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Example of how to critically reflect on your practice

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Critical reflection means to look at the situation from various angles and points of view whilst you reflect on how you can improve your practice going forward.

Critical reflection

The first thing I did in preparation for my new assessors was my rationale. I looked at the occupational background of each assessor, and for each one, I predicted units they might have less knowledge of. This would help me to sample and make sure they were assessing the criteria competently. This met my original purpose, but I realised this quickly changed as I started to sample. For one, I noticed although the learners on their caseloads were assigned these units, some had been assessed by previous assessors already, so there was nothing to sample at this stage for me to see how they were getting on. Also, when I could have updated the rationale, I didn’t think to do that. I often do things very systematically, and I now realise the rationale can be added to at any point when I discover a new assessor need, or if I find an assessor doesn’t need support in the area I had predicted.

When I sampled assessments I was given feedback from an experienced assessor who was my counter signer that it was clear, constructive and positive. I think I have practiced this a lot having been a teacher and assessor and so I felt confident I was doing the right thing. I have found with my learners I need to pitch the feedback at their level of understanding and provide clear feedback on what they did well and how they can improve. I took the same approach with my assessors and it seemed to work, as both said they understood the feedback.

I had a slightly different experience with the responses of my assessors and a big revelation to me was the fact that sometimes they won’t respond, and sometimes they will argue with you. I was under the impression that they would all get back to me and act on their actions with no objections. This was a big learning curve for me but I have learned some valuable ideas and strategies. One of the assessors would respond and explain that they understood and say they would act on the feedback. They would then forget to do this, so if I was continuing as their verifier I would need to put strategies in place to ensure they did follow up on these actions so as not to get behind on their CPD, or have learners finishing with portfolios that had to be deferred. Getting behind on their CPD could have consequences with the awarding body because the EQA might not let them go out assessing if their competence isn’t up to date. Late achievers would have consequences on company finances and contract. Moving forward, I would need to inform their manager so they are in the loop, and also find out better ways to support the assessor and get them to see the importance of addressing actions promptly. I think sometimes the assessor would need to find themselves in the predicament of deferred portfolios, and then they work out for themselves the need to do things the way the IQA is asking them.

My second assessor would not naturally contact me or respond to calls, even to let me know if she had understood or received the feedback. Initially I tried to address this by calling her and asking, emailing her, talking to her manager but with no results. This was very non-productive for both of us, because I was losing a lot of time chasing and possibly nagging which isn’t good. My assessor Anna has taught me that I can try to spend time face to face with her, perhaps going out and visiting her more often and being in the office when she has an office day. Also perhaps attending her 1-1 session with her manager so we can talk to her together and find out more about how she prefers her feedback and support to be, so she feels less inclined to avoid responding. I have realised it is important to find out what kind of learner and what kind of personality type each assessor is. As an assessor myself, I try to think in the same way as when I teach my learners about person-centred care plans. I sometimes think of my learners as people who need care/support to complete their apprenticeships so I need to create learner-centred assessment plans. My experience has taught me that the same applies as an IV with my assessors – I have to learn what their motivations and needs are as an individual and give them person-centred support.

Another important thing I learned to be careful of is differentiating between assessor style and what was right and wrong assessing in terms of fairness. One of my assessors was very interactive and chatty whist assessing questioning, and something told me that perhaps this was spilling over to asking leading questions. I wanted to find out more about distinguishing between different assessor personalities and styles and what I should or should not accept so I didn’t fall into the trap of judging based on my personal style. I reflected on this and learned a lot. (Refer to my previous journal for this).

I carried out some learner and employer interviews using the questions on the Q30 document. I only carried out one of each, and I was a bit rigid as I wasn’t used to the questions. I got most of the responses I needed, but I know I could have got a lot more detailed feel of their experience with the assessor. I used to be the same way as an assessor when I used to question my learners, not being familiar with the unit criteria. After doing this a few times, I got into the flow of how to embed the questions into the flow of conversation. I know this will happen the same with my learner and employer interviews as I do them more often.

My final and best experience was the standardisation session. I tried to choose a topic that met assessor needs because I was aware that there were very new as well as very experienced assessors present and I think I achieved this by choosing one of the newer units in the diploma that I had noticed assessors scoring in without being as aware of the criteria as they could be. As an assessor myself, I had also experienced the impact of this unit delivered well in a care home I had worked in. It had totally changed their policy on care planning and the manager had said practices had improved a lot as a result. If this could have an exciting impact on a care home I wanted to pass this on to the assessors. If I had chosen a more familiar unit, I think the more experienced assessors would have been bored, and it is important that everyone benefits from the meeting as well as the assessors feeling more confident and equipped. I had hoped as a result, assessors will be able to plan this unit with their learners and know better how to assess it, but I also got an additional surprise. Assessors also made links to induction and CPD unit and started suggesting how it would benefit them in these areas as well.

It was important and good to create an atmosphere where people felt comfortable to open up and share good practice and ideas with the team as this helps make the meeting more productive. I tried to give just the right amount of information so the session wasn’t too formal or tedious and used video and practical examples to make it more interesting and suit the full range of learning styles, and I think this is another reason why it was successful. It is also important that I follow up on this, to make sure assessors are putting this into practice by planning to sample this unit in my rationale. Also to follow up and see how assessors are scoring against the criteria. I would also like to continue on this in the next standardisation because then assessors can feed back to each other on examples of their practice with learners and what the impact has been, as well as comparing scorings.

This week, one of my learners needed support to prepare for her mental health CT unit. I looked at this and it immediately occurred to me that some of the criteria I wasn’t sure about what they were asking. Also, by coincidence I was due to carry out a monitoring visit as part of my verifier qualification, with one of the assessors I am supporting. I had to open his learner’s portfolio to check that planning was in place before this visit, and this assessor had completed the mental health unit through questioning with his learner. This assessor comes from a mental health background, so I decided to listen to his assessment in order to interpret the criteria better. When I began listening to the file I felt that something wasn’t right but couldn’t put my finger on it. I felt that the assessor was asking leading questions but wasn’t quite sure of the definition of leading question was. I know I can sometimes fall into the trap of interpreting things too literally and I am a very black and white assessor. So I wanted to make sure I wasn’t mistaking his assessment style for unfair use of questioning. So firstly I went to the dictionary and looked up what a leading question actually was. It is a question that implies the kind of answer that the asker wants you to give.

I listened to the assessment again and there were some definite places where this was happening, but there were some grey areas where I still wasn’t sure. For example the assessor was taking the learner through example scenarios ie. Imagine this happened to the person – what might happen then? Is it possible this would happen? Then I compared it to one of my questioning assessments and I listened to the DVR. I noticed I would ask the question, then if the learner didn’t understand it I might re-phrase the question but I wouldn’t deviate from the criteria by taking the learner through imaginary scenarios. That is when it became clear in my mind – listening to the two side by side I could easily compare the difference in the learner responses. The assessor’s learner would give responses such as, yes, I suppose this might happen, and then extend her answer with how she thought it might happen. This showed that prior to the assessment the learner had not thought it through and known she would give this answer.

In contrast, my learner would have prepared the answer for the assessment, knowing it would be assessed by all the criteria, and I had taken him through the kind of scenarios he could possibly include in a support visit prior to the assessment. This was my light bulb moment! In terms of fairness, the CT units can be assessed by either questioning or discussion. The discussion is fully learner-led, so in this case the assessor would not be able to step in and offer example scenarios. So to be fair questioning should also be prepared in the same way, so the assessor should only ask the questions and not expand the criteria. This way, whether by questioning or discussion the learner’s knowledge is evaluated in exactly the same way. To ask leading questions is to unfairly advantage the learner.

Looking ahead to my monitoring visit I now felt more prepared that if I saw the assessor using questioning I could confidently give him feedback. I could have encouraged him to give the learner a support session and suggest some angles they might want to research in order to prepare their answers more fully before the assessment itself. This would also provide an audit trail of support in the learner’s portfolio. But the assessor was sick so the monitoring visit got cancelled. I still learned a lot just preparing for it though!

Whilst sampling Nichola’s CPD I came across a monitoring visit which Anna had completed and thought this would be a good opportunity to listen to, seeing as I am due to carry one of these out next week. It taught me a lot which I can take away as good ideas. The first thing was Anna asked the assessor how they thought it went and the assessor responded with something they thought they could improve on. Rather than agreeing or giving advice, she asked the assessor what they think they could do to change it and the assessor responded. Later in the discussion Anna then revealed she agreed and was going to use this as an action point. I think this was a really good approach because the assessor was evaluating themselves and reflecting on their own ideas of how to change it. This means the assessor was less likely to feel it was a criticism from the IQA, and also gave the assessor opportunity to think about their own solution rather than being told straight away.

I learned whilst doing my PGCE that learners who are just told something are less likely to remember it. Learners who come to the conclusion themselves will remember. This is a really good example, so I am going to try to use this with assessors as a principle. At the end, Anna then did step in to give advice and gave some really good ideas which I am going to borrow – they were some ideas I had never thought of. She told the assessor that she could use a laminated piece of paper with a marker pen as a portable white board. I have needed a white board so many times and never thought of this. So I will use this for myself and also to advise assessors to do the same. Anna gave the learner one particular action regarding PAR, and told the learner she was going to send her the document to read. This is because she felt she needed to develop and learn to address this for her learner. I have looked on the assessor’s journal and it has given me ideas that when I get assessors to update their CPD I should check they have made entries in their journals to show they have read the documents and reflected on them. This is a way of encouraging them that there are things they should keep up to date, as they might be doing all these things and not necessarily think of putting them into the journal as evidence for the EV. I have also noticed there are development plans on both my assessors’ journals and the dates have passed, so could ask/prompt them to upload evidence and certificates to show these aims are in progress. Also, both assessors are very new to the company, and they could reflect on what they have learned through assessing so far in their first few months. It could serve as evidence they have progressed in their practice and would also highlight areas they can identify for their own self-improvement.