The Assessors Guide To Professional Discussions
Professional discussions or PDs for short play an important role in students’ assessments. As it’s a main assessment method people like to use, it’s critical that you know about it and how you can help apprentices. So we’re going to take you through what a PD is, how it works and what you can do to help your learners. So what is a PD? A professional discussion is essentially a two-way conversation between the assessor and the learner. End-Point Assessments (EPAs) often involve them. Professional discussions are often used alongside other assessment methods. Such as observations or a written portfolio. PDs are becoming a popular way to help grade technical and vocational qualifications.
How does it work?
A PD is in the style of an interview. The assessor asks the learner a series of questions to help them build a clearer picture of the learner’s understanding and skills. The actual assessment takes place in timed conditions, with specific criteria they need to meet. Written portfolios are sometimes referred to as well. Quite a lot of the time the learner isn’t familiar with the assessor, so that can be uncomfortable for them. Furthermore, there is no invigilator present and the assessor is responsible for managing the whole process. Such as the timings and making sure the learner knows how much time is left and that they’re comfortable in the situation.
The time restrictions are strict to ensure that the assessment is fair for all learners. It’s important that the learner can provide sufficient detail of their knowledge in the given time. The time may vary depending on the learner’s level, the PDs are usually between 30 and 90 minutes in duration.
More about the Professional Discussion
Moreover, it’s important to keep professional discussions valid, as the nature of conversation-based assessment can leave it open to speculation. It’s also a lot different to the formal assessment methods, so having validity is essential.
As an assessor, you need to be self-aware. As conversation can vary between different people you need to reduce any potential bias, whether it is unconscious or not. It’s vital that as an assessor you can a consistent approach. Make sure you stick to the set list of questions and criteria and do not prompt or support learners in their answers. There are also specific frameworks in place when it comes to grading, which can guide you as an assessor on the levels of achievement.
For example, an apprentice who offers insight into their skills and knowledge in a factual manner would receive a lower level. However, if they demonstrate a broad range of theoretical and technical knowledge through their skills in their practice, will be given a higher level. The frameworks help assessors grade the learner at a level that best reflects their understanding through the PD.
There are various factors that can affect an apprentice’s performance in an interview scenario. One of the most common ones is nerves. Nervousness can prevent a learner from fully engaging in the process of the PD. In which they will hold back from demonstrating just how much they actually understand. This is why as an assessor it’s essential that you give learners plenty of time and opportunities to practice. So if apprentices are nervous, they’re not at a disadvantage compared to those who feel more confident and collected. This also includes giving them the opportunity to listen back to the professional discussion and review their performance.
What can you do as an Assessor?
Assessors can help learners by sharing straightforward information and feedback about the purpose of the assessment. As well as to make sure they include resources and guides on the professional discussion. Additionally, remind the learner that it is not an interrogation and it’s just to see what they know and understand. As an assessor, you need to take steps to ease apprentices who are nervous. This could be how they listen carefully and how they respond to the learner thoughtfully.
There are some elements that can affect the learner’s performance. Such as attention, memory and use of language. Each learner is different and how they deal with the professional discussion will be as well. Some learners may find it beneficial that they’re talking, rather than expressing their thoughts in writing. Whereas for others, missing the chance to revisit their answers might put a hamper on their performance.
Although consistency is important, there will be varying needs of apprentices and some will require different types of interaction, to help them in the best way possible. As professional discussions start to play a bigger part in a learner’s assessment, supporting everyone involved is key. This means sticking to clear guidance for assessors and for the students to have the support they need to prepare and succeed to the best of their ability.
If you have any questions or concerns about the professional discussion and how it works, then please get in touch with our team either by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, at 01205 805 155 and we would be happy to help.
Steve is a Chartered Manager and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.
He provides Educational Consultancy to the 19+ sector as well as being an Assessor, IQA, EPA and Digital Marketing Professional. When not doing any of these he finds time, every now and then, to write blogs and articles.