RPL & Labour Mobility - Definitions

NOTE: These are not official definitions, but their intent is to promote a common understanding.


Assessment - Measures a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and credentials, against the standards they must meet  to get a license or certificate. A candidate can be assessed using examinations, by evaluating their credentials and  prior learning, or by asking them to demonstrate what they can do.

Assessment method(s) - Techniques used to gather different types of evidence. These include

  • Using the evidence from reflective practice , self-appraisal, or self-assessment that a candidate has used to gather evidence from their  own professional experiences  (see individual definitions)
  • assessing a candidate by talking with them using a structured conversation or oral questioning, watching a candidate demonstrate what they know  or simulate a work experience, or having a candidate write an examination
  • looking at portfolios

Assessment, Principles of - A set of principles used for RPL to make sure an assessment is fair, flexibile, reliable, and valid. (see individual definitions)

Assessment process - The series of key steps that a trained assessor follows when working with a candidate.

Assessment tools - A collection of exercises, self-assessment documents, recording tools, resources, and supporting information developed to assess candidates.

Assessor - A person who is trained to use the  assessment methods, tools, and resources and who is responsible for assessing a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and abilities.

Bridging Programs - Programs of study, courses, or activities to give candidates who are trained outside of Canada the  skills and knowledge they need to work or take a post-secondary program  within Canada. A bridging program is an example of an accommodation mechanism that complements the competencies or qualifications earned outside of Canada.

Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) - A trade agreement between Canada’s provinces, territories, and the federal government that aims to reduce and eliminate, to the extent possible, barriers to the free movement of persons, goods, services, and investments within Canada and to establish an open, efficient, and stable domestic market.

Certified worker- A certified worker can show that they are someone who

  • has earned a certificate, licence, or other form of official recognition from a Canadian regulatory authority (see individual definition)
  • is authorized to practice and occupation and, where applicable, use a particular occupational title

Chapter 7 of the CFTA - Chapter 7 is the Labour Mobility chapter of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement. Labour Mobility refers to the ability of certified workers to practice their regulated occupation, throughout Canada, wherever opportunities to work in that occupation exist.

Competencies - Skills, knowledge, abilities, or characteristics of a candidate  that can be measured, that are  needed to do a particular  job. Competencies are described in different  ways

  • as a single item – such as research skills
  • as a combination of skills – such as communication skills, a term which includes subskills a candidate has and may use alone or together depending on the situation. Communication skills include things like speaking, writing, listening, reading,  or working on a computer
  • as a cluster of skills a candidate uses together such as project management
Competency is a term that describes a candidate’s ability to do an activity in a way that meets a certain standard. A standard and a competency can both be described as outcomes.

Competency-based Assessments - Measure skills and expertise by asking a candidate to demonstrate their competencies. Competency-based assessments allow individuals to show what they know and what they can do.

Credentials Assessment - Checking the documents a candidate provides to show their education and using the documents to give the candidate a statement of Canadian equivalency.

Documentation - For RPL purposes, it is evidence that supports a candidate’s claim that they have prior learning. Documentation includes things like  transcripts, certificates, job descriptions, articles,  support letters, and evaluations.

Essential Skills - The skills a person needs for work, learning, and life. They give the foundation for learning all other skills and allow people to move forward with their jobs and adapt to changes in the workplace.

Evaluation - Judging a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and abilities against  a set of criteria, and recording the results.

Evidence - Information that compares a candidate’s competence against the standard. Evidence includes all the documentation that a candidate offers to support their prior learning.   To be useful, evidence  must be valid, authentic, sufficient, and current. There are three types of evidence:

  • Direct evidence - what a candidate can demonstrate by their actions
  • Indirect evidence - what others say or observe about a candidate
  • Self-assessment - what a candidate  discovers about their own skills, knowledge, and experience

Evidence collection - A way to assess a candidate: the candidate finds, creates, or gets from others the documents that will show an assessor their skills, learning, and achievements.

Evidence File - An organized collection of documents that verify a candidate’s  skills, knowledge,  and achievements.

Evidence, Rules of - The rules of evidence that RPL uses to make sure a candidate’s evidence is   valid, sufficient, authentic, and current. (see individual definitions)

Experiential learning (see Learning:  Non-formal)



Fair Registration - The most-important value named in  the Fair Registration Practices Act. The Review Officer is responsible to make sure all regulating bodies follow the Act and to promote fair registration.  These are the components that organizations must use to assess and register candidates under the act

  • Transparent - processes  that are clear and and easy for anyone to follow
  • Objective - standards and criteria that are valid and independent
  • Impartial – decisions that show no bias or prejudice
  • Procedurally Fair - practices that are follow a fair process

Fair Registration Practices Code - The section of the Fair Registration Practices Act that sets out the  general duty for regulating bodies to follow practices that are transparent, objective, impartial, and follow a fair process and the specific duties that allow them to do that.

Fairness -One of the principles of assessment. A fair assessment follows these practices

  • considers the candidate’s needs and who they are as a person
  • adjusts the process to fit the candidate
  • communicates clearly between the assessor and the candidate to make sure the candidate has the information they need, takes part in  the assessment process, and consents to the steps in the process

Flexibility - One of the principles of assessment. A flexible assessment follows these practices

  • considers the candidate’s needs
  • finds a way to recognize a candidate’s competencies no matter how, where, or when they got them
  • uses methods to assess a candidate that consider the context of the application, the candidate, and the candidate’s competency Formal learning (see Learning)

Formative assessment (see Assessment: Formative)

FRPA- Fair Registration Practices Act

Holistic - An approach which uses the whole learning process, and considers the many ways of knowing and understanding that include social, emotional, and cultural.

Informal Learning (see Learning)

Immigration Key Terms - [click here]

Internal Review - A rehearing, reconsideration, review or appeal or other process provided by a regulating body in respect of merits of a registration decision, regardless of the terminology used to describe the process.

Inter-rater reliability - How consistent the results are from those evaluating the same evidence.                

International Qualifications Recognition (IQR)- The work, policies, and practices used to recognize the qualifications of a candidate who is educated outside Canada. The IQR field works with stakeholders who are involved in creating processes and policies to make sure regulating bodies follow the principles and values of quality assurance to assess a candidate for an educational program or work in a trade or profession.



Learning: Formal learning - Learning through programmes of education or training given  by educators and trainers whose credentials are recognized, which leads to diplomas and qualifications that are also formally recognized.

Learning: Informal learning - Learning through experience in life and at work —also called experiential learning. The learner may not realize at the time that their experience has added to their knowledge, skills and competence

Learning: Non-formal learning - Learning that may be recognized with an informal certificate, that a learner takes through informal programs in the workplace, in the community, or through a volunteer organization or continuing education program.

Mentorship - An experienced worker gives ongoing advice and help to someone with less experience in the same  work or field of study

Moderation - Assessors agree on a process for making assessments for a particular occupation or set of learning outcomes.

Non-formal learning (see Learning)

Observation/validation - An assessor watches a candidate do particular tasks that show their ability to work with particular competencies.

Occupation - A set of activities that make up a person’s usual or main work or business, especially as a way to earn a living.

Occupational Standards - The skills, knowledge, and abilities set by a regulatory body that a person needs to work in their occupation  safely and competently.

Observership - A candidate spends part or all of a work day with a competent  tradesperson or professional to observe the tasks they perform and the skills they use to do their job. The candidate does not take part in any of the work.



Pathways to Licensure - A model that gives all the steps for a candidate to take if they are educated outside Canada and want to work in Nova Scotia. The steps start before the candidate leaves their home country and include preparing, getting their qualifications assessed, and registering in their occupation.

Prior Learning - Any learning that a candidate has, including formal education, work and  volunteer experience, and learning from other activities such as informal training, hobbies, travel,  and living in a community life that  gives them skills, knowledge, and abilities

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) - The process of identifying, assessing, and recognizing the skills, knowledge, and abilities that a candidate has gained through work experience, non-formal learning, and  other prior learning. PLAR works with the many competencies a candidate has that are not  part of their formal credentials

Proficiency level - The rank a candidate is given to show how well they perform a skill or where they fit within an area of competency.

Quality Assurance - The guidelines for RPL set out principles and values that make it a good-quality process

  • principles for assessing a candidate:  RPL fairness, reliability, validity, and flexibility
  • values that apply to the evidence a candidate uses to support their application: validity, reliability, authenticity, sufficiency, and currency

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) - Assesses the learning and credentials a candidate brings. There are three assessment programs  

  • Academic and Professional Credential Assessment, which also recognizes  international credentials
  • Credit Transfer, which awards credits or advanced standing in one institution for credits that come from  another institution
  • Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition which assesses and recognizes  non-formal, informal, and formal learning. PLAR can be used for  academic credits  and credits that relate to standards in an occupation or workplace

Reflective practice - Refers to thinking back on particular experiences to answer questions such as these

  • What did I learn?
  • What did I learn about myself during the experience?
  • How have I applied what I learned in this  experience to other experiences that are similar?
  • What evidence can I  use to show what I have learned?

Registration in a Profession - The process a regulatory body uses to accept a candidate’s credentials and give them a title, license, or certificate to practice in a particular jurisdiction. Registration often refers to the final step in the process, which is getting a title, license, or certificate.  For the Fair Registration Practices Act, it refers to all the steps a candidate must take: applying, being assessed, and registering.

Registration Review - The FRPA Review Office evaluates the processes each regulatory body uses to assess candidates who want to register to work with their organization. The purpose of these reviews is to make sure the registration processes are fair and so comply with Nova Scotia Fair Registration Practices Act

Regulatory Authority, Regulatory Body or Regulator - An organization that is given the  authority  by provincial or federal legislation to set or carry out the steps involved in  these processes

  • setting the standards for an  occupation or the requirements for certification
  • assessing the qualifications of workers against  the standards or requirements for certification
  • giving the official recognition that a candidate  meets  the standards or requirements for certification for that occupation

Regulated Occupation - An occupation where a regulatory body, with authority given by government, sets the standards  for candidates to meet to qualify to practice in that occupation or hold a license, certificate or, where applicable, title in it.

Reliability - One of the principles of assessment. It refers to the consistency of the tools an assessor uses and to the ability of assessors to evaluate the same evidence with consistent or similar results – also called inter-rater reliability.

Restricted Licence - A regulatory body recognizes enough of a candidate’s credentials to allow them to practice their profession in a limited way

Review Officer - In Nova Scotia, this  person supports regulators and makes sure they follow  section 13 of the Fair Registration Practices Act, which falls under the Civil Services Act. The Review Officer is responsible to

  • review the practices of regulatory bodies to make sure they  comply with the act
  • inform regulators and other stakeholders about the act
  • submit an annual report to the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education about how the act is being  implementated and how effective it is

Self-appraisal/self-assessment - A process a candidate follows  to measure their own skills, knowledge, and abilities against  particular standards and criteria.

Self-Assessment Tools - Processes or instruments that allow candidates to evaluate their qualifications and competencies by answering direct questions. Using these allows the candidate to assess their chances of finding work,  being accepted into an educational program, or being recognized by a regulatory body.

Sufficiency - A rule that guides the type of evidence a candidate can submit.  Sufficiency deals with the amount of evidence a candidate needs to show that they have the skills, knowledge, and ability they need.

Summative assessment (see Assessment: Summative)

Third Party Assessors - People or organizations other than the regulatory body that play a role in the assessment and registration process.



Validity - One of the principles of assessment. A valid assessment follows these practices

  • the process assesses what it claims to assess
  • the evidence supports what it is intended to demonstrate





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