How to improve training assessment accuracy

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Written by Dan Pinnell on 23 June 2014 in Features

There is a need to demonstrate that the purpose of assessment is clear and meaningful for the learner, Dan Pinnell says

In most organisations, training and assessment is the key to setting targets for people to achieve, to gain qualifications, become more skilled, more productive and to better themselves.

We work with adults and young people not in education, training or employment (NEETs) often with no formal education qualifications such as Maths or English GCSEs and some people may struggle to even read or write.

For young people with no qualifications, training and assessment can often be life-changing in terms of providing people with their first ever acknowledged achievement in gaining a qualification. This in turn provides confidence and a feeling of self-worth as they take their first steps towards mapping out a future career path.

The training needs to be interactive and easy to deliver for the practitioner so the young people don’t lose interest, particularly as the training can range from sports education and qualifications through to foundation learning skills.

With computer, tablet and smartphone use in particular so high with young people a large part of the training is delivered online as it’s the environment in which they are most comfortable learning.

Reporting one young people’s progress is critical, particularly if you are delivering on government contracts and traditionally this has been through paper-based checklists, written reviews and observations, comment boxes and box ticking assessment criteria with a pen and paper.

Some of the reasons young learners are assessed are to:

  • provide assessment for the learners to achieve their qualification and to maintain quality assurance
  • demonstrate to employees, partner organisations, external agencies and assessors that learners are properly assessed
  • understand learners’ current competence levels and help with individual study programmes
  • assess our own teaching and training expertise and how to interact with learners to constantly evaluate and improve our teaching
  • assess particular criteria in specific timescales according to awarding body standards

As well as the practical considerations of observing young learners there are additional considerations to address including the principles of observation and assessment. For example, the process of assessment should be ethical in that any reporting is transparent and observes the learners’ fundamental human rights.

Training practitioners should never be exposed to their findings being queried and observers should also be free enough to observe. There is a need to demonstrate that the purpose of assessment is clear and meaningful for the learner. Above all, the recording of assessment needs to ensure that outcomes are valid, in that there can be no question over the accuracy of the final assessment.

With these in mind and feedback from practitioners on the increasing amount of paper work required for assessment and the impact it has on teaching, we began to explore digital means of observation.

While some practitioners have started to include photos and video as part of their observations, there was no one system that brought all assessment requirements together.

To improve assessment accuracy practitioners need to be able to record assessments using a cross platform audio and video recording system on iPad, tablet or mobile.

Beyond simply recording a training or assessment session, any recording device needs the ability to add assessment criteria, standards or milestones so that during the observation, with a simple touch of a screen, the recording is time stamped showing exactly when the criteria or standard has been met.

Practitioners spend too much time post-assessment writing up notes, which can be open to interpretation after the event and can rely on the assessor’s memory. If they had a recording system set up and running, the practitioner could more accurately observe learners, instead of trying to take copious notes during the session and not actively listening and watching.

Paper and pen assessment forms also don’t provide the ability to replay the assessment session back. With a digital media recording the entire assessment session can be reviewed or the practitioner can jump to any point in the session they want to review again, quickly and simply.

To automate the process of declaration at the finish of the observation session, would further streamline the assessment process. A declaration form automatically created for the observer and student to co-sign, which can be printed or stored electronically, would achieve this and ensure no differences in assessment interpretations.

Saving the observation to a computing device so that practitioners can transfer assessment documents quickly and simply to their desktop, folder or preferred storage device at any convenient time would further improve assessment reporting.

We couldn’t find a single system that achieved all these improvements in training assessment accuracy so we built one ourselves. We believe it will change the way training and assessment sessions are reported for the better. 

About the author

Dan Pinnell is technical director of Prospect Training Services


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