National Occupational Standards offer clear criteria on which learners’ knowledge, skills and day to day performance in the workplace can be assessed. The standards can be used for informal ‘formative’ assessment, where progress is checked and feedback given to aid improvement or internal appraisals as well as formal assessment of competence, which can lead to a qualification.
Those involved in the formal assessment of learners and practitioners will need to refer to the Teaching and Learning and Development Standards from the Education and Training Foundation:
Steps to take:
Step 1 Assess learners’ knowledge
The outcome of learning and development should be that the learners acquire the relevant knowledge. For example, those working towards the Legal Advice unit LA5 Provide information to clients will need to learn
What type of information is suitable
How to check the currency, accuracy and suitability of the information that is provided
How to ensure the information is free from stereotypes and is not biased
How to check clients’ understanding of the information
What other sources of information are available
The relevant areas of knowledge are listed in the knowledge specifications of the unit.
Written tests or oral questioning should be used to assess whether learners have acquired and assimilated this knowledge.
Step 2 Assess learners’ skills
Similarly, learning outcomes may specify that learners should be able to do something that they could not do before. People who work to the Legal Advice standard LA5 Provide information to clients will need the following skills:
Practical tests, case studies or simulated activities are effective methods to see whether learners can apply these skills effectively in practice.
Step 3 Assess learners’ competence
National Occupational Standards provide objective criteria to assess learners’ competence, such as their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to achieve consistent results in their work.
For example, in the Legal Advice unit LA5 Provide information to clients, one of the statements of effective performance states ‘identify any problems with providing the information and take appropriate action to address them’.
In order to perform competently, learners must know what ‘appropriate action’ might be in response to the range of problems that may arise. They must also have the skills to be able to address those problems when working with clients.
There are a number ways in which the competence of learners can be assessed. Assessors can use observation, documentary evidence, reports from others who have witnessed the learner’s performance, and questioning learners about the way in which they went about their work. At the same time assessors will be implicitly assessing whether or not learners possess the knowledge and skills underpinning their performance.