This month, I thought I would write a piece on standardising practice to help anyone new to this aspect of their teaching, training, assessment or quality assurance role.

What is standardisation?

Standardising practice ensures all teachers, trainers, assessors and quality assurers interpret and follow the requirements of the programme or qualification in the same way. It also helps ensure all those involved are consistent and fair to all learners throughout their time with them. It enables people to work as a team rather than on their own, and enables them to give an equitable service. However, any individual learner needs will need to be taken into account. This may mean differentiating some teaching, learning and assessment materials to suit the particular needs of learners. Initial assessment can be used to identify any needs, this should not be limited to the beginning of a programme, but be regularly checked as needs can change.

Standardisation activities

Various activities can be carried out, for example during meetings, or as part of peer observations or using technology.

Standardisation meetings can be held to:

  • discuss the qualification/programme requirements
  • prepare materials for induction and initial assessments
  • create schemes of work, session plans and course materials
  • interpret policies and procedures
  • design or revise assessment and quality assurance documents
  • discuss decisions made by other assessors
  • compare how documents and records have been completed.

The difference between standardisation meetings and team meetings is that team meetings are to discuss issues relating to the management of the programme, for example, awarding organisation updates, targets, success rates and any learner issues.

Other standardisation activities can include:

  • creating assessment materials, assignments and recommended answers
  • new staff shadowing experienced staff
  • peer observations and feedback to ensure consistency of practice
  • role play activities such as assessment planning; making a decision; giving feedback; dealing with a complaint
  • internal quality assurers agreeing how their practice will be consistent to support their assessors.

Records should be maintained of all standardisation activities and any identified actions, which should be acted upon. An external quality assurer will want to view the records, if it's applicable to the qualification.

Technology

Technology can be used for standardisation activities and is ideal if not all the team members can attend a meeting or activity at the same time, or are located in different buildings.

When standardising the decisions assessors have made based on electronic evidence, it's important to be sure the work does belong to the learner, and that the assessor has confirmed the authenticity of it.

Some examples of using technology for standardisation activities include:

  • holding meetings via Skype or videoconferencing facilities to discuss the interpretation of aspects of a programme or qualification
  • using online webinars to standardise delivery and assessment approaches
  • creating, updating and sharing documents online e.g. schemes of work, session plans and course materials
  • taking digital recordings or videos of role play activities, or case studies, for example, assessor decisions and giving developmental feedback. Assessors could view them remotely to comment on strengths and limitations of a particular method
  • making visual recordings of how to complete forms and reports. If a staff member is unsure how to fill in a form they could access a video to see an example
  • recording standardisation activities and uploading them to an intranet or virtual learning environment (VLE) for viewing/listening to later.

Benefits of standardisation

The main benefit is that it gives a consistent experience for all learners, no matter who their teacher, trainer or assessor is. It's also a good way of maintaining professional development, and ensuring compliance and accountability with awarding organisations and regulatory authorities.

Other benefits include:

  • an opportunity to discuss changes and developments
  • assessment decisions are fair for all learners
  • clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • compliance with relevant codes of practice
  • confirmation of own practice
  • consistency and fairness of judgments and decisions
  • empowerment of teachers, trainers and assessors
  • giving staff the time to formally meet
  • maintaining an audit trail of aspects standardised
  • meeting quality assurance requirements
  • re-assessment to spot errors or incorrect decisions by assessors, or even plagiarism or cheating by learners
  • setting action plans for the development of activities, systems and staff
  • sharing of good practice
  • spotting trends or inconsistencies
  • succession planning if staff are likely to leave
  • upholding the credibility of the delivery and assessment process and practice.

I hope this article has given you some ideas to help you standardise your practice with your colleagues, or at least confirm what you are doing is good practice. If you have any other ideas, please let me know.

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Ann Gravells is an author, creator of teacher training resources and an education consultant 

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The next article from Ann Gravells will be: The role of external quality assurers

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