From education to employment

Assessing Behaviours in End-point Assessment #EPA

Jacqui Molkenthin, JEML Consulting

Apprenticeship Standards contain knowledge, skills (sometimes referred to as competencies), and behaviours (KSBs), all of which are assessed though a range of end-point assessment tools, as defined by the published assessment plan.

Some standards list 3 to 4 overarching behaviours, others list up to 30 behaviours.

The IfATE website defines behaviours as follows:

behaviours are mind-sets, attitudes or approaches required for competence, generally across the entire occupation. Whilst these can be innate or instinctive, they can also be learnt, so they are effectively a subset of skills. Behaviours tend to be very transferable meaning that they may be more similar across apprenticeship standards than knowledge and skills.”

I have often heard it mentioned that behaviours are the area where apprentices really get the chance to prove they are distinction (or merit) level, for example, when an apprentice goes above and beyond.

It is therefore important to develop methods that effectively and consistently assess behaviours, alongside the apprentice knowledge and skills.

These will then need to be embedded in the tools for end-point assessment.

Read the standard and associated assessment plan

But, before you begin any work on the development of the assessment, you must first read the standard and associated assessment plan, as detailed on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education website, and read any documents published by the external quality assurance provider.

This is because:

  • Some assessment plans detail which assessment method is used for each behaviour, others simply state the EPA tools, and it is for the EPAO to determine which is the most appropriate tool for assessing behaviour.
  • Some apprenticeships have occupational briefs that support the standard and assessment plan, defining the behaviours and how to assess them (for example, facilities management, retail, digital, hospitality).  
  • Some External Quality Assurance providers have produced additional guidance to support the end-point assessment and associated grading criteria of behaviours (and knowledge and skills), for example, NSAR have produced distinction criteria for some of the logistics standards

I believe that behaviours (which also includes attitude) should be measured throughout the apprenticeship and not simply assessed at the end, and as such, I believe that reviews, self-assessment, feedback, reflective learning and peer review should be used from the very beginning of the apprenticeship and that training providers should map the behaviours of the standard into the training plan, scheme of work, and apprentice review methodology that has been agreed with the employer.

By embedding such practice, behaviours are being placed at the core of all activities, which in its own right helps to reinforce what is important and show progress.

Designing EPA tools and support materials – Top 4 Tips

If you are lucky or unlucky (depends on your perspective) enough to have an assessment plan, occupational brief or EQA guidance that does not state how to assess or grade behaviours (these tend to be the older assessment plans), here are some of my hints and tips when working with your occupational and assessment experts to design your EPA tools and support materials:

1. Identify assessment method

Identify which behaviours can be assessed by which assessment method. Some may have multiple methods, but it may be best to focus on one assessment method for each of the behaviours so as to keep it clearer when building the grading methodologies.

For example:

A behaviour such as, ‘delivering polite service to customers’ may be evidenced through portfolios, work observations / trade tests, and interviews / professional discussions, but your experts may feel that for EPA purposes this may best be evidenced / assessed via the work observation.

However, you must be mindful of the holistic nature of the assessment.

For example, if an assessment plan has 6 behaviours and you decide to assess behaviour B1, B3 and B5 in the observation, and B2 and B6 in the interview; how will you grade the apprentice if they do not display B1 in their observation?

Would they fail, or would you provide the chance for that behaviour to be demonstrated in the interview?

2. Identify behavioural examples

Identify behavioural examples associated with each behaviour listed in the standard (this should include examples of what would be considered a fail).

For example:

  1. ‘Effective communication’ examples could include: can adapt communications to multiple audiences, can chair a meeting, can listen.
  2. ‘Takes responsibility’ examples could include: ability to lead a team, identifies actions that could improve productivity or make recommendations for change/improvement.
  3. ‘Effective timekeeping’ examples could include completing tasks on time without error and in line with safety requirements.

3. Define grading criteria

Define which of the examples would be considered a fail, and which would be considered a pass, merit or distinction.

For example:

  1. Adapting communication to multiple audiences may be considered a merit because they would only usually be expected to communicate with line managers;
  2. The ability to listen may be considered a pass as that is a core requirement of any job in that sector.

4. Identify appropriate weightings

Identify if any weightings would be appropriate to the assessment of behaviours (not necessarily recommended because of added complexity, but certainly worth considering).

For example:

  1. Experts may feel that working safely with others is more critical than timeliness, and as such may say that the politest and most punctual apprentice cannot pass if they cannot work safely with others.

I hope my hints and tips are helpful. If you are interested in other areas of end-point assessment, you can access a range of other EPA articles that I have authored on FE News:

Jacqui Molkenthin, JEML Consulting

Jacqui Molkenthin Newsroom Strap

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