What to assess during the work placement?
A work placement provides the perfect opportunity for competence-based education and assessment as it is an ideal setting to integrate and stimulate students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes. At the start of the work placement, the learning outcomes are specified in the work placement objectives the student should acquire, which are, in turn, linked to the programme competencies.
The learning outcomes form a valid reflection of what is expected from the trainee. For the assessment of the work placement, these learning outcomes should be consulted, and it should be verified to what extent the student has acquired them. For this reason, it is important to define learning outcomes as specifically as possible or make them more specific, by using criteria that can be observed. This way, they can be used as a measure during observations or for the placement reports.
There are three different criteria that can be used for the final assessment:
- the products (or the visible performances),
- the progress that the students have made to deliver these products,
- the ability of the students to reflect on their functioning during the work placement.
Product and process assessment
In the final assessment of work placements, students’ developed products or delivered performances can be taken into account (cf. product assessment). The way in which the students have executed specific tasks and how much they have progressed during the work placement can be included in the assessment (cf. process assessment) on the basis of intermediate assessments.
- Students’ progress during the work placement can be documented via intermediate reports from the work placement mentors and via self-reflection in the portfolio.
- Make sure there are clear agreements on the importance of process and product assessment in the calculation of the final assessment (e.g. 60% product assessment and 40% process assessment) and discuss them in advance with all people involved.
Often, one of the objectives of work placements is teaching students how to reflect on their own professional functioning and how to translate that self-reflection into appropriate solutions or changes to their approach. If self-reflection is determined as an objective, the quality of the student’s reflection should, of course, also be taken into account in the final assessment.
Determine clear assessment criteria
For the assessment of the product, the process or the extent of self-reflection, you must have clear assessment criteria, in order to monitor objectivity. Also make sure that assessments of different parties are always aligned.
Objectivity in the assessment of work placements can be quite challenging because students often work in different places, receive different tasks and have different supervisors. For this reason, there is a risk that similar performances still lead to different results, because the final mark partially depends on coincidences such as the work place, the student’s supervision, personal preferences in the assessment, etc.
In order to make sure that students are assessed in more or less the same way and that the final assessment is sufficiently substantiated, it is important that all people involved use the same assessment criteria.