Proud of your Apprenticeship Delivery, Apprentices, Services your Organisation offer:
Posted By Strategic Development Network (SDN) on 11/03/2019

The Professional Discussion - Under the bonnet of EPA

The Professional Discussion - Under the bonnet of EPA

If you are looking to deliver (or prepare your apprentices) for end-point assessments in future, you will need to get to grips with the assessment methods specified in the new assessment plans.

Some of these assessment methods are new to apprenticeships; others will need to be delivered differently.

Following our introduction to the new world of “high-stakes” end-point assessment, we’re going to be publishing insights into the different assessment methods used in apprenticeship assessment plans and how they work in practice. 

So to kick things off here on Apprenticeship Directory, let's start with... Professional Discussion.

The basics
Professional Discussions are featured in 40% of all new assessment plans across a wide variety of industry sectors.

In essence, the Professional Discussion is a structured interaction with an apprentice as part of the formal end-point assessment process. The two-way dialogue will be recorded (text, video or audio) and graded by the end-point assessor.

Let’s break that down a bit…

When is it used?
Normally, the Professional Discussion is used as part of an observed or project assessment. It is particularly useful where other forms of assessment are difficult to administer, or where evidence for assessment is more difficult to quantify. The Professional Discussion allows you to probe and explore the depth of the apprentice’s knowledge.

How does it work?
The end-point assessor and apprentice undertake a structured discussion with key questions asked and responses recorded (and graded).

What does it assess?
Qualitative interview data primarily assesses applied knowledge and behaviours. A Professional Discussion allows the assessor to test knowledge (“I see you do it – do you know why you do it?”), it allows the assessor to fill in gaps and talk through the apprentice’s breadth of understanding (perhaps where the assessor has only been able to observe the apprentice in narrow settings), and also allows the assessor to validate/authenticate pieces and work / evidence that have been submitted.

If the Professional Discussion is conducted alongside a practical assessment, it can also generate additional evidence to assess the skills of the apprentice.

Validity, reliability and robustness
End-point assessors will need to be skilled in the kind of questions they ask. They will also need to be able to disarm the apprentice’s nerves/anxiety, and be able to conduct the discussion in a way that is consistent across all apprentice’s they assess for that standard.

For example, how many ‘bites of the cherry’ will you give the apprentice to answer the questions adequately? What prompts will you use to draw out higher-level answers to allow apprentices to demonstrate higher-level grade responses?

Assessors will also need to avoid bias. Each apprentice will need to be assessed fairly and consistently, irrespective (for example) of whether the apprentice is confident or nervous, or whether an apprentice is eloquent or where English is their second language.

Your evidence base and recording procedures also need to be robust. It’s high stakes, so there will be times where an apprentice or employer challenges their pass/fail grade and often qualitative methods like a professional discussion can be the first area that is challenged. Your grading decisions will need to stand up to scrutiny, with a clear evidence base.

Advantages of this assessment method
The Professional Discussion is a highly flexible form of assessment that allows the assessor to cover gaps in evidence from project work, practical assessment or written assignments.
If conduced well, the Professional Discussion can evidence behaviour developments and is particularly good at generating evidence for problem solving.

Where conducted with other forms of assessment, such as a practical observation, excellent cross-referenced evidence can be collected to help validate the apprentice’s overall grade (by the assessor themselves and by moderating / external quality testing regimes)

Risks of this assessment method
If questions are poorly designed or closed (eliciting a yes/no response), or where repetition occurs and scope is less well defined, the assessment is likely to produce limited evidence. It’s important to avoid the discussion being a mechanical lists of questions, rather than an opportunity to discuss and explore the area of interest.

The “high-stakes” nature of end-point assessment can compound this issue. With frameworks, the trainer-assessor had built a relationship with the apprentice over a period of year or more. Now the assessor is a stranger (independent of the training), with no prior relationship with the apprentice. The assessor will need to be able to put the apprentice at ease and ask the right questions, allowing the apprentice sufficient space to demonstrate their understanding.

The Professional Discussion can generate a large quantity of qualitative evidence that might be difficult to grade, validate and compare across peer groups. The skill of the assessor is central to the recording of data. The risk is reduced when combined with audio or video assessment tools.

What it means in practice…

  • The discussion should not be contrived (just noting responses to a list of questions). Question structures must permit open responses, but relatively straightforward to administer. Answers should be encouraged beyond one-line responses, to explore the depth of applied knowledge and understanding held by the apprentice
  • Discussions should be semi-structured, but there should be a clearly defined set of outputs for the session. A range of extension questions to allow a range of grading outcomes should also be developed

What next…

If you'd like to become an end point assessor or just get a better understanding of the end-point of apprenticeships - why not get real insight and a qualification by studying on SDN's Level 3 Award in Undertaking End-Point Assessment training? 

The course is blended learning. This means you learn with SDN's online resources at your own pace, before taking one interactive assessment day session in London, Birminhgham or Newcastle.

(More updates and practice can be accessed on our new End-Point Assessment LinkedIn Group and through our mailing list – feel free to join!

Contact This Member

Show Phone Number

View Listing

Support Organisations / Other
Member since 28/02/2019

Contact This Member

Join Our Newsletter - Today