We all love a good written exam, but tests aren’t the only way to assess a learner. In fact, when it comes to vocational skills, there’s a lot that written tests simply can’t assess. You need to see those skills in action to know whether a learner is progressing.
That’s why assessors use a range of assessment methods in apprenticeships and vocational learning. You need to assess both knowledge and practical skills; there’s no one way to do this. Which assessment methods are most effective to use will be laid out in the assessment plan for each course. You’ll need to implement these in your assessment process.
So, in this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the main assessment methods; what they are, and how they’re used.
Simply put, observation is watching a learner on-the-job. During an observation, an assessor watches the learner undertaking one or more of the normal tasks they would in the ‘real world’. The assessor might ask questions about what the learner is doing and why to better determine how much the learner understands. This form of assessment method works really well for assessing observable skills, such as a welder when he’s welding or a builder when he’s laying bricks – the sort of things a written test just wouldn’t let you assess.
2. Practical assessment
A practical assessment is similar to an observation except the workplace or situation is simulated. So this might be a role-play scenario or simulated technology. For example, someone training to be a healthcare assistant might have to put a fake patient’s arm in a sling to demonstrate they know how to do it. The assessor might ask questions while the learner’s doing the task to double-check their knowledge. This type of assessment works really well in situations where safety is key and simulation has less risk. It’s also very cost-effective as it can be completed in-house.
3. Professional discussion
A professional discussion is simply a conversation between assessor and learner around a particular subject. It’s not a question and answer set-up, but more a natural back-and-forth. A learner can freely give their ideas and opinions on a set topic and showcase their knowledge. This type of assessment can work really well for parts of the job that are difficult to observe, such as what to do in an emergency situation. Nobody wants to create an emergency situation just to test the learner! Instead, a professional discussion lets the learner describe what they could, should, or would do in any given situation.
Interviews are similar to professional discussions but are much more structured. Basically, an interview is comprised of set questions asked by the assessor and answered by the learner. This method is used to assess a learner’s competency, i.e. what they know.
5. Presentation and questioning
This method gives the learner the reigns. As part of their assessment journey, a learner might have to create a presentation on a given topic and present it to an assessor. For example, a catering apprentice might do a presentation on hygiene and food safety. The assessor will watch the presentation and assess the depth of the learner’s knowledge. They will then ask questions to cover any gaps.
A project is a task a learner completes over time to showcase their skills and knowledge. The purpose of this assessment method is to assess whether learners can complete work to the industry standard and within set criteria. For example, a computing apprentice might build a website as a project.
A portfolio is evidence of progress and learning over time. It might include photos, essays, self-assessment reports and feedback from witnesses and assessors. For example, a trainee decorator might include photographs of several different rooms they’ve decorated with written commentary about what they’ve done. Portfolios allow an assessor to assess a broad range of skills over time.
8. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)
Finally, RPL can be used to assess a learner’s competency. RPL is used to prevent a learner from doing the same thing twice. Say a learner has already completed part of the course through a previous job or diploma; RPL takes this into account and recognises that they’ve already demonstrated this skill. Forms of RPL might include certificates from different institutions or previous work experience.
So, there you have it! We’ve taken a look at eight of the most common forms of assessment methods. If you’d like to read about these methods in more depth, 777please visit the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.