For many, the concept of end-point assessment is still new.
The independent nature of the assessor’s role is new, the concept of grading is new, and the way many of the assessment components are delivered will be new too.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve published a series of articles looking at different assessment methods specified in the new assessment plans, and started to unpick what they look like in practice in the context of high-stakes end-point assessment.
(If you’ve missed our earlier posts, here’s our introduction on how end-point assessment is shaping up, and insights into the professional discussion, presentation/showcase, practical assessments, multiple choice tests, the interview and the status of portfolios. The Institute for Apprenticeships is also starting to release early guidance on assessment methods too.)
So, this week (the last in our series), let’s tackle the Project…
Projects within end-point assessment – the basics
Projects feature in over a third (37%) of new assessment plans, particularly at higher and degree level. If you’ve been an assessor in the sector for a while, projects will be nothing new. But how are they used within end-point assessment?
A project is normally an extended and substantial piece of work consisting of a range of activities built up progressively over a period of time. Projects are either assessed (and graded) as part of the end-point assessment, or are used as part of a synoptic assessment to underpin / feed into an interview, professional discussion or interview/showcase (for example). Projects are sometimes completed progressively on-programme throughout the training phase, or are completed over a three-month period after gateway elements have been achieved, ready for end-point assessment.
Projects are used to assess and confirm a wide range of practical skills and knowledge – normally comprising a combination of written, practical and observed evidence based on either a simulated activity or a live workplace project. This is generally favoured by employers, as the work can be highly contextualised and therefore adds significantly to the value of the apprenticeship.
Advantages of this assessment method
Where well-constructed – using a range of tools, such as practical observation, written assignment and interviews recorded on audio and video – projects are a reliable mechanism for assessing competence. They also encourage discipline to undertake work over an extended period of time, which can be revealing about some of the higher-order behaviours.
Projects are highly customisable, flexible and adaptable and where closely tied to the workplace can offer robust evidence of true job-readiness. It is also an assessment method that provides the apprentice with a good opportunity to demonstrate their personal / emotional investment in the apprenticeship and higher-level skills and knowledge that can contribute to a higher grade and future career development.
Risks of this assessment method
On-programme training staff will need to be clear what the project requirements are in the end-point assessment and how it will be ultimately assessed. Projects can be time consuming and resource intensive to create – for the apprentice, trainer and workplace supervisor. It can also be time consuming to assess. This places great emphasis on competencies of end-point assessors to avoid collective disappointment in the outcome of assessment.
Where the topics and grading criteria are set by the EPAO, there is a risk that the topics may not be relevant to all employers. Conversely, where the topic is chosen by the apprentice and employer, it may be too specific or too broad for the EPAO to accurately map to grading criteria.
If not constructed well, projects can consume time and resource without significant evidence of competence. Where they are too prescriptive, it can limit the ability of an apprentice to demonstrate their own ideas and creativity.
EPAOs will consequently need to consider their approach carefully.
What it means in practice…
- Project assessments need to be carefully designed by the EPAO – although the project may have a focused topic, it’s important that it assesses a range of skills and knowledge whilst providing space for creativity. Projects that link practical with written work can be highly effective in assessing competence, particularly where the project is completed alongside real workplace contexts.
- Make sure, as the trainer, that you speak with the EPAO upfront, so you are clear on the required format of the project, when it should be completed, and its status / use within the end-point assessment. This is critical to avoid the disappointing outcome that all parties want to avoid
- EPAOs and end-point assessors will need to be clear what is authentically the apprentices own work and what is from other sources. Look at how you provide guidance to the on-programme trainer, so this is clearly distinguished when the project is submitted
- The project represents a significant investment by the apprentice – this adds pressure for the end-point assessor who is making the judgement and providing the feedback. Triangulating the project with evidence from other assessment methods, will help to confirm grading decisions (where this is permissible within the assessment plan)
- Grading criteria for projects will need to be robust, but also need to be flexible enough to account for variances in format and the apprentice’s creativity. Assessment specialists, like SDN or others, can work with you to help get this right
Places are now available on our Level 3 Award in Undertaking End-Point Assessment. SDN have also produced a set of recorded presentations covering the main end-point assessment methods and critical areas of practice. Find out about our courses here: www.strategicdevelopmentnetwork.co.uk/sdnevent