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Practising for assessment – Part one

April 6, 2009

The culmination of many training programs comes is the formal assessment. It’s not meant to be the climax of the event, instead just a regular day at the office to see how well you now fit into the daily routines of the workplace. All of the hard word should be over with; basic skills have been honed, advanced techniques, if not perfected are at least understood and can be applied as the circumstances dictate. You know what to expect and how to deal with it, otherwise your trainer wouldn’t be putting you through this right?

However, in reality, this is ‘the test’ that makes or breaks you (or so it seems at the time). This is where you must prove your worth to the organisation and show them that the efforts employed are about to give them a return on their investment. These are common thoughts for anybody that is about to face an assessment, particularly if it is the final competency evaluation that decides whether or not this is really the profession for you.

Apprehension is unavoidable; what if you are found wanting, what if the pressure is too great, what if circumstances conspire to turn the best that you have to offer into failure? What if you just choke? In an article by the Scientific American on Choking Under Pressure, the author explains that the problem of assessment under-performance may be contributed to the fact that we are to busy concentrating on our efforts to just get on with the job.

Why does this happen?

Choking, apprehension and our fear of failure usually stem from our lack of familiarity with assessment conditions. After a few years, these feelings subside as we become accustomed to the routine, especially in those roles where regular or constant evaluation occurs (e.g. aviation, emergency services etc). Of course, as soon as it comes to something new, we tend to return to ‘non-productive’ worrying over unfamiliar ground.

So if familiarity is the solution, preparation for assessment can improve the student’s knowledge, and hence understanding of the assessment process. It can also help by stimulating the emotions associated with the assessment conditions to give the student a sample of what they can expect to be feeling on assessment day.

Preparing for Assessment

A solution offered in the article above explains how to prepare for assessment condition:

“The best way to make a performance situation feel like rehearsal, says Raôul R. D. Oudejans, a psychologist at Free University Amsterdam, is to subject yourself to the same anxiety-packed conditions during practice that you expect to encounter during your moment in the spotlight.”

It then goes on with a interesting story about about a study done on the marksmanship assessment of Dutch police officers, which is worth reading.

Conclusion

The solution is to practice for assessment during the on-the-job training, which means taking the time to create ‘assessment periods’ for your student so that they can build up to and experience assessment conditions. This is a particular effective tool for newer students or those unfamiliar with this type of training and can immediately highlight some critical flaws in their preparation.

In the next post, I’ll offer some tips to make your assessment practice more effective.


Download my free e-book THE WORKPLACE TRAINERS TOOL KIT Eight models for effective on the job training.

New e-book coming soon: “IMPROVE YOUR TRAINING FROM WITHIN” Using the ‘hot wash’ to refine your training program.

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