IPMA International Project Management Association
4 June 2018 / 8:41

Project-based learning for a changing world of work – Part 4

Written by Dr. Jesus Martinez-Almela and Reinhard Wagner

Training and assessment offerings of professional organizations – with special focus on IPMA

Training and educational assessment is the systematic process of documenting and using empirical data on the knowledge, skill, attitudes, and beliefs to refine programmes and improve student learning. Assessment data can be obtained from directly examining student work to assess the achievement of learning outcomes or can be based on data from which one can make inferences about learning. Assessment is often used interchangeably with test, but is not limited to test. Assessment can focus on the individual learner, the learning community (class, workshop, or other organized group of learners), a course, an academic programme, the institution, or the educational system as a whole.

As a continuous process, training assessment establishes measurable and clear student learning outcomes for learning, provisioning a sufficient amount of learning opportunities to achieve these outcomes, implementing a systematic way of gathering, analyzing and interpreting evidence to determine how well student learning matches expectations, and using the collected information to inform improvement in student learning. The final purpose of assessment practices in education depends on the theoretical framework of practitioners and researchers, their assumptions and beliefs about the nature of human mind, the origin of knowledge, and the process of learning (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia_2018).

Training assessment is often divided into initial, formative, and summative categories for the purpose of considering different objectives for assessment practices. Summative and formative assessments are often referred to in a learning context as assessment of learning and assessment for learning respectively. Performance-based assessment is similar to summative assessment, as it focuses on achievement. Assessment (either summative or formative) is often categorized as either objective or subjective. Internal assessment is set and marked by the trainers and/or training organizations. Students get the mark and feedback regarding the assessment. External assessment is set by an external body different from educator/trainer, and is marked by non-biased personnel as well.

Training assessment must be referenced with quality standards that are considered to have a high level of reliability and validity. Reliability relates to the consistency of an assessment. Validity assessment is one that measures what it is intended to measure. Trainers frequently complain that some examinations do not properly assess the syllabus upon which the examination is based. A good assessment has both validity and reliability, plus the other quality attributes for a specific context and purpose.

Offers of specific training courses have been increasing in recent years, both in curricular content and accreditation systems. There are different offers depending on each organization and its references frames as well as their educational and training goals and target audiences. The Teaching and Learning Ecosystem also varies depending on whether it is oriented to individuals or organizations, if the objective is to achieve a certain certification or an improvement of knowledge, skills, abilities or certain degree or competence development and improvement.

There are thousands of Institutions globally offering education and training in the field of project management. To cover them all would be too much for a blogpost, thus only two will be mentioned here:

  • Project Management Institute (PMI®). Training is available in many countries through on-line courses, seminars and webinars, including training offered by Registered Education Providers (REPs). The Institute’s REPs are organizations that PMI have approved to offer training in project management and issue professional development units (PDUs). To earn the REP designation, a provider must meet or exceed rigorous standards for quality and effectiveness as defined by PMI, as well through the PMI Global Accreditation Centre (PMI-GAC). These standards are aligned with accredited project management and related degree programmes at the bachelor’s, postgraduate, and doctorate levels offered within accredited institutions of higher education worldwide. The PMI Educational Foundation  develops, implements and delivers innovative programmes including scholarships, awards and grants, workshops for non-profit and non-governmental agencies as well as project-based educational programs and resources for youth and teachers and other educational resources that help today’s practitioners and prepares tomorrow’s workforce.

The International Project Management Association (IPMA) is the oldest international project management association, registered in Switzerland in 1965. It now comprises 70 national project management associations worldwide, each of which manages its own education and training programmes as well as accreditation systems. These associations include the following two:

The Association for Project Management (APM). This United Kingdom association is the largest of the national associations. The range of qualifications developed by APM, the UK’s chartered body for the project profession, offers a progressive structure for project management career development, from courses offering the ‘fundamentals’ of project management through to ‘management’ and ‘professional’ levels of understanding, requiring more advanced learning and assessment. APM Accreditation is a widely recognised mark of quality for organisations, training providers and academic institutions. It offers assurance for those wanting to access the best project management professional development services available. APM Accredited Providers can deliver many of the professional qualifications exclusively through their public courses and to corporate organisations. The drive to project management professionalism sees a growing need for individuals and organisations not just to achieve a professional qualification, but to develop themselves across the APM FIVE Dimensions of Professionalism, APM Accredited Providers offer customers qualifications that are integrated into a holistic approach to capability development. Academic Accreditation by the chartered body for the project profession assesses programmes or modules to help students and professionals choose the best education in support of their project management careers. Academic Accreditation identifies courses and modules which are aligned to the 6th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge. Working with other accreditation streams, APM can offer clear, visible and joined-up career progression opportunities.

GPM, the German Project Management Association (GPM Deutsche Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement e. V.), the third-largest member association of IPMA, offers a licence system for trainers covering all qualification levels to prepare participants for the respective certification. All training and coaching has to follow certain rules as defined in the licence contracts. All trainers / coaches have to fulfil certain minimum requirements regarding their professional background. All training provided under this system is exclusively advertised by GPM.

  • IPMA Registration System.

Registration System for Educational Courses in Project Management.

IPMA offers through its Member Associations (MAs) the IPMA MA’s National Registration System for Educational Courses in Project Management. The IPMA Registration is valid for specific programmes/courses, but not for the organiser. As part of the registration a description of the organiser is considered. The focus on the education processes intends to represent the interest of the potential participants or their organisations that want support for their selection of appropriate competence improvement opportunities. The Registration System can be applied for shorter training courses, longer education programmes and extensive education programmes. Courses are defined to include up to 60 hours including sessions – as well as self-study and practising if included. Longer programmes include between 60 and 360 hours. Extensive programmes exceed more than 360 hours including sessions, self-study and practising. The target group of the Registration System for Educational Courses in Project Management is also organisations running in-house courses or programmes in project management for own employees. They can also benefit from applying the IPMA Registration Process as a review and learning process. After completion of the process, the relevant registration logotype can be utilised in-house and on the organisations website to indicate the focus on PM.

Registration System for Education and Training Providers based on IPMA ICB Curriculum for Project, Programme and Portfolio Management.

The aim of the IPMA E&T Curriculum for Project Management based on ICB4 is to promote the competence-based education and training in project, programme and portfolio management, aligned to the IPMA standards. The IPMA E&T curriculum represents a set of curriculum components / parts (learning outcomes, learning paths, learning topics, modules, course subjects). These components are defined as interlinked components, by presenting the component’s integration at different educational levels (session, lesson, module, course, programme) and the delivery sequences. As parts of a reference model, the components are designed in the extended form (in regards of types, characteristics, ec), “ready” to be adjust/instantiate, accordingly  to the specific training needs and concrete E&T context. IPMA MA’s at national level manage the Curriculum and E&T Registration for Providers. Being a reference model, the IPMA E&T curriculum is:

Comprehensive:  in the sense that it addresses all PM competences included into the IPMA ICB4 competence model and the entire set of learning outcomes. The curriculum components represent extended collections of items (for example, entire types of programmes/courses/modules are defined). During implementation, a selection of the most adequate items to the given conditions assures the proper components instantiation for building-up the particular curriculum.

Accompanied with a set of guidelines for curriculum adaptation/instantiation. An initial set of guidelines is defined during the IPMA Curriculum development.

The IPMA Education and Training Curriculum characteristics are considered as appropriate for the IPMA Registration for E&T Providers, because they are in line with the actual state-of-the art of the curriculum design domain and they are fit with the IPMA competence orientation, more wider and deeper that ICB4 definitions.

  1. IPMA Curriculum is outcome-based

The learning outcomes are the statements of what the participants is expected to know, understand and able to perform at the end of the programme/ course/ module/ lesson/ session.

  • The learning outcomes are distinctly defined at programmes, courses, modules and sessions/ lessons levels. Learning outcomes of the programmes are broad comparing with the learning outcomes associated to the courses, modules or sessions/lessons (narrow and specific).
  • Alignment to international/ national qualification frameworks and PM professional standards is an important constraint in defining learning outcomes. The learning outcomes included in IPMA curriculum are tightly connected to the description of the competence elements in the IPMA ICB (knowledge and skills).
  1. IPMA curriculum is competence-based

The IPMA E&T curriculum learning outcomes are defined in terms of PM competences which will be developed or enhanced by the programme/course.

  • A competence-based curriculum focuses on the observable behaviours, with higher workplace relevance.
  • The overall competences gained by the participants are more than the sum of the individual learning outcomes, the curriculum structure enhancing this synergetic effect. IPMA model of PM competences, as defined by IPMA ICB, represents the main criterion for structuring the IPMA curriculum.
  • As consequence of competence-based orientation, the IPMA curriculum takes into consideration the complexity progression of cognitive skills, as an additional criterion for structuring the IPMA curriculum.
  1. IPMA curriculum is aligned to the main international qualifications frameworks

The curriculum internationalization is a basis for the learning globalization, leading to an increased degree of learning recognition and professional mobility of the PM professionals.

The international orientation of the IPMA E&T curriculum is assured by adopting the IPMA ICB in the current version and by checking its alignment with the following international standard and international qualification frameworks during the curriculum development: EQF – European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning; QF of the EHEA – Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area, and other similar international frameworks, i.e. Tuning Programme. Figure 1 shows how the IPMA E&T curriculum connects with key international qualification frameworks.

  1. IPMA E&T curriculum is innovative

The IPMA E&T curriculum is defined according to modern approaches on the curriculum theory. The curriculum encourages the adoption of innovative learning and teaching strategies. The learning and teaching strategies which are focusing on the “practical experience” gained through the educational activities are mainly recommended. Considering project management as being a very practical domain, where the experience is one of the most valuable assets of the professionals, the participants at the educational activities should experience mainly on real-life situations (real case studies) and should be actively involved during the sessions (“learning by doing”).

And, the most important, the IPMA curriculum is aligned to the IPMA ICB, which is the most advanced and innovative competence model in project management.

The IPMA E&T Curriculum coverage

The typology of PM Education and Training programmes/ courses (see figure 1) is defined based on the hypothesis that IPMA E&T Curriculum relates to the career path, as it is defined by the IPMA successive levels (Level D, C, B, and A).

For a better alignment of the IPMA E&T curriculum to the international qualification frameworks, a comparative analysis of competence descriptors from IPMA´s ICB, European Qualification Framework (EQF) and Qualification Framework for European Higher Education Area (QF for EHEA) was performed and several similarities/ equivalences were identified also with others Worldwide Frameworks i.e. the Tuning Programme.

Figure 1: Typology of the PM programmes and courses

Also, the IPMA Curriculum covers 4 (four) instructional levels as the basis for E&T providers in four levels:

  1. Sessions/lessons (the lowest level)
  2. Modules (means collections of sessions/lessons)
  3. Courses (means collections of modules)
  4. Programmes (means collections of courses).

There is also a curriculum for Programme Master Degree which applies to universities.

The module typology and the subject content for each of these four categories of modules are considered for IPMA Curriculum for E&T and Registration System for E&T Providers as follows:

  • Core modules (groups of topics which make up the backbone of the respective subject);
  • Specialized modules (list of topics of which participants want to understand to a larger extent). A special specialized module is the transferable skills module; e.g. work, experience/practice, projects, dissertation, business games, etc;
  • Modules on interpersonal skills, such as: module on communication skills;
  • Support (instrumental) modules, such as: mathematics, statistics, information technology (list of topics which complement those included in the core modules).

Finally, the IPMA curriculum content, as an example for the project management domain, describes the following:

  • 15-course subjects, for developing all 28 elements of competence, as described by ICB 4.
  • 124 modules, for defining the courses outline. Each module is fully described by type, associated learning outcomes (at three different levels of Bloom taxonomy) and associated learning topics.
  • 620 learning topics, defined based on the description of the competence elements in ICB4.

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Author of this post

Dr. Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 35 years in the field of project-related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Automotive, Engineering, and Consultancy, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, a leading PM Consultancy in Munich/Germany, he supports executives of industrial clients in transforming their companies towards a project-oriented, adaptive and sustainably successful organization. He has published more than 40 books as well as several hundred articles and blog posts in the field of project management. In more than 20 years of voluntary engagement he served the German Project Management Association (GPM) as well as the IPMA in various roles and was granted for his international commitment with the Honorary Fellowship of IPMA and several of its member associations. He received his doctorate in the field of projectification of society and continues to be active in it through his research and lectures.