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Eight Assessment Don’ts

March 22, 2010

In my previous post (long ago it seems), I discussed the concept of Assessors decreasing the validity of their assessment by introducing a little entropy into the assessment process. It was spawned by an assessment of my own and I just couldn’t help myself, I had to rant about a few of my pet peeves. It appears I’m not alone and a few other assessment do’s and don’ts that annoy the ranks of ‘the assessed’ have surfaced.

I’ve actually amassed more than these eight here, many more in fact, but I thought I’d save some of the simpler ‘faux pas’ for a later date.

So, here are eight things that you should not do whilst assessing a student in the ‘real world’

  1. Don’t refer to yourself as the authority: Sure, as a standards enforcer, you are an authority on the topic, but you are not necessarily ‘the authority’. The student doesn’t need to hear about your interpretation of a standard, how other people continuously misinterpret it, what the intent really is or how you have decided that that is not the best way of doing things. An assessment is also not the time to be ‘clarifying’ or ‘debating’ the correct procedure. You may understand the political machinations behind a particular standard’s evolution or take pride in how you ‘know better’ than your peers when it comes to ‘plying your trade’, but this is definitely not the time for you to assert your sovereignty over the laws of the realm.
  2. Don’t confuse technique with standard: Don’t get me wrong, the particular methods that you use can be valuable advice for a the workplace journeyman, but these are better delivered as part of the debrief. Just because you like it a particular way shouldn’t tarnish the outcome. If it clearly violates workplace practices, stop the assessment or succinctly correct the student, otherwise, its just an opinion that can wait.
  3. Don’t give up: Even if things are going completely awry, you are not wasting your time by continuing the assessment. In some cases, you can use this opportunity to find out where the root of the problem lies (it isn’t always the student). Persist as long as you can because even a student with a plethora of critical weaknesses still has a few strengths that can be built on. Having said that, if it is a matter of safety or the future viability of the company is at stake, by all means save the student from a moment that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Just give them the opportunity that they deserve. They can learn from this experience and may even surprise you with their resilience in the face of adversity.
  4. Don’t disparage any other other members of the team: Your coworkers may not do it exactly the way you like it or share your passion for exactness or efficiency, but calling into question their motives, professionalism or work ethic is will make the student uneasy. Are you trying to undermine their credibility, are you hoping to increase your own or are you just driving a wedge into the team? Is the student supposed to pick a side or bolster their own independence to meter the ineptitude that apparently surrounds them?
  5. Don’t question every move: Allow the student a little room to move during the assessment. Give them a chance to correct a mistake or change their mind about a decision that they have made. If you ask the student to explain their every action, thought process or motivation, it will wear the student down. Sure, query them if you are unsure as to what they are trying to achieve or why they chose a particular path, but allow them to demonstrate what they know without having to justify each step of the process. Want to test their theory? Do it after the assessment, or better yet, before-hand to give them a chance to bolster their confidence by ‘showing off’ some of what they know.
  6. Don’t do it for them: Yes they are still the same person that they were yesterday and will be probably wear the ‘new kid’ tag for a little while longer, but you will not be giving them a fair chance if you turn this into another training session or ‘lend an expert hand’ here and there. You are an impartial observer. The student needs to feel responsible for their own actions and outcomes. What if it goes wrong? What if it isn’t how they would have done it (now, during the assessment, they have the added burden of implementing a solution born from experience – the very thing they lack)? What if it goes right – who gets the credit (was it an assist)?
  7. Don’t focus on the periphery: Know what is important and draw the student’s attention to these critical areas before the assessment. Targeting irrelevant or trivial points will distract the student, confuse their prioritisation and potentially hamper your own assessing ability (If you are so busy scrutinising the “Reverse Overhand Williamson grip” the student has chosen to wield the broom, you may miss the opportunity to see if the floor was actually swept).
  8. Don’t excess: Don’t harp on a particular point by repeating it every few minutes to remind the student of their previous shortfall. If it requires a complex, comprehensive explanation and it must be done immediately, stop the assessment. If it doesn’t warrant stopping the assessment, then why are you bothering the student by trying educate them through a steady intravenous drip of information that is continuously interrupted by their efforts to continue working without making an error. Intervening is a valid assessment tool providing you carefully balance the consequences of interrupting the student with the ramifications of not enlightening them.

I understand that this may be infringing on the assessor’s task a little. Isn’t it your job to scrutinise, assess and deliver your verdict on the competence of the student? Of course it is, but if your methods actually hinder their efforts to demonstrate competence, then you aren’t getting an accurate sample of their ability.

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