
6.5 In terms of section 26A of the Skills Development Act, the NAMB will recommend to the QCTO the accreditation of trade test centres.
6.6 Trade test centres currently accredited by the SETAs will be deemed accredited by the NAMB for trades recorded on the NLRD for a period of 3 years from the publication date of the Trade Test Regulations during which a recommendation to be accredited by the QCTO must be submitted by NAMB.

7. Responsibilities of the QCTO

7.1. The QCTO must consider recommendations from AQPs for assessment centre accreditation.
7.2. The QCTO will evaluate and may verify the information on the AQP recommendations for the accreditation of an assessment centre.
7.3. The QCTO will make a decision as to whether to accredit the recommended assessment centre within 30 working days of receiving the recommendation.
7.4. The QCTO must notify the AQP of its decision in writing and may refer the recommendation back to the AQP for outstanding information or additional information to be provided.
7.5. If the QCTO grants accreditation of an assessment centre, it will publish it on its official website the following information –
a) the relevant details of the accredited assessment centre; and
b) the occupational qualifications the assessment centre is accredited to assess.
7.6. If accreditation is withdrawn, the QCTO must inform the AQP and assessment centre
and remove the assessment centre’s details from its official website.

8. Criteria for the accreditation of assessment centres

8.1 The QCTO will accredit an entity as an assessment centre for a specified occupational qualification or part qualification if recommended by an AQP and if that entity satisfies the criteria listed below.
The entity must:
a) be a juristic person registered or established in terms of South African law;
b) have a valid tax clearance certificate issued by the South African Revenue Service if applicable;
c) have a suitable and compliant MIS in accordance with QCTO specifications;
d) be safe, secure and accessible to candidates;
e) meet the relevant standards for occupational health and safety;
f) have the required physical resources (e.g. venue; equipment, machinery or protective clothing), specified by the AQP to assess learners’ competence regarding the occupational qualification or part qualification;
g) have appropriately qualified human resources as specified by the AQP; and
h) make provision for any other requirements specified for the relevant trade, occupational qualification or part qualification.

NOTE: Although the QCTO accredits assessment centres and sites, the accredited assessment centre or site remains responsible and accountable for ensuring the safety of the centre staff, students and visitors. The QCTO will not be liable for any loss, damage, expense, costs, delays or other liability whatsoever that the assessment centre or site may incur during its operations.

9. Duration of accreditation

9.1 The accreditation of an assessment centre to conduct assessments for the specific occupational qualification or part qualification is valid:
a) for a period of 5 years from the date the QCTO grants accreditation; or b) until de-registration of the qualification; or
c) until de-accreditation is recommended by the AQP.
9.2 Trade test centres currently accredited by the SETAs will be deemed accredited by the NAMB for trades recorded on the NLRD for a period of 3 years from the publication date of the Trade Test Regulations during which a recommendation to be accredited by the QCTO must be submitted by NAMB.

10. Applying for accreditation

10.1 An application for accreditation must be made to the relevant AQP in accordance with the criteria and guidelines of the AQP.
10.2 A centre that applies for accreditation to conduct the external integrated summative assessment for a specified occupational qualification or part qualification must provide evidence of:
a) the required physical resources (e.g. venue; equipment, machinery or protective clothing), specified by the AQP to assess learners’ competence with regard to the relevant occupational qualification or part qualification;
b) the required technical expertise (qualified personnel) to conduct the integrated external assessment for the relevant occupational qualification or part
c) compliance with the quality assurance requirements needed to conduct that particular assessment; and
d) systems to handle complaints and appeals.

11. Amendments to the scope of accreditation

11.1 An accredited assessment centre may increase its scope by applying to one or more AQPs for conducting integrated external summative assessments for additional occupational qualifications or part qualifications.
11.2 The AQP will recommend the amendment of scope to the QCTO.
11.3 The QCTO may amend the scope, if:
a) the AQP recommends the assessment centre to conduct assessment for one or more additional occupational qualifications. In such a case the generic requirements will be deemed to be met, and the extension of scope application will be restricted to the additional curriculum components; and
b) the QCTO determines that an accredited assessment centre no longer has the capacity to conduct the external summative assessments for
which it has been accredited.
11.4 In all cases of an amendment to scope, the QCTO will inform the AQP and fulfil all its responsibilities as detailed in Section 7 above.

12 Withdrawal of accreditation

12.1 The QCTO, may on reasonable grounds, withdraw on recommendation from the relevant AQP the accreditation of an assessment centre in respect of all or a specific occupational qualification or part qualification which it is accredited to assess. Reasonable grounds include, but are not limited to:
a) inability to meet the accreditation criteria;
b) assessment irregularities;
c) failure or refusal to fulfil accreditation responsibilities;
d) failure or refusal to comply with the relevant QCTO policies and procedures; and e) failure to comply with the relevant AQP requirements including but not limited to:
i) poor record keeping and reporting on assessments;
ii) poor internal moderation; and
iii) ineffective reporting to the AQP.
12.2 The assessment centre may appeal the de-accreditation recommendation to the
QCTO at a cost determined by the QCTO.
12.3 If de-accreditation is appealed, the QCTO will convene an appeals committee to consider any representations received, and will notify the AQP and assessment centre of its appeal decision in writing.

13 Irregularities

13.1 The assessment centre must address irregularities relating to the integrated external summative assessment which include, but are not limited to:
a) a candidate cheating, copying or accessing assessment instruments in advance;
b) a candidate bribing, blackmailing, threatening or harassing an assessor or others involved in the assessment process; and
c) any party that falsifies documents or evidence for access before or during an assessment.
13.2 The AQP must address irregularities relating to the integrated external summative assessment which include, but are not limited to:
a) an assessment centre staff member approved by the AQP not declaring a conflict of interest, such as, but not limited to a family or business relationship with a learner;
b) an assessment centre staff member approved by the AQP taking bribes or responding to threats, etc. in such a manner that advantages one learner over

c) an assessment centre staff member approved by the AQP demonstrating bias (e.g. in relation to race, class, gender, educational background, ethnicity or religion) that unduly influences assessment or moderation decisions; or
d) an assessment centre staff member approved by the AQP not making appropriate arrangements for learners with disabilities or language
disadvantages (unless the assessment in question is assessing the language in

14 Complaints and appeals

14.1 Complaints and appeals against irregularities under 13.1 must be referred to the relevant AQP.
14.2 Complaints and appeals and appeals against irregularities under 13.2 must be referred to the QCTO.

15 Quality assurance and monitoring of policy implementation

15.1 The delegated AQP will monitor the performance of accredited assessment centres.
15.2 The QCTO will monitor the performance of the AQP in terms of this policy.
15.2.1 The QCTO will review this Policy on Accreditation of Assessment Centres at least every three years.


QCTO Policy on qualification development facilitators


1.1 The purpose of this policy is to outline the functions of and requirements for
Qualification Development Facilitators.
1.2 This policy shall apply to those aspiring to register as Qualification Development
Facilitators (QDFs) as well as to those already registered as QDFs.


2.1 This policy formalizes the work of Qualification Development Facilitators (QDFs)
and aligns it to the overall objectives and other policies of the QCTO.
2.2 This policy aims to ensure that through the QDFs role quality qualifications are designed.


3.1 QDFs and learner QDFs must commit to honouring the principles to which the
QCTO itself is committed as listed below: (a) Innovation and excellence;
(b) Empowerment and recognition; (c) Respect and dignity;
(d) Ethics and integrity;
(e) Ownership and accountability; (f ) Authenticity;
3.2 QDFs and learner QDFs must signal this commitment by signing a Code of
Conduct, attached to as Annexure A.
3.3 The enhancement of equity is a fundamental principle of the QCTO and will be actively promoted.


4.1 The Policy on QDFs is developed and guided by the following: (a) National Qualifications Framework Act (Act 67 of 2008);
(b) Skills Development Act (Act 97 of 1998 as amended in 2008);
(c) The sub framework for Trades and Occupations, (once approved by the
Minister of Higher Education and Training);

(d) The QCTO Curriculum and Assessment Policy;
(e) The QCTO Policy on Delegation of Qualifications Design and Assessment to
DQPs and AQPs;
5.1 The Qualification Development Facilitator (QDF ) may in accordance with QCTO
(a) Facilitate the process of obtaining an agreement on the occupational qualification scope.
5.2 The Qualification Development Facilitator (QDF ) must in accordance with QCTO
(a) Facilitate the development of occupational qualifications using QCTO qualification development processes leading to the development of an occupational profile; knowledge, practical and work experience curricula and assessment specifications ;
(b) Conduct occupationally relevant research to enhance the quality of the occupational qualification developed;
(c) Capture inputs developed under (a) onto the prescribed QCTO qualifications development IT system;
(d) Deliver, in the QCTO format, the following four documents per occupational qualification to the DQP:
i. Qualification document;
ii. Curriculum document;
iii. Assessment specifications document;
iv. Process report;
(e) Train and mentor learner Qualification Development Facilitator/s on the occupational qualification development process, if assigned to by the QCTO through an SLA with the DQP.


6.1 The criteria for evaluation of applications to register as Qualification Development
Facilitator are :
(a) An applicant must have participated as a learner Qualification Development
Facilitator appointed through the SLA process;
(b) An applicant must have successfully completed QCTO’s training for
Qualification Development Facilitators;
(c) An applicant as a learner QDF must have developed all documents as stipulated under 5.2(d) and the said documents must have been accepted by QCTO as meeting the required standards;
(d) An applicant learner QDF must have a recommendation for registration from the mentor QDF.


7.1 A person applying to be registered as a Qualification Development Facilitator
must submit a completed application form (Attached hereto as Annexure B) to the
7.2 Upon receipt of all required documentation specified in the registration criteria, the QCTO will evaluate the application:
7.2.1 If approved, the applicant will proceed to registration.
7.2.2 If not approved, the QCTO must provide reasons for its decision in writing.
7.3 Where a candidate is not approved , they may:
7.3.1 re-apply once they have facilitated a further qualification development process as a learner.
7.3.2 appeal to the QCTO Appeals Committee if they believe the evaluation was not fair.


8.1 Qualification Development Facilitators approved by the QCTO must sign the QCTO Code of Conduct attached hereto as Annexure A.

8.2 The QCTO will register approved Qualification Development Facilitators onto the
QCTO database on receipt of a signed code of conduct.
8.3 Registered QDFs will be required to remain up to date with changes to the QCTO
facilitation model effected over time.


9.1 The QCTO may charge fees for :
(a) registration of qualifications development facilitators;
(b) any other fees as the QCTO, after consultation, determines.


10.1 The QCTO may terminate the registration of a Qualification Development
Facilitator (QDF) on reasonable grounds including on the grounds that a QDF: (a) has breached the Code of Conduct;
(b) has failed to adhere to QCTO quality standards despite remedial intervention.


11.1 In the event of a dispute arising out of this policy, the parties must endeavor to negotiate in good faith with a view to settling the dispute amicably.
11.2 If the negotiations fail, the dispute must be referred to the QCTO Appeals
Committee for resolution.
11.3 The QCTO Appeals Committee may determine any additional procedure needed to adjudicate the dispute in a fair manner and communicate these procedures to the parties.
11.4 The decision arrived at as a result of QCTO Appeals Committee determination is final.


12.1 The QCTO reserves the right to waive certain conditions during the transitional period to enable implementation of this policy.

Annexure A


We, the undersigned, hereby commit ourselves to abide by the QCTO’s Code of Conduct in relation to all our work. The Code of Conduct to which we agree is as follows:
1.1 promoting the objectives of the NQF
1.2 dealing fairly, professionally and equitably with stakeholders whilst accelerating the redress of past unfair discrimination.
1.3 consulting with all relevant stakeholders that have an interest in the development and assessment of occupational qualifications and sharing of best practice.
1.4 executing our responsibilities and accountabilities timeously and with due regard to the accountability to our constituents that we are committed to serve.
1.5 seeking at all times to create a positive environment for the development and assessment process and respect the historical diversity of learners’ cultural, linguistic and educational backgrounds.
1.6 declaring conflict of interest that infringe on the execution of our delegated responsibilities.
1.7 recusing ourselves from any decision-making process which may result in improper personal gain that will impact negatively on the values cherished by the QCTO.
1.8 recognising the public’s rights of access to information, excluding information that is specifically protected by the law.
1.9 acting in a manner that will respect, promote and protect the goodwill and reputation of occupational qualification family.

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