What are achievement paths?
  • 11 Sep 2023
  • 6 minutes to read

What are achievement paths?

Article summary

When using Totara Perform you can set achievement paths for each of your competency items. A list of all available achievement paths can be found in this documentation. 

This page sets out some of the key things you will need to understand to fully utilise achievement paths when using Totara Perform. 

Example of competency screen.

Overall ratings

Once you have added one or more achievement paths you can set the Overall rating calculation at the top of the page. This setting decides how to calculate if a user has achieved a competency:

  • Highest: This will take whichever achievement has the highest value.
  • Prioritised: If a manual rating is listed at the top of the achievement path list, ratings submitted by a user will overwrite any rating achieved by completing other criteria-based achievement paths (such as course completion) even if the criteria-based paths provided a higher rating. If multiple manual paths are added, the option listed first at the top of the achievement path list will override any other manual paths entered for this competency.
  • Latest achievement: This will take the most recent achievement value.

Calculation of competency achievement

The calculation of competency achievement and proficiency is managed as a scheduled task. Any changes made to achievements will be reflected in the user's competency and competency profile when the scheduled task has run.

Users may be confused if they manually edit their competency but do not see the change reflected immediately in their competency profile. To overcome this, a banner is presented to the user informing them that their competency will be updated soon.

If a user has had their competency achievement edited and thus a scheduled task is waiting, a warning message will appear on the following pages:


The achievement paths specified for a competency determine the rating an assigned user achieves. This rating in turn determines whether the user is deemed proficient or not. 

The calculation of an assigned user's rating is done by the \totara_competency\task\competency_aggregation_queue scheduled task. Whenever something changes that may affect a user's competency rating (e.g. the user completing a course), the user is marked for reaggregation in all possible affected competencies (in our example these are all the competencies with achievement paths relying on completion of the relevant course). On the next cron run, the \totara_competency\task\competency_aggregation_queue task evaluates the user's achievement in all criteria of the competency and then reaggregates the user's competency rating by applying the selected Overall rating calculation method.

By default the \totara_competency\task\competency_aggregation_queue task is set to run on each cron run. Changing this to run less frequently may result in longer delays between a user satisfying the achievement path criteria and receiving the appropriate rating for relevant competencies.

Invalid pathways

If achievement paths are not set up correctly (or have changed since they were originally set up) and this has caused an achievement path to be invalid then then you will see a warning message. There are a number of reasons a path might be flagged as invalid, these include:

  • A course that no longer exists is marked as 'required' for completion
  • Child competency completion is required but the competency doesn't have any child competencies
  • Linked course completion is required but no courses are linked to the competency

You will need to check and rectify these if you do have problems before the achievement pathway can become valid again.

If anything inside a pathway is in an invalid state, only the invalid pathway is ignored. Aggregation on other pathways, and overall aggregation will continue.

To improve the visibility of invalid achievement pathway errors to Site Administrators there is now a warning or banner in the following places:

  • The Competency frameworks page
  • The competency framework details page
  • The competency page
  • The competency assignment index
  • The Create assignments page

Achievement path examples

In this section you can see some common patterns in competency achievement, and how to enable them by configuring achievement paths.

The employee must be observed demonstrating the skill by a designated assessor

Create a manual achievement path, and select the appropriate assessor (manager or appraiser). If the user has multiple managers or appraisers (via multiple jobs) all users filling this relationship will be able to rate the user's competence. If multiple users fill the same relationship, they will be able to override each other's ratings.

Where manager and appraiser are interchangeable in terms of acting as rater, they can be placed in the same achievement path – a rating by either will be recorded as a separate rating event, but only the most recent rating will be taken into consideration for calculating the assignee's overall achievement value.

Where one assessor's rating carries more weight (e.g. because of seniority or experience), create separate manual pathways for each, set Overall aggregation to Prioritised and ensure the higher-weighted assessor pathway is first. Only in the absence of a rating from the higher-weighted assessor will a rating from the other be taken into account for calculating the assignee's overall achievement value.

Where it is intended that the assignee's achievement level reflects the highest of any ratings they receive, separate manual pathways (one for each rating relationship) should be created (order doesn't matter), with the overall aggregation set to Highest.

Self-assessment in conjunction with another assessor

While self-assessment alone is not usually sufficient for demonstrating competence, it is often useful to combine with other assessors' ratings, for example where you are trying to get a sense of an employee's self-knowledge/awareness, or are interested in the discrepancy between self-appraisal and others' appraisal of skill. Typically the intention is to record the employee's self-assessment, but have the manager or appraiser's rating determine their actual achievement value. To do so, create two separate manual achievement pathways, with prioritised aggregation, and have 'self' set below the other raters.

Competency domains

Where a competency framework consists of a multi-level hierarchy, the higher levels may behave more like categories or groupings of the lower-level ones. In such a case, you may want to indicate an employee has achieved proficiency in a specific domain or area. The parent competency represents this, while its child competencies are achieved through manual or scale-based criteria. The parent competency achievement criteria can then be proficiency in some or all child competencies.

Duplicated competencies

It may be that one or more competencies are created (either in the same or different frameworks) that are very similar, but for reporting or management purposes, it is necessary to distinguish them. When an employee has been assigned one, and then moves to a different job resulting in assignment of the other, Proficiency in other competency can be used as a criterion to acknowledge that they had already achieved the competency in their previous role.

Learn and then demonstrate

Competency in a skill is sometimes a combination of formal learning and practical experience. In this case, courses associated with specific scale values may be used in combination with manual rating – a manual rater will check that the coursework has been completed before providing a manual rating. A prioritised aggregation, with the manual pathway set above the scale-based one, will ensure that the manual rating determines the employee's overall achievement (i.e. if they are deemed not yet proficient by the rater, they could have a lower overall achievement than the scale value associated with the coursework they have completed.

Alternatively, to ensure that they only receive the appropriate rating once corroborated by a manual assessment, their initial value should be manually rated as No rating.

Ladder of learning

You may want to increasing proficiency through formal learning, with relevant learning tied to each level of a competency. If there is a series of courses an employee should complete to gradually increase their proficiency, coursework can be set at each level of a scale.

Simple course/competency relationship

Set one or more course completions as criteria on the proficient value.

Expiring competency

To achieve the effect of a competency achievement expiring, set the aggregation to Prioritised and ensure that a manual rating pathway is first – the rater will be able to set the competency to No rating, which will then become the employee's overall achievement value, until another manual rating occurs.

Next steps

The Totara Academy has a whole course dedicated to using Competencies in Totara. Here you can learn more on how to use competencies, see best practice, and give it a go yourself.

© Copyright 2024 Totara Learning Solutions. All rights reserved.

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