Change seems inevitable in our sector, however, we need to keep on top of it or we could easily be left behind, or worse, without a job. Our sector is becoming increasingly commercialised, therefore we need to make sure we are aware of what’s happening, and that we are skilled and knowledgeable to deal with the changes.
If your role involves the assessment of learning, whether in a classroom, the workplace or another setting, there are often risks involved. These risks don't always relate to health, safety and welfare, but to the assessment process and the decisions made. A bullet point summary of risks is at the end of this article, which grew the more I thought about it. I hope that you will view assessment in a new light after reading this.Assessing a learner and confirming their success can be very rewarding. However, being aware of the risks will hopefully help prevent them occurring. This is particularly the case with summative assessment which is to confirm achievement. However, there can still be risks with formative assessment which is to check progress. Just ask yourself what could possibly go wrong, and if you think of something, then there is a risk.Learner risksYou need to minimise risks such as putting unnecessary stress upon learners, over-assessing, under-assessing or being unfair and expecting too much too soon. Some learners might not be ready to be observed for a practical skill, or feel so pressured by target dates for a theory test that they resort to colluding or plagiarising work.Assessor risksThere are risks on your part as an assessor, for example, pressure to pass learners quickly due to funding and targets might lead you to pass something that you normally wouldn't. There is also the risk that you might unknowingly offer favouritism or bias towards some learners over others. A risk to yourself could be if you carry out assessments in the work environment and visit places with which you are not familiar. You might need to travel early or late in the dark, find locations on foot, take public transport, or drive to areas you are not familiar with. If you are visiting places on your own, you will be classed as a lone worker and your organisation should have a policy for your protection. Having a mobile phone is helpful in such situations; if not, note where the nearest public phone is should you need it. You may find it useful to search the internet for the postcode you are visiting. This will give you a street map and pictures of the local area to enable you to visualise where you are going beforehand.The type of employment contract you have might also pose a risk. For example, you might be part time and work for more than one organisation, or be working for an agency, or on a freelance basis. If you don't have a permanent contract, it could be difficult to determine who you report to if you have any concerns. If you are assessing towards a qualification, you will need to know who your internal quality assurer is, as they should support you in your role. Standardisation of practice might also be difficult if assessors are not all in the same location or working for the same organisation. You might not have access to the resources that permanent members of staff have and may need to provide your own such as personal protective equipment (PPE). There's also the risk of pressure upon you if your learners are allocated to you on a case load basis. For example, you might only be paid if your allocated number of learners complete the qualification.Other risksIf you are assessing in the work environment, you might come across employers who are not supportive of their staff and may put barriers in their way. For example, someone might make it difficult for you to visit at a certain time to carry out a formal assessment. Careful planning and communication with everyone concerned will be necessary.It could be that if you have close friends or relatives who you are required to assess, you might not be allowed to, or if you do, your decisions would need to be countersigned by another impartial assessor. Your decisions should also go through an internal quality assurance process. If it's an accredited qualification, the awarding organisation will be able to give you guidance regarding this.If you have any concerns regarding risks to yourself, your learners, or your assessment decisions, you must discuss them with someone, e.g. your supervisor or internal quality assurer. Being aware of any risks to the assessment process, yourself or your learners, and taking opportunities to discuss any issues should help alleviate their occurrence.Situations which could pose a risk to assessment (in alphabetical order)