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Friday thought article – Back to Basics

I have been in the VET (Vocational Education and Training) arena for over 20 years now, in various guises in Colleges, Awarding Organisations, Private Training Providers, Universities, employers and involved in VET and apprenticeships. If we were to go back to the early 2000’s there were mechanisms introduced in the English / UK VET sector (including apprenticeships) that allowed providers to formulate ‘empowerment’ for delivery staff (tutors, assessors, deliverers, IV’s etc) and create autonomy. 

More recently, since COVID-19 (stay at home, furlough etc) I have seen an influx of some organisations looking at ways to ‘recreate’ what we had over 15 years ago, there are examples where organisations are suggesting that training and assessment could be provided remotely using technology. One organisation has suggested – “the Federation believes training assessment should be allowed to continue include:

  • Use of video evidence.
  • Use of testimonials from training providers and/or employers on apprentices’ practical abilities.
  • Use of online assessment interviews of apprentices.”

There are already many uses of video observations as use of video evidence; there are also uses of testimonials from training providers and/or employers on apprentices’ practical abilities and the use of online assessment interviews of apprentices. These are old practices that I and many others have been using for over 15 years, and I know of hundreds of apprenticeship providers that have also used these methods of assessment for many years (on Promote-Ed’s Forum we will share a session plan from 2008/2009 which depicts these uses over 10 years ago now). 

I am concerned that over the years we as a sector we seem to have regressed in certain areas and some of the ‘empowerment’ and techniques that was used years ago are now a far distant memory, therefore, I am suggesting we go ‘Back to Basics ’ with some of the approaches used in the VET sector, specifically with apprenticeships that have been in existence for many years/decades. To me we should not have organisations suggesting the use of video evidence (which has been used already been in use in apprenticeships for over 15 years). 

Deliverers, assessors, tutors etc need to be confident in their own ability to reach a sound assessment decision. The key to making a safe and reliable assessment judgement is to use the most appropriate method for the evidence with which are presented, and for the learner’s needs and circumstances. The staff member should be able to use flexible and creative methods of their choice for assessment, but they must be able to justify their choice and any subsequent decision they make. By using an appropriate range of e-assessment methods the tutor should now be in a position to make a judgement of the learner’s competence against the apprenticeship. 

This statement is now over 10 years old, so I am asking what has changed so much?

I have championed for decades that the production of a small amount of high-quality evidence, especially through the utilisation of e-methods, accompanied by a simple and logical audit trail will result in a rewarding experience for the Learner and employer. 

I believe that through the changes to apprenticeships and the want of high-quality (which I applaud and always champion) we have lost some of the approaches that providers have been using for decades. It shouldn’t take a Pandemic (COVID-19) for some of our bodies in the apprenticeship sector to recommend the:

  • Use of video evidence.
  • Use of testimonials from training providers and/or employers on apprentices’ practical abilities.
  • Use of online assessment interviews of apprentices.”

And for “regulators to respond urgently to the need for a different approach during the crisis” should not be needed. Why do we have a system that is far too bureaucratic that we have lost what we have been doing for decades?

I believe that now is the time to focus on change for the good, not to go back in-time, but to embrace what some providers have been using for decades and take this into the year 2020 and beyond. As an example, I was lucky enough to be involved with a peer-peer Group of colleges that in 2008-2010 utilised peer-peer group networking to share quality enhancements, one of these was the use of technology in Colleges/apprenticeships. This was utilising video technology for observation of learners, e-learning, on-line assessment interviews, linking into other Countries to sit in on their lessons and having a College Campus on Second Life. 

Let’s now start a movement whereby we actually utilise ‘empowerment’ for the what empowerment is for, we ensure our staff in the sector that have taken years to train are trusted and we utilise the ‘Back to Basics’ approach. The approach where back to basic’s will place the professional judgements at the very heart of the process through effective e-assessment and the use of a range of appropriate assessment methods that meets the needs of Learners / Employers and not one that seems to be of a bureaucratic orientated process. 

There are many new providers in the sector, where the methodologies used years ago will not be in their organisational knowledge bank, some of the approaches and methodologies are in the form of tacit knowledge, which is achieved by internal individual processes like experience, reflection, internalisation or individual talents. 

Promote-Ed will be running a series of articles focused on some of the techniques used in the past, and we welcome you all to contact us to address your needs and understanding of areas where you might need support, your name and organisation will be kept confidential. 

Patrick Tucker

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