Ornate cornice with a repeating pattern

The final Unit

Last week I trained a 3rd student, he was making up a unit missed. He had problems during his apprenticeship. Issues with confidence mainly, brought about by continual failure in a learning environment. School, an RTO and at tafeSA too.


During an initial session discussion it became obvious that many parts of the practical project had threatened the student and this presented itself in several ways.

His reactions included:

  • Reluctance to start work
  • Avoidance of commitment to act on certain tasks
  • Continual sitting staring into his mobile phone
  • Early requests for Smoko and lunch breaks
  • Late arrival back from breaks
  • Tendencies to throwing materials around his small work bay
  • Turning away during discussion
  • Avoidance of direct eye contract
  • Explaining that he can do it all
  • Why do I need to do this anyway

Anger in training

Many times during training of apprentices I have seen it rear it ugly head, snarl at the world and at me, though I have never felt threatened by it. May be I have just been lucky. That type of reaction demonstrated the power held by learning environments. Environments that seemed in many cases in pre and trade training to skip over the basics in a race towards the more interesting, exciting, academically or socially accepted goals of Completion/Competency.

The Setting

Showing the continuing pattern on an ornate cornice

The pattern continues along the length of the cornice

tafeSA workshop floor in a wooden framed work bay approximately 2400 x 1500 with ceiling joists, a doorway and window opening. The unit was “Match & Mitre ornate cornice.”

The Task

The student had to install some basic plasterboard on walls and ceiling, build a very simple division between to section of the ceiling and measure, mitre and install ornate cornice. The cornice comes with two patterns one repeating and one continuous.

Both cornices needed to be mitred with REM (return end mitres) at each end. The difficulty is to cut the mitres to either Mirror or Match the patterns. Stop up the mitres and clean up the installation to an industry standard. For a third year apprentice this is required to complete the training and while there is thinking and problem solving to successfully complete.

Mitres cut to Mirror the pattern

Ornate Cornice cut and installed to Mirror the pattern

The Student

A worker in the industry installing plasterboard wall and ceiling linings, suspended ceilings, cornice, steel framing and many other building activities. (We don’t just lift and install heavy flat things onto walls and ceilings)

After three years of training this task completes his training should not represent this much of an issue or challenge, but it was.

Starting his training with another RTO and then being transferred to us put him at a disadvantage as the basics had been skimmed over in his case and though he is confident in installing sheets, metal trims and flushing, his problem solving and confidence skills were low to fair.

It is thinking and confidence that have him stumped. If you can do something but don’t know why you are doing it, it is usually easy to go about your daily business. However when you are presented with a problem/issue/challenge outside your comfort zone you need to know why things are done the way they are, to solve the problem and complete the task.

This is where the process fell done here.

The Reaction

From the list above you can see they were numerous and varied but not rare and seemingly on the increase.

The Advice

During discussions it became obvious to me that the reason for the unit, the tasks, assessment and competency had not been clearly passed on to the student in the previous session, before commencement of the project and assessment.


  1. Explained what a competent tradesperson would do and how long it would take them. (A picture of competence)
  2. A clear view as to what is expected from the project (picture of competence)
  3. Assurance that in this environment it was OK to make mistakes as they are what teaches us the most and the quickest. (The student is not penalised for mistakes but supported to rectify defects)
  4. Explanation of Assessment criteria, methods and outcomes.
  5. Demonstration of each cutting technique without pressure and offering guidance not interference and allowance of errors to embed the process into the skills of the students.

The Result

While needing practice which is the basis of all trade training the student visually changed in stature, appearance, attitude and confidence. Almost immediately…

The project was competed, the end product was above the students expectation and in the reflection session the reasons why things are done became more important to him. Combined with the realisation that he had now completed his training and was all but for paperwork a qualified tradesman lifted his confidence and hopefully increase his appreciation of basic fundamentals, clear Aims, Objectives and Assessment Outcomes has on a tradespersons future outlook.


Confidence and guild knowledge are the keys to being a competent tradesperson. The confidence to have a go, the confidence that you can use your knowledge to find the answers and solve the problems that come along when building anything and the confidence to try new things, be interested in your career and learn. This can turn an otherwise ordinary job into a satisfying career.


Assessment for Learning principles are a foundation for good learning and assessment and are ideal for Action Learning projects and training. I still find that the CBA project as it was called then 2010, now BCA impacts on my everyday work as a trainer, mentor and assessor at tafeSA. I thanks Judy Forbes and all the team at CBA for that…Cheers

About wallandceiling

I currently design, create and administer over 180 Moodle online courses as part of a project in tafeSA with the BJIT Business Services Team. This project has highlighted a need for training in Moodle and how to implement and maintain courses online. I have been a lecturer in Wall & Ceiling Lining (Drywall for Americans) in Adelaide South Australia involved in the CPSISC validation of the CPC08 National Training packages and the CBA Program to build capacity in assessment through the use of Action Learning and Assessment for Learning principles.
This entry was posted in CB-A, CB-A Project, tafeSA, Training, Wall & Ceiling Lining and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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