Depending on your background, you may not be used to reading complex and hefty documents such as funding contracts and standards. And even if you are used to this style of compliance documentation, it can take some considerable effort to really understand the implications and actions required.
Documents such of these are required as a mechanism for maintaining uniform standards of high quality within RTOs. Some people love them, others call them “necessary evils” but whatever your preference when it comes to reading for compliance, here are some tips to make this reading a little easier:
Determine your reason for reading the document.
Is it the first time you’ve read this sort of document? Are you reading a newly released version of the document? Are you looking for direction on a particular topic? Do you want to develop a working knowledge of the document?
Knowing why you are reading the document will determine your approach:
- If it’s the first time you’ve approached this document, you may need to invest more time getting to understand it’s structure and reading it in more detail.
- If you are reading an updated version of the document, you will need to compare the older version (that you are already familiar with) to the new version. You might scan read them side by side, looking for updates and changes.
- If you are looking for guidance on a particular topic, you might want to use the index or the find function on an electronic version to locate the relevant subject.
Understand the structure of the document.
If this is a document with which you are not familiar or it’s been significantly updated, pre-read or scan read the document to find out:
- What sections make up the document?
- How is the document sorted or arranged?
- Does the document need to be read from start to finish or topically?
- What topics are covered by the document?
- Are there any appendices, user guides, companion volumes or later contract notes/memos/updates?
- What is the weight, scope or significance of the different parts of the documents?
Take an active reading approach
As you are reading, highlight and take notes about aspects of the documents that are particularly relevant to your RTO. This could include matters such as:
- Aspects of the document that you wish to follow up to make sure that your RTO complies with them
- Areas of the document that have highlighted an area of non-compliance for your RTO for immediate rectification planning
- Clauses in the document that you don’t understand and for which you need to seek further clarification
- Best practice descriptions that could inform continuous improvement actions at your RTO
As necessary, re-read sections, seek guidance from the glossary or dictionary and be actively thinking about how what you are reading relates to other requirements, documents and knowledge you already have.
Collaborate with colleagues
It can be helpful to discuss documents and their application within your department or RTO.
You could take a team approach with relevant team members reading sections of a document that are relevant to their specialisation.
- Designate an agreed period of time for each individual to read and analyse their section.
- Make a follow up time for the group to come back together for a professional discussion of the document.
- Each person could highlight key areas of note from their designated section.
- Discuss areas of complexity that need further clarity.
- Form a plan of any follow-up action that is required.
Understand the context of the document
What is the writer (eg ASQA or the State Government Funding Department) trying to achieve with the document, who is the audience for the document, what is the context and intent of the document?
Understanding these concepts will add further meaning to the document. You will be reading both what the document says and understanding what the document does.
Attend briefings about the document
Many government bodies will hold meetings for RTOs when a document is released or when it is updated. These are imperative for those working in VET to attend.
Make sure to relay the information you’ve received to your colleagues at your RTO upon your return and to ask questions in person or using an online portal to follow up on any unclear areas.
Break up your reading
Many documents are lengthy as well as being complex and it’s simply not practical or effective to try and read them in one sitting.
Perhaps you could spend a certain amount of time reading the document each day or week.
Don’t forget to make regular ongoing times to review or read the document in more detail as time progresses to ensure your knowledge stays current.
One of the complex documents, many people in RTOs are reviewing at the moment is the Skills First funding contract for government funding of training in Victoria. Register here to attend out free webinar: Everything You Need to Know About the Skills First Contract.