We rightly spend a lot of time thinking about the structure, process and impact of progress reviews. They’re the ‘golden thread’ of delivery and are often fundamental in driving apprenticeship success. With most apprentices, you will likely only carry out five or six progress reviews during a year-long apprenticeship, which means time in precious. When else, during your curriculum, do you get to speak to your learners uninterrupted for a significant amount of time?
In this blog, we’ll explore how progress reviews require more than planning, structure, and timings to truly make the experience a memorable and impactful one for the apprentice.
Looking at ways to improve your communication with employers, using a variety of employer engagement techniques, is vital. Communication is paramount before a progress review takes place. Dates need to be planned, times need scheduling in, and – importantly – your overall expectancy of employer involvement needs to be transparent right from when the apprentice’s training plan is first created.
It is so important that you liaise with the employer, to make sure the most relevant staff member in the apprentice’s journey is available during progress reviews (often their line manager), to make the review as impactful and meaningful as possible. Once again, this highlights the need for pre-communication and agreements, giving you a chance to consider a ‘plan B’ in case that person isn’t available.
Review and refocus
One of the dangers of being a facilitator of learning is that the more experienced, competent, and confident you become, the more likely you are to lead the learning and dominate the conversation as a whole. The balancing act between the two is of great importance.
Although there will be information you will need to gather and messages you want to convey, progress reviews are for the learners to own, not you.
An overbearing facilitator takes away the apprentice’s opportunity to think for themselves, respond with meaning and have time to learn. This is usually the case when a progress review becomes more objective and outcome-based, rather than focussing on an experience of true quality, impact, and direction. A less competent and confident facilitator can of course bring both doubt and a lack of direction.
We can’t underestimate the great variety of skills and attributes needed to make sure the progress review achieves its greatest impact.
A solution – the 70 / 30 concept
Adopting a 70% / 30% communication balance allows facilitators to realign and simplify their approach. More and more topics can end up being added to progress reviews leading to a conversation that is more of fixed script rather than a flowing experience.
Encourage your facilitators to lead for 30% of the time. This is approximately enough time to ensure the flow of the progress review and cover the breadth of topics at a steady pace and not overwhelm the working memory.
The apprentice should then communicate approximately 70% of the time, to make the progress review their own and only rely on gentle prompts. Allow learners to create their own targets, with your support, based on their understanding of the apprenticeship and what they are keen to achieve.
A few benefits
Even the best planned and sequenced progress reviews need to make sure there are both elements – ownership and an understanding of what is required in the apprenticeship standard.
Where we’ve seen providers take this approach, we’ve also seen indications of:
- Improved ownership and achievement of targets set with apprentices.
- Improved engagement from employers as they witness their apprentices more engaged in their studies.
- Improved apprentice and employer satisfaction and positive feedback.
- A more intrinsic understanding, from apprentices, of the apprenticeship standard.
- Greater confidence of apprentices to talk about their experiences with external bodies such as Ofsted.
- Development of the apprentice’s wider skills e.g. the ability to articulate with accuracy, to self-assess their work in greater detail, and find their own solutions.
- Greater confidence, from apprentices, during their end-point assessment – in particular, during professional discussions.
The potential challenges
70 / 30 is a concept for positive practice rather than an exact law. Learners and staff will take time to develop this kind of practice. Some, in fact, might take until the very final progress review to gain a balance that is more apprentice-led, which is fine as this shows clear progress. Manage your expectations, yet continue to strive for greater ownership from the apprentice.
Remember we want to ‘open new doors’ into large halls, not into broom cupboards!
Conducting progress reviews and target setting Masterclass
Join Chris Cherry for a Masterclass in conducting progress reviews and setting targets. This interactive Masterclass is a great way to work with industry experts and other providers to discuss progress reviews, share best practice and take away key actions to improve your progress and monitoring.
The Masterclass will help you:
- Build in the right progress review points into your curriculum
- Plan for the review – online and face-to-face
- Build rapport and engagement with apprentices early on
- Draw on a range of tools and techniques to truly measure the apprentice’s competence
- Make effective use of assessment and grading
- Set targets which motivate and stretch the apprentice’s learning
- Adapt the type of reviews and targets, as the apprentice progresses to EPA
For further information and to book, visit Conducting progress reviews and target setting masterclass.