Because they contain statements of effective performance and specifications of the skills and knowledge required for effective performance, National Occupational Standards provide valuable tools to identify learning and development needs – areas where people need to improve their performance, acquire new knowledge and develop their skills and abilities.
This helps to identify the learning and development they need. However, we also need to understand something about people’s preferred ways of learning – their “learning style” – in order to decide the best method of delivering the learning they require.
Steps to take:
Step 1 Identify the standards to be used for assessment
Identify those units of National Occupational Standards against which people’s performance, skills and knowledge are to be assessed.
In some cases, it may be appropriate to consider people’s complete role profiles – the complete set of units of National Occupational Standards relevant to their jobs – and identify their overall strengths and their learning needs across the whole of their role. On other occasions, it may be necessary to focus on particular units, for example if the organisation is offering a new service or client feedback suggests that the quality of service needs to improve in a particular area.
Be clear which standards are to be used for assessment and who is to be assessed.
Step 2 Assess people’s performance
Use the units to assess whether people are currently performing to the standards. This assessment can be carried out in a number of different ways, for example:
Asking people how confident they feel about their performance in the area of activity covered by the unit
Asking people to assess themselves by considering each statement of effective performance in turn and deciding whether they a) consistently meet the statement, b) sometimes meet the statement, or c) never meet the statement
Asking other people, such as their line manager or colleagues to assess whether individuals meet each of the statements of effective performance
Using simulated situations to observe people’s performance in the unit
Observing people’s performance at work and checking whether they consistently meet the statements of effective performance
Clearly, some forms of assessment are more costly – both in terms of money and time – than others, but they are more reliable. However, a good starting point is to ask people to carry out a self-assessment, using the standards as a guide.
Step 3 Assess people’s skills and knowledge
If people need to improve their performance, we need to identify why this is. It may be that they simply need to change the way they approach the particular activity – by using the standards as a guide they can ensure their performance is consistently in line with good practice. It may be, however, that they lack some of the essential skills or knowledge specified for effective performance in that unit.
Again, people’s knowledge and skills can be assessed in a number of ways, for example:
Asking people to refer to the specifications of knowledge and skills in the units and identifying areas where they believe they have deficits
Providing simple tests to check whether people have the required knowledge
Using simulated situations to observe whether people can apply the required skills
Following this you need to agree with the person some clear learning objectives, these express clearly what it is they need to learn
Step 4 Decide on learning requirements and methods
Having agreed the learning objectives the next step is to identify what are the most suitable learning methods. In deciding on methods you should consider:
The learning objectives
Whether individual or group learning is required
People’s previous experience of school, and learning since then
People’s preferred learning styles
Their levels of confidence
What support is available
Try to consider as wide a range of methods as possible, for example:
Action learning (working on real issues with colleagues in a structured way)
Academic courses (extended programme of education and learning at a college or university)
Coaching or mentoring
E-learning or computer-based learning
Experiential learning (learning by doing)
Open learning or distance learning course (using workbooks and remote contact with a tutor) • Outdoor training
Secondments (working for a time in another department or organisation)
Work shadowing (observing how more experienced colleagues perform over time)