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The Function of Assessment

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What are the functions, concepts and principles of assessment in learning and development?

The function of assessment is a way to measure a learner’s competence against agreed standards and criteria. The awarding body’s assessment strategy will state which criteria needs to be met to complete the mandatory and optional units and the best method for acquiring the evidence. A range of methods will be used to decide whether a candidate has demonstrated the skills, knowledge and understanding to be competent against the criteria.

The principles an assessor will need to take into account in the assessment process when put into practice will be:

Fair – Activities during assessment should be relevant to the candidate’s needs and reasonable adjustments made so not to disadvantage any person. Reliable – If the assessment was carried out by a different assessor, in a different place, the results would be consistent.

Valid – the assessment is suitable to the qualification being assessed.

Safe and manageable – the assessor must not put unnecessary demands on the candidate or their work colleagues in the place of occupation.

Suitable for the candidate’s needs – Whilst planning, the assessor would need to take into account the candidate’s needs, subject requirements and make consideration to any prior learning, additionally, plan suitable methods to be used. Answer to question 2 (1.3)

What is the role and responsibilities of the assessor?

The Assessor’s role and responsibilities is to work with the candidate in the following ways:

I. To induct the candidate into the award. To perform an initial assessment to identify any additional requirements the candidate might have; explain the qualification; and explain assessor and candidate roles. II. Planning assessments to identify specific activities where the candidate can be assessed to cover a range of units; identify the most appropriate method of evidence gathering; Plan how to meet and assess candidate’s knowledge; take into account current needs and knowledge and by setting and modifying learning targets. III. Undertake a range of assessment activities in accordance with the assessment plan using evidence provided by the candidate. IV. Make assessment decisions and analyse candidate achievement; to judge the evidence presented by the candidate against the performance and knowledge laid out in the units being assessed to ensure the assessor principles remain intact – Fair, Reliable, Valid, Safe and Manageable and Suitable for the candidate’s needs.

V. Record evidence of assessment decisions with achieved qualification criteria clearly identified; make assessment information available to authorised colleagues whilst ensuring procedures are followed to ensure candidate confidentiality and data protections obligations. VI. Provide constructive feedback to the candidate as soon as possible after assessment concerning his or her competence, progress and achievement. VII. Plan when to move forward to the next stage of assessment or when the assessment needs to be revisited; identify any further implications for learning, assessment and progression; confirm achievement. Return to planning stage (I) if necessary. VIII. Maintain legal and good practise requirements; follow policies and procedures, ensure equality and diversity during assessment; evaluate own work endeavours and maintain currency of own expertise. Answer to question 3 (1.4, 3.4, 3.5, 8.1)

Explain the regulations and requirements relevant to assessment in own area of practice.

Before undertaking assessment within passenger transport or logistics sectors, it is necessary to identify the regulatory bodies responsible for enforcement within such highly regulated industries. This is to ensure that both the candidate and the assessor will be operating in a safe and legal environment. The four main regulatory organisations common to both sectors are:

I. The HSE: The Health and Safety Executive
II. V.O.S.A: The Vehicle an Operator Services Agency
III. The Traffic Commissions (part of the DfT)
IV. The DVLA: The Driver & Vehicle Licencing Authority

In order to comply with the regulations, it is vital to be familiar with the minimum requirements set out by the above organisations. For example:

I. Induction to site to ensure compliance of safe working practises. II. The wearing of correct PPE where necessary.
III. Ensuring candidate is competent and qualified to operate equipment or machinery on which they might be assessed. IV. Ensuring that both the candidate and any vehicles involved in the assessment process are correctly licenced and licences carried where necessary. V. Any paperwork appropriate to the vehicle and its load (vehicle operational check sheet/ dangerous goods “instructions in writing”/ passenger manifests etc.) has been completed and is accompanying the vehicle. VI. Both candidate and the assessor are carrying all historical paperwork required under tachograph regulations.

The above list is by no means exhaustive but should be observed as a minimum. The provision of passenger or goods transport is an extremely “fluid” environment both whist on site or indeed out on the road. For this reason constant risk management within the working environment is of crucial importance.

Non-compliance of regulations by either the candidate or the assessor could render both of them liable for huge fines or possible imprisonment depending on the seriousness of the breach. Answer to question 4 (2.1)

Explain the strengths and limitations of at least 4 different assessment methods, making reference to how each method can meet the needs of individual learners.

Direct Observation a very reliable method for the assessment of practical skills. It provides an opportunity to observe the candidate in their natural work environment (with minimal disruption) to acknowledge that the theory they have learnt is being applied. If planned appropriately and used effectively in a holistic approach, many activities can be assessed to cover multiple units and criteria simultaneously.

Questioning as a form of assessment can be used to check for understanding. It could be used to support theory, whilst the candidate is practicing their skills and a major advantage is that they can be revised or modified quickly depending on the situation.

Assessors should be careful when asking closed questions (unless confirming agreement with the candidate) as too many may lead to the candidate becoming unforthcoming with further discussion. Open questions are beneficial as they are more likely to draw out the information from the candidate by way of encouraging a conversation. The same could be said for

Hypothetical and Probing questions although this type of questioning may become confusing for the candidate in complex scenarios.

If open questions prove to be effective, they may lead on to a more structured Learner Discussion whereby a candidate is asked to talk about a situation or subject regarding their work. It allows for a more descriptive, structured conversation to take place in order to gather further evidence. Ideally, the session could be planned in advance to give to candidate time to prepare for the discussion.

Role plays or simulations can be used to recreate a situation that a candidate may find themselves in. The assessor can then evaluate how they would react and handle the situation. Although it may not exactly match a real situation it should replicate a realistic working environment as closely as possible. Many may resist role-play due to risk of embarrassment, nevertheless if used well; the candidate should find it a beneficial experience. Simulation is particularly useful when a situation; might be considered dangerous; at risk of using expensive resources or for reasons of confidentiality.

As long as they prove to be suitable and reliable, using Witness Testimony either verbally or in writing can be an acceptable form of assessment. This can be used to summarise or validate a candidate’s competency at the end of a unit or complete course for instance. A witness would need to be checked for reliability by the assessor as they must be impartial towards the candidates’ performance. It is especially useful in the assessment of a situation which may have occurred over a period of time in which the assessor was not present.

If a candidate has attended a previous training session or achieved an award or certificate in the past this can be used to support their other assessments. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) may make a candidate feel that their past experiences and achievements in this area is of further value. This may however be time consuming for the assessor as they will need to justify the RPL to ensure its validity and reliability. Furthermore not all of it may be relevant to the current criteria they are assessing.

Work Product evidence must never be used by itself; however it can be useful to support other methods of assessment such as direct observation or statements. Anything quantifiable, created or generated within the work environment can be used. The evidence should be left in place but referred to in the assessment record. It is a good indication that the candidate can follow or carry out procedures or to utilise existing systems of work. Answer to question 5 (3.1)

What key factors do you need to consider when planning assessment?

When you have identified the candidate’s job role, the key factors to consider when planning an assessment are:

I. What you are assessing?

Decide which criteria you will be looking to assess.

II. When are you going to assess it?

Choose a time which maximises the opportunity to gather evidence without compromising the company or candidate productivity.

III. Where are you going to assess it?

Choose the best location to gather the most evidence.

IV. How are you going to assess it?

The most efficient approach to evidence gathering is by taking a holistic approach to assessment. Answer to question 6 (3.2)

Explain the benefits of holistic assessment and how you would plan for holistic assessment.

Most professional activities are holistic by nature so it is logical to assess candidates on how well they carry out the whole process rather than the single parts of the task. Holistic assessment addresses the candidate’s whole performance, not just aspects of it. Assessing holistically needs a framework that enables an assessor to appraise the relationship between the parts and the whole.

Planning a Holistic approach to assessment requires the assessor to identify and exploit opportunities which will allow a candidate to demonstrate that they can meet more than one criterion within a given framework within a given observed undertaking.

The benefits of such an approach are; it can validate candidate competency due to the observation of the overall evidence as the candidate executes a task; the contribution to increased assessor productivity due to the potential reduction in overall time spent per candidate. Answer to question 7 (4.1)

Why is it important to involve the learner and others in the assessment process?

It is vital to involve the candidate and others in the assessment process to ensure the most effective outcome from the process. The acknowledgement by all parties as to the candidates’ current levels of knowledge and competence, strengths and weakness, allows for effective planning of the assessment activity to maximise the opportunity to progress.

Candidates need to understand the relevance of the information they may be asked to provide and the purpose of the assessment otherwise they may become confused, resentful or devalued which will only have a negative effect on the process.

Effective involvement will lead to:

I. The candidate having a better and more realistic understanding of their career aims, direction and options. II. Better self-understanding due to the acknowledgement of strengths and weaknesses. III. The candidate feeling more motivated by identifying their own individual needs. IV. Enhanced feelings of responsibility by the candidate by taking responsibility for their own learning. V. The provision of a baseline for the candidate to begin their learning. VI. The clear provision of the objective at the end of the process. Specifically, the value of the qualification to be awarded at the end of the process. Answer to question 8 (4.2)

Give examples of the types of information that should be made available to learners and others involved in the assessment process.

The types of information that should be made available to learners and others involved in the assessment process include:

1. Awarding organisation requirements, including learning outcomes and assessment criteria. 2. Assessment method and plan.
3. Records of assessment and activities carried out by the candidate. 4. Recording of observed work; witness statements; audio-visual media used to record evidence; evidence of prior learning or attainment; written questions; written transcripts of oral questions; any assignments and case studies. 5. Any reasonable adjustments made for the candidate and any special considerations. 6. Assessment decisions and feedback.

7. Any relevant policies relating to the assessor, candidate or venue.
8. Any procedures relating to the candidate.
9. Information relating to any other parties involved in the assessment. Answer to question 9 (4.3)

What are the benefits of reflective practice and CPD?
Reflective practise is an activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, and evaluate it. The ability to reflect or think about what has been done, how it was executed and how it could have been done better or differently. Furthermore it provides the assessor with the opportunity to identify their own specific learning or development needs.

The undertaking of reflective practice and CPD will lead to improvements in your assessment technique arising from the consideration and evaluation given to execution of the assessment task.

Continuing professional development stems from the acknowledgement of the issues raised following the evaluation carried out by reflective practise activity. Maintaining, improving and broadening relevant knowledge and skills will ensure it has a positive impact on own practice and in the long run leads to a positive candidate experience. Answer to question 10 (4.4)

How can assessment arrangements be adapted to meet the needs of individual learners?

Whilst discussing the assessment with the candidate at the planning stage, it would be appropriate to identify any areas in the assessment process that may need to be adapted to meet individual needs of the candidate. This approach is essential if the assessment is going to be considered “fair” both in terms of equality and diversity policy and indeed the Disability Discrimination Act 2005.

Areas which may need to be identified and adapted could include:

I. Areas of confidentiality would require greater use of expert witness testimony as situations may not be observed by the assessor. II. Early identification of candidate learning styles needs to be established in order that the assessment style can be adapted to accommodate them. This could extend to the utilisation of the most effective methods of contact with the candidate e.g. Telephone, face to face, email or SMS. III. If the candidate works shift patterns, the assessor would need to be flexible in order to meet with the candidate at the most appropriate time in order to gather the best evidence. IV. The candidate may experience difficulty in writing or have dyslexia, if this is the case, holistic observation or oral questioning could be used as the main sources of evidence. Furthermore this may present the opportunity to suggest further literacy training should the candidate consider it appropriate. V. It might be a case that the candidate lacks motivation, if this is so, longer or more frequent meetings with the candidate may be appropriate.

Effective planning to ensure the maximum amount of evidence is gathered at each meeting will certainly help to alleviate any boredom from the candidate. The provision of good feedback by other methods of contact (those listed in II above) in between visits may also help. VI. Where the candidate’s environment requires minimal disruption due to workload, the assessor must respect the business needs. If the candidate lacks time to meet or works long hours, holistic observation and oral questioning both become important factors, as does the requirement to be permanently contactable. Effective planning to maximise every opportunity to gather evidence in a busy environment is vital. VII. Acknowledging gaps in knowledge and understanding gives the assessor the opportunity to spend time explaining or instructing. The provision of learning materials may also help expand their knowledge and identify further training if necessary. Answer to question 11 (5.1, 5.2)

Explain how you judge evidence and make assessment decisions, making reference to the criteria and assessment requirements.

Assessment decisions should be made with the following factors in mind.

Evidence should be:

Current: In assessment, currency relates to the age of the evidence presented by a candidate to demonstrate that they are still competent. Competency requires demonstration of current performance, so the evidence collected must be from either the present or within the last six months.

Authentic: To accept evidence as authentic, an assessor must be assured that the evidence presented for assessment is the candidate’s own work.

Sufficient: Sufficiency relates to the quality and quantity of evidence assessed. It requires collection of enough appropriate evidence to ensure that all aspects of competency have been satisfied when measured against the agreed criteria; and that competency can be demonstrated repeatedly over a period of time. The specific evidence requirements in the criterion of each unit of competency, provides advice on sufficiency.

All decisions made must be:

Against the agreed criteria: These are explained in detail and should be addressed as the assessment is made.

Valid: Assessment is valid when the process is sound and assesses what it claims to assess. Validity requires that: (a) assessment against the units of competency must cover the broad range of skills and knowledge that are essential to competent performance; (b) assessment of knowledge and skills must be integrated with their practical application; and (c) judgement of competence must be based on sufficient evidence; (d) the correct assessment method was used to gather evidence.

Reliable: Reliability refers to the degree to which evidence presented for assessment is consistently interpreted and results in consistent assessment outcomes. Reliability requires the assessor to have the required competencies in assessment and relevant vocational competencies (or to assess in conjunction with someone who has the vocational competencies). It can only be achieved when assessors share a common interpretation of the assessment requirements of the unit(s) being assessed.

Fair: Fairness in assessment requires consideration of the individual candidate’s needs and characteristics, and any reasonable adjustments that need to be applied to take account of them. It requires clear communication between the assessor and the candidate to ensure that the candidate is fully informed about, understands and is able to participate in the assessment process, and agrees that the process is appropriate. It also includes an opportunity for the person being assessed to challenge the result of the assessment and to be reassessed if necessary. Answer to question 12 (6.1, 6.2)

Explain the procedures for and importance of quality assurance and standardisation.

The on-going monitoring of quality assurance within the assessment process if vital if uniformity of assessment is to be maintained and the overall quality remains consistent. It is monitored through the process of internal and external verification.

As the name suggests internal verification is carried out internally by observation of the assessor; interviews with the candidate; examination of the candidates’ portfolio and standardisation.

External verification takes place over 2 visits per year. At each visit, the role of the EV is to ensure that the assessment provided is to the same standard across different centres. At the visit, the EV may wish to take sample portfolios or discuss evidence with candidates or the assessors; to check any assessments made and to check IV decisions. The sample files will be requested in advance and will represent a selection of files from a selection of assessors. The EV will also check that procedures are being followed and will check certificates and centre documentation in valid and up to date.

Each assessor has a role to play in the control of QA by:
I. Making sure your assessment records are accurate and up to date, and can be followed by an audit. II. Attend standardisation meetings or contribute to the standardisation process so your assessment decisions are always in line with your colleagues. III. Follow your centre’s procedures for quality assurance. IV. Give timely and accurate information on your assessments. V. Follow internal procedures and QCF and awarding body guidelines. VI. Get involved with EV visits

Standardisation is when all assessors are likely to meet at 3-6 month intervals with the IV to examine and compare evidence to ensure a level of consistency exists, and that all decisions made meet with national standards uniformly across the team. Equally there will be consideration of evidence that has been deemed not to have met the national standard. The meeting may focus on a particular unit, an assessment method or a type of evidence. Standardisation meetings also involve the internal verifier updating assessors on new policies, changes to working practices and feedback from the External verifier relating to assessing and your occupational area. Answer to question 13 (6.3)

Explain the appeals and complaints procedure.

If a candidate feels that they disagree with an assessment decision, would like to challenge an unfair practise, then each centre must have an appeals and complaints procedure in place. It is as follows:

I. If you feel able to, talk to your assessor.
II. If you are not comfortable in doing this, you should contact your internal verifier. III. If you are not satisfied with how your internal verifier has dealt with it, you should put your complaint or appeal in writing. (to head office) IV. If you are still not satisfied, you have the right to request for your appeal or complaint to be investigated by an independent panel. The panel will consist of an internal verifier (the adjudicator) and an independent assessor. V. The panel will investigate your complaint/appeal and report their decision within 14 working days. If you are still not satisfied with your complain or appeal you can contact either the awarding body that hold your registration (NCFE). Details of the contact at NCFE will be given to you at this stage. VI. For successful appeals corrective action will be taken by the responsible Assessor. VII. A successful appeal does not mean that the candidate is competent; re-assessment may be needed to prove this. Answer to question 14 (7.1)

Why is the management of information important?

The accurate and proper management of information relating to assessment records is essential. Failure to manage records correctly can have serious implications for both the assessor and the centre. The consequences of mismanaged records can result in

I. Increases in candidate complaints and appeals.
II. Sanctions imposed on the centre by the EV.
III. Withdrawal of direct claim status or the ability to register candidates.
IV. A non-compliance with other laws such as the Data Protection Act.
V. False candidate claims for certificate.

Key policies and procedures which must be followed include

I. Centre delivery/ QA policy.
II. NVQ Code of Practice 2006.
III. Regulatory arrangements for the QCF 2008.
IV. Data Protection Act.
V. NCFE procedures and policies.
Answer to question 15 (7.2)

Why should you give the learner feedback?

Giving and getting feedback are essential to the whole process of reviewing learning. It’s a two-way process.

There are immediate benefits. Learners are more likely to:

I. Make decisions and solve problems for themselves.
II. Learn from their mistakes.
III. See learning as a positive activity – something they are involved in rather than something that’s done to them. IV. Consider own future needs and development.
V. Consult others or work as part of a team when learning.

Formal feedback reflects a learner’s performance over time. Learners may have done a range of different tasks, or even worked in different areas of the organisation. The value of this type of feedback is that it gives learners an overall picture of how well they are doing.

Informal feedback is more or less continuous. Supervisors or work colleagues can guide and support learners, perhaps without realising it. By giving a word of encouragement, or a piece of advice, they help learners improve their skills.

When giving feedback:

I. Start positively – what the learner has done well.
II. Describe where improvements could be made.
III. State clearly what the learner needs to do as a result. VI. Answer to question 16 (8.1)

What are the key policies and procedures that relate to assessment? For example, Bright delivery policy and appeals and complaints procedure. Give a brief explanation of what each one is.

Bright’s delivery policy lays out a clear mandate which provides all who read it, the reassurance that matters are being done correctly. It covers:

I. Objective: This lays out what can be expected from the company; what the company’s aims and aspirations are. II. Procedures: This covers what methods and practises that are in place to ensure compliance and consistency. III. Identifies who is responsible for the implementation of the procedures. IV. Identifies how the company manages the assessment process.

Bright’s appeals and complaints procedure provides a clear path of recourse if the candidate feels that they may have foundations for a complaint. It provides a system whereby candidates can redress any aspect of the assessment with (if necessary) all levels involved in the assessment process from the assessor themselves (if the candidate feels able to discuss the matter with them); or indeed the awarding body of the qualification if they feel that the company themselves has failed to provide satisfaction with the internal procedures in place. Answer to question 17 (8.2)

How can you use technology in assessment?

The use of technology in assessment can make the recording of evidence and communication easier and more efficient.

The different types of technology an assessor may use include:

I. Video conferencing. (For meetings or feedback)
II. Online learning. (Use of the internet to gain knowledge) III. Virtual staffroom.
IV. Online forums. (Useful for discussion)
V. Dictaphone. (Accurate recording of verbal evidence or for assessment planning)
VI. Email. (Accurate recording of written evidence or
feedback) VII. Skype. (For observations, meetings or feedback)

VIII. Conference calls. (For meetings or feedback)

Utilising technology is important because it has many benefits, these include:

I. Efficiency. (Potential to save paper, time, etc.)
II. Convenience. (Less to carry around in the case of a Dictaphone for example)
III. Saving on travelling time and travelling costs.
IV. Environmentally beneficial. (See 3.)
V. Cheaper
VI. Less invasive (when observing a meeting for example)

It must be remembered that where information is stored, it must be done so as to ensure its integrity and security. Answer to question 18 (8.3)

How do you ensure equality and diversity during assessment?

Bright’s policy of Equality and Diversity is a commitment to ensure that current Diversity and Equality legislation is observed. It ensures that the company and all its agents, operates in a manner which supports equal opportunities and opposes unlawful or unfair discrimination on the grounds of ability, age, colour, culture, disability, domestic circumstance, employment status, gender, marital/civil partnership status, nationality, political orientation, racial origin, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, social background or any other grounds or status.

To that end, Bright ensures that this policy is easily and freely accessible to all; well communicated; reviewed regularly to ensure continued compliance with legislation; has an effective appeals procedure in the eventuality that candidate wishes to make a complaint on grounds of equality and diversity.

In essence, everyone should be treated equally regardless of the reasons stated above and the assessor should be mindful that if assessment arrangements need to be adapted to accommodate a candidate’s individual needs; (to ensure that the assessment is going to be considered “fair” both in terms of equality and diversity policy and indeed the Disability Discrimination Act 2005) then the same adaptations should be “available” to all candidates if they wish.

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