End-Point-Assessment: demystified

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End-Point-Assessment: demystified

There’s lots of ongoing discussion at the moment about End-Point Assessment, as the various apprenticeship schemes gather momentum under the guidance of the Institute for Apprenticeships.

As a Principal Consultant in the field of assessment and quality assurance, Chief EQA of a UK Awarding Organisation, Chief Executive and Writer, this is an interesting development that my colleagues and I are all watching closely.

One of the most striking things that seems apparent so far, is the confusion in some camps as to what End-Point Assessment or EPA actually is … and in what way it is the same or different from the more established assessment that we have all become used to.

Although I can see why EPA has been singled out for special attention, in practice it seems to me that it is only really a specific instance of normal assessment, undertaken under closely specified conditions.

Something Different? Something Special?

A big deal seems to be currently being made of End-Point Assessment as something different and something special. This is causing some anxiety and difficulty as more and more apprenticeships are launched.

To my mind, it is a pity that End-Point Assessment is being singled out in this way. Yes, it does have some differences from other assessments and could represent a big change for some, but only because the apprentice standards themselves have particular requirements.

That said, other professional recognitions and qualifications also have particular requirements and as long as it is clear to professional assessors what the particular requirements of the standards actually are, then ‘End-Point Assessment’ surely is only ‘Assessment’.

Why is End-point assessment different?

The assessment focal points have been determined by the Institute for Apprenticeships, the Approved End-Point Assessment Organisations, and the Standards for the specific industry-based apprenticeships.

It is these aspects that make End-Point Assessment a particular instance of assessment which relates specifically to the assessment of apprentices, within the Institute for Apprenticeships UK government-funded scheme.  The purported overall aim of this is so that employers have greater confidence in their apprentices competence.

However, because the Standards for each Apprenticeship are different, there is no one simple list of differences between End-Point Assessment and traditional Assessment, nor between End-Point Assessments for different Standards.

I do think there are some obvious common differences, which include:

  • End-Point Assessors must be independent and have had no prior contact whatsoever with the candidates (apprentices) that they are assessing
  • End-Point Assessors must be working for and on behalf of an End-Point Assessment Organisation which has been specifically authorised to assess one or more specific apprenticeship schemes
  • End-Point Assessors do not always have the freedom to select the assessment method by which they will make their assessment judgements. Many End-Point Assessment activities and assessment methods are specified in the apprenticeship standards, although there are some standards that do not specify in this way.
  • End-Point Assessors will only undertake the assessment activity at the end of an apprenticeship and are not free to choose to assess over a period of time as the apprentice develops their knowledge and skills.
  • an End-Point Assessment activity unless specified otherwise within the standards, is a single point assessment, a little bit like an MOT test for a vehicle.
  • End-Point Assessors will make a definitive decision on one-time assessment. Apprentices who do not pass are (within most Apprenticeship Standards) not offered an opportunity to resubmit just the element that has “failed”, in the way that traditional assessment will often facilitate and permit.
  • Most End-Point Assessment standards require grading according to a grading scheme specified in the Standard in use.

Getting qualified in End Point Assessment

As Apprenticeships schemes and End-Point Assessments are on the increase, many people new to the world of professional assessment are likely to become involved.  This is an exciting development and these people will need training, support and formal recognition as they become established in their new or special assessor roles.

After some consideration, ATi are now delighted to be able to offer the relatively new Level 3 Award in Undertaking End-Point Assessment.  This RQF qualification now forms part of our growing range of blended learning approaches that includes:

  • Award in Understanding the Principles and Practice of Assessment
  • Award in Assessing Competence in the Work Environment
  • Award in Assessing Vocationally-Related Achievement
  • Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievement
  • Award in Undertaking End-Point Assessment

By using our own workbooks and accompanying additional reading materials, on-line webinars & seminars with adviser-assessor support, our programmes have been recognised as being highly-relevant and great value to professional assessors.  All have specific focal points for their assessment activity, just as different standards have specific focal point requirements.

To be considered a true assessor and have the credibility to progress further, I firmly believe that individuals should hold or be working towards formal recognition of their assessor skills by gaining one or more of the qualifications. At these times of national and global changes, this will help to maintain crucial standards within a multitude of sectors, assist in the development of well-rounded apprentices and of course recognise the professional status of assessors and quality assurers.

Free webinar and further information

To find out more about the new End-Point Assessment qualifications including how these compare with traditional assessment approaches, do join me for my short free webinar.

To find out more about EPA or any of ATi’s programmes above, please visit our qualification pages or contact us for an informal chat and straightforward answers to your questions.

 

EPA SM graphic

Notes to editors

ATi provide bespoke developmental and qualification programmes through both face-to-face and supported blended learning, including topics of assessment, internal/external quality assurance and train-the-trainer.  Please visit our various qualifications and course pages for further information.

This blog and content are the copyright of Accredited Training International.  Content can be quoted, extracted or shared with permission.  ATi do not accept responsibility for the content of external links that are outside of our control. For media enquiries, please email pr@accreditedtraininginternational.com

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

Cafe-style Management

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Coffee cup

 

I guess like me you have a favorite coffee bar, and it was in my favorite coffee bar when I was whiling away a few minutes and observing the people around me that I realised that management and leadership is very similar to a cafe.

I saw that the people serving were faced with ever varying situations to which they had to react – sometimes a long queue sometimes a short queue for their attention; sometimes a simple drink sometimes a complex drink to prepare; sometimes ordering for themselves as individuals and sometimes ordering on behalf of a group; sometimes customers being easily pleased and sometimes facing a challenging situation requiring significant attention to customers very specific requirements; and all of this supported by technology (till and coffee machine) with its variable foibles.

Surely all of this is exactly what happens in organisations. The role of a leader and manager is rarely simple and rarely routine – if it could be more routine it would make life so much simpler, but on the other hand if it was that routine why would you need a leader or manager in the first place?

So why does this matter?

I think the first and most important point is to do with the mindset of a leader and manager. If a leader or manager believes that everything should be planned and routine and operate exactly as it should, and they arrange their thinking and activities on this basis, then there’s a high likelihood that they will become stressed, overworked, or at least dissatisfied with constant flux of challenges and requirements. On the other hand, if a leader or manager believes that everything can be expected to be fluid and changeable, and they organise their activities and thinking to be flexible and responsive, then they stand a much better chance of handling whatever arises.

Working in this flexible and responsive way leaders and managers can then position themselves to anticipate a range of aspects of their work and the potential influences on it. There are many theories, models and concepts highlighting potential influences on organisations and their activities. A favourite of mine is STEEPLE, which grows from the historic idea of PEST, STEP, PESTLE analysis. Indeed, the idea can be taken even further with the so-called SPECTACLES analysis.

  • Social – who are the people we are dealing with at the moment? What are they likely to need? What are the expectations of our staff and their needs?
  • Political – what’s happening externally in the political arena which might have an impact on activities? What is happening in regard to internal politics that might affect what we are doing?
  • Economic – where do we stand in the current economic turmoil? How are we handling our pricing policy? How are we managing our budget, expenditure and cash flow?
  • Cultural – what is the cultural mix of our staff, customers and suppliers? How effective are we managing diversity, equality and fairness? To what extent do we provide facilities for those with particular needs, or specific religious requirements?
  • Technological – What are we using at present? How well does this meet our needs? What issuers with technology do we need to be addressing? What developments are coming in technology that might affect us?
  • Aesthetic – How do our products or services appeal to those who use them? How appealing are they? How attractive are our plans and our current business propositions to new and existing customers, clients and providers?
  • Customers – Who are our current customers (external and internal)? What do they want and need from us? What do we currently provide for them? To what extent does what we provide exceed, meet or fail to address what they want and need? To what extent do we need to attract new customers and clients? What sort of people or businesses are they?
  • Legal – what are the rules and regulations that apply to our activities (internal policies and external legislation)? To what extent are they stable or changing? Do we fully comply or are there some areas where we should pay greater attention? What new areas for rules regulations or policies should we be considering?
  • Environmental – How “green” are our current activities? How can we reduce waste and be more environmentally aware in our activities?
  • Sectoral – What are the latest developments in our subject specialist area? To what extent should we be modifying our activities to adopt the new developments? Which areas could we innovate in our sector to give us increased market advantage, enhanced environmental activities, greater customer focus, or compliance with legal requirements?

So, an open-minded flexible and responsive leader or manager will put on their SPECTACLES.

People and flexibility

One of the other things I noticed in my favourite café, is the way in which customers feel free to move the tables and chairs to meet their requirements, as they sit individually or in different group sizes, or to sit closer or futher away from the heater. This is also true in business – customers and clients, whether they are internal customers or external customers, will often ‘move the goalposts’ so that what has been provided in the past is not necessarily how they want things configured now, and again likely to be different in the future.

We should also remember that a café is a People business with customers and staff. If the people are not treated well, then not only would there not be any customers, the staff would soon become dissatisfied and probably move on too. True also for leaders and managers? Of course it is: all organisations rely on their people, so the staff and the customers – whether they are internal or external, need to be treated well, and as problems soon arise.

A people focus, with flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness is the key to modern business success, just as it is for being a first-rate Barista serving the many and varied needs of a whole range of customers, but who mostly have one thing in common – the expectation of significant speedy service. This is the final point here, modern life with all the communication aids and technological support creates a context where everything is immediate. Increasingly people now expect a very quick response to a communication, or fast turnaround from enquiry to contract to service or product provision. Dinosaur organisations or departments beware – survival of the fittest is these days more like survival of the quickest!

…. and yes, before you ask, my favorite café is reliable, flexible, fast and activity seeks to learn the range of my needs, so they can be ready to serve me when I’m next in the queue, which itself is never very long due to their efficient processes.

When you are next thinking about how best to lead or manage your team, department or organisation, perhaps you can learn important lessons from observing the good (and weaker) practice in your favorite café.  We all know what we like, so clean your SPECTACLES frequently to make sure you can see clearly where you currently are, where you are going, and what lies ahead that might catch you out.  If while you are reading this you are wondering how to develop your skills for the future, do get in touch – perhaps we can meet for coffee?

Notes to editors:

ATi provide bespoke developmental and qualification programmes through both face-to-face and supported blended learning, including topics of organisational change, talent and performance management and resource planning for future impact.

This blog and content are the copyright of Accredited Training International.  Content can be quoted, extracted or shared with permission.  ATi do not accept responsibility for the content of external links that are outside of our control. For media enquiries, please email pr@accreditedtraininginternational.com

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

Bottoms-up for talent!

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Bottom up

During one of our recent programmes on Leading and Managing Talent we were privileged to be invited to the prestigious Adam Smith Institute (ASI) where we heard from their executive director Sam Bowman.

Sam was a real breath of fresh air and it soon became clear that true talent management is genuinely about bringing the best out of people.  To do this however, the organisational climate must be right. We heard that a number of things should be in place and considered as the norm by everyone in the organisation, including things like:

  • freedom for individuals to make suggestions
  • freedom for individuals to follow their experience and instincts in making positive improvements and changes
  • freedom to take calculated risks and make mistakes without being punished
  • inclusive and collaborative styles of leadership and management as the organisational norms – managers as ‘facilitators’, not ‘controllers’
  • a sense of the encouragement of self-determination and self-actualisation throughout the organisation
  • forward looking rather than backwards looking organisational paradigm
  • external rather than purely internal organisational focus

It also became clear that, within agreed boundaries, talent is best managed from the bottom upwards so that people have the freedom to explore and take risks in whatever way they feel is appropriate, allowing the best pursuit and furtherance of organisational vision, mission and goals.  From what we heard, this is certainly the case at the ASI and must surely be part of the reason for their continued successes.

So, what is a bottom up approach then?

A bottom up approach is a concept, that emerged from the more democratic ideals that the wider western world began adopting more in the 20th century. It operates by encouraging participation and cooperation as a way of harnessing the skills and knowledge that the organisations members have to offer to develop a wider peer to peer holocracy.

It is no surprise that employees don’t like to work on things they don’t like to do. So, in terms of talent, taking this bottom-up approach often means that positive infectious energy is created, employee engagement is high and maintained, talent is retained.

What’s wrong with top down?

A top down approach has served many public organisations and private corporates around the world successfully and has worked well for years…right?  Well…perhaps, but whilst well-intentioned, a top down talent management may cause talented individuals to be over-focused in a particular direction or on a particular issue.  Inadvertently this can cause these people to become inhibited in the directions or issues which they feel naturally could or even should be pursued, in an attempt to meet what senior managers appear to want. This again caused us to reflect upon whether talent is calling upon natural skills, or is simply a shorthand way of describing highflyers. My last blog Nature or Nurture explored this dilemma.

It seems that the more guidance, rules and regulations, boundaries and constraints that are imposed ‘from the top’, the more these become a barrier to engagement and success: true creativity and innovation is stifled for those trying to call upon their talents, something that tech giant Netflix realised several years ago and addressed early.

Reflections

After our visit and during our reflection session, our discussions led us to explore some differences between creativity and innovation – terms which are often used together without really acknowledging that they probably represent two completely different ideas:

Creativity is generally considered to be the thinking of something new (a new idea, concept, product, service), whilst innovation is considered as the implementation of creative ideas into something that adds value to the organisation or society.

Linking this to the concept of talent, we then realised that when talent is considered an inbuilt characteristic of an individual (nature), creativity is likely to be the outcome. When talent is considered to be a high flyer (nurture), this is likely to result in innovation.

My take on this is that a bottom-up approach would seem to encourage talent within an organisation for both the creation of new ideas and innovation of implementation.  With the dramatic shifts in the future and importance of working, highlighted recently by the RSA, this type of talented innovation seems to me all the more important to help solve both impending commercial and societal problems.

We were delighted to hear various examples from Sam, which illustrated well the practical points that he was making. We are indebted to Sam and the ASI for welcoming us and giving us such valuable insights into the world of talent and performance management.

 

Leading and Managing Talent 2017 - at the Adam Smith Institute, London

Leading and Managing Talent Programme 2017 – at the Adam Smith Institute, London (Pictured with Sam Bowman, Centre)

Notes to editors:

ATi provide bespoke programmes through both face-to-face and supported blended learning, including understanding, developing, leading and managing talent, and the development of effective competency frameworks.

This blog and content are the copyright of Accredited Training International.  Content can be quoted, extracted or shared with permission.  ATi do not accept responsibility for the content of external links that are outside of our control. For media enquiries, please email pr@accreditedtraininginternational.com

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

The new world of Talent: Nature or Nurture?

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Talent balance

Recently my colleagues and I have been delighted to work with two groups of senior managers from the Indonesian government.  They came to the UK to explore the issues of talent management and performance management.

During our many discussions it became clear early on that the term “talent management” is both complex and ambiguous and can be used in a range of contexts for a range of purposes. Thinking this through together caused us to identify that talent is really “in the eye of the beholder” as we say in the UK:  it depends on the perspective that you are taking.

Like me, you might have noticed that many organisations are now installing talent management processes. All well and good then, but surely this depends on your definition of talent?  Opinion on this subject appears to be split, some saying that certain individuals are talented and need to be identified and specifically nurtured within an organisation on a specific talent management programme.  Others identify that everyone is talented, and the secret is to bring out the best in everyone.

Highflyers…

Working within our programmes, our guests took as their definition of talent as the highflyers within their organisation.  They were looking for guidance on how to identify this group of talented people and how to develop them further. This caused me to refer to some dictionary definitions on talent:

  • “Someone who has a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught”. Cambridge English Dictionary
  • “Natural aptitude or skill”. Oxford English Dictionary

These seemed to confirm that part of talent is about some natural ability or aptitude.   However, if this is the case, how come organisations are also focusing upon “growing talent”?  I think we are dealing with two distinct types of activity:

  • Talent: Natural characteristics, skills and abilities
  • High Performer: Learned knowledge, skills, behaviours

It seems obvious that organisations are seeking high performers, but to assume that our high performers also have the natural characteristics, skills and abilities needed, might be a false assumption.  I put this to our guests which allowed us to think about what sort of criteria should we use for identifying high-performers. What separates these individuals from the regular and essential individuals who perform adequately and appropriately? It turned out that some very specific criteria would be needed.

Using Competencies

The specific criteria needed can be in the form of effective competency statements. However, using competency statements can causes issues in its own right. One of the important pitfalls of many competency frameworks is that they cause people to focus too much on complying with a few specific criteria, which in turn inhibits innovation and creativity, one of the very things that we are looking for in our high performer version of talent.

Of course, a properly devised competency framework, which is then effectively used, should be able to provide such criteria. But how many competency frameworks are devised with this sort of flexibility and developmental approach built in, and how many are used effectively within the organisation?  An effective competency framework is more likely to be more successful if, for example:

  • Criteria at a number of different ‘levels’ are used for each competency. This should help differentiation between ‘just meeting’, ‘meeting well’ and ‘significantly exceeding’ in each of the competence areas.
  • All criteria are performance-achievement focused, rather than task-focused. This should ensure that the ‘talented’ individuals and their ideas are not constrained or limited by the criteria themselves.
  • Competencies are grouped and assessed, according to the nature of the activity (for example Communication, Behaviour & Approach, Technical requirements), to ensure specific strengths in different areas can be identified and built upon.
  • Managers receive training and mentoring on how to use the competency framework effectively and fairly.

Fast-track and motivation

When identified, perhaps using competencies, some individuals are put through some form of fast track development are nurtured within an organisation.  But, what does this do in terms of motivation for those that are not selected? Often other “hard working” individuals end up feeling hard done by because they have not been looked upon favourably in terms of development when compared to others “why not me?” I hear them cry, as they become increasingly demotivated and disengaged.

The talent conundrum laid bare…

So, talent it seems can be both natural skills and abilities, AND learnt skills and abilities. Individuals can be assessed (formally or informally) to establish the extent which they meet what the organisation needs within the organisation’s own definition of talent. All employees could be considered talented in some way, or only those that have been specifically identified and selected.  The identification and selection of “talents” depends on what the organisation, department, or individual manager perceives as appropriate. The identification process can be very effective when using clear criteria, but more commonly might be a loose artistic arrangement, like “I know talent when I see it”.  This of course is of highly subjective and relies increasingly on personal perspectives.

Questions on talent

Talent has many faces and many meanings.  One of the questions often asked is how to refocus or improve talent management solutions. Perhaps a good place to start is to ask some basic questions:

  1. What do you really mean by the word talent?
  2. How is this different from what other people within your organisation or partnerships mean by talent?
  3. Is everybody treated equally in the identification and development of what talents they have, or are some individuals singled out for special attention?
  4. What are the implications for everyone of the approach that you and your organisation take?

A talented future?

Due to changing nature of work across the globe at the moment, there can be no ultimate recipe for talent. Change is changing. There are, however, some common things that organisations should consider (and the more effective organisations perhaps already do):

  • Build and maintain a culture for innovation
  • Use an effective competency framework to set the criteria for measuring degrees of talent: everyone knows what to aim for to increase their skills
  • Identify and recognise the talent in everyone and nurture the talents discovered to maximise everyone’s contributions and build motivation
  • Use the identification of talents to ensure the right people are in the right jobs
  • Reward people for their suggestions, ideas and innovations – even if they are only small changes
  • Remember that people need to be positively motivated to bring out their talents, so attend to individual and team motivations
  • Build your organisation’s reputation as one that values people and develops their talents, which send an essential positive message to staff, customers and stakeholders alike

By doing at least some of these, an organisation is more likely to attract and retain the specific individuals and teams people needed, not only to operate but to also thrive in an increasingly competitive and volatile world.

 

Notes to editors:

ATi provide bespoke programmes through both face-to-face and supported blended learning, including understanding, developing, leading and managing talent, and the development of effective competency frameworks.

This blog and content are the copyright of Accredited Training International.  Content can be quoted, extracted or shared with permission.  ATi do not accept responsibility for the content of external links that are outside of our control. For media enquiries, please email pr@accreditedtraininginternational.com

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

EQA Q-and-A: Webinar follow up!

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QA

It was great to host our recent webinar on “Becoming an EQA” where I explored the role and responsibilities of an External Quality Adviser (EQA).  This included some thoughts on applying to awarding organisations as well as the EQA qualifications and how these can be achieved.

Thanks to those of your who completed the quick survey and took a few moments to send me your interesting comments and suggestions for future webinars.  Thanks also to those of you who posted questions during the live session and sent in further follow up questions.   As promised, here are my thoughts of a few of the most popular themes:

1.      Can a Standards Verifier gain the EQA qualifications?

Although the work of a standards verifier (SV) is very like much of the work of an EQA, in that an SV samples candidate work and assessor work and gives feedback, many of the requirements of the EQA qualification are not normally undertaken by a standards verifier. My answer to this question is therefore…..no, probably not.

2.      Do I have to be working for an awarding organisation in the role of an EQA to gain the EQA qualification, or can I undertake shadowing, understudy, or attachment to an awarding organisation to provide the required evidence?

The qualification specifications are very clear on this! The evidence produced must be from a real working environment. If you are not working in the role of an EQA for an awarding organisation but are only undertaking the EQA visit “under supervision” and not with authority and in your own right, then the evidence produced is not from a real working environment.  This means that you are not taking responsibility for e.g. fully planning it or the formal reporting of it, which is (quite rightly) what the qualifications require.

I do know that some awarding organisations and associated centres are trying to offer the EQA qualification under the guise of a “secondment” or “attachment” featuring evidence from a single visit only.  In my view, and that of ATi’s senior team, this does not demonstrate the qualification criteria sufficiently: good practice would be at least two or three visits evidenced within a portfolio.

If you find a centre that is willing to provide the full EQA award (knowledge unit and practical unit) without you holding a role as an EQA for an awarding organisation, please be prepared that your evidence may not be accepted, and any certificates awarded may be deemed improperly gained and potentially be removed by Ofqual!

To avoid this, please make sure when seeking this qualification that you check exactly how the practical unit can be gained.  Be very wary of organisations offering a route via some form of simulation (such as shadowing or short attachment).

3.      I hold a role as an EQA for an awarding organisation, but because of recent absence or other duties have not been exercising this role for a while. Are there any time limits on the evidence that I must produce to gain the practical unit of the qualification?

In general terms, the answer for most qualifications in the UK is that evidence must be current. However, the definition of current does vary between qualifications. Because the EQA is right at the top of the qualifications and quality assurance chain it would be normal for a centre providing these qualifications to ask that your evidence is within 12 months of your assessment date. Having said this, however, exceptions can be made and there will be some working disciplines where your visits to centres might be more sporadic, in which case perhaps within 24 months might be permitted.

If the majority of your evidence is rather old, a simple top up to show currency may be all that is needed. The golden rule here of course is that you should discuss this matter with your adviser/assessor who should be able to guide you on what might be needed, and what would be acceptable, if necessary checking with the relevant awarding organisation.

4.      Many awarding organisations seem to insist that sampling should be a percentage of work undertaken by candidates, whilst others do not have this rule. What percentage should be sampled by an EQA, and for that matter by an IQA?

There are no hard and fast rules here. Traditionally a percentage was always stated by awarding organisations, mainly for the reason of making sure that enough was sampled to try and guarantee quality.

Current good practice, following Ofqual’s guidelines of working on a risk basis, is not to state a percentage: the amount of sampling that is needed depends on quite a large range of variables. This is too large a subject to answer here, but will be the subject of one of our future short webinars. If you’re interested in this, do drop us an email to pre-register: webinar@accreditedtraininginternational.com or follow us on Twitter (@AccTrngInt) to keep up with developments.

Thanks again for your participation and interaction with this free event.  If you haven’t already done so, or would like to watch the webinar again you can do so here.

If you have further individual questions, or would like to register with us for an EQA qualification, we would be very pleased to hear from you. Do drop us an email ATi@atigb.com, check out our Open Programmes or visit our website pages on EQA qualifications.

Posted in EQA
Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

Building new assessors: now under construction

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building-site

Have you noticed the amount of building work that is going on at the moment?

At the top of the hill as you leave my village, a new housing estate is quickly taking shape.  The development is a hive of activity and it all looks very interesting. As I pass the site on my cycle ride to the office each day, I’m intrigued by the many various aspects of construction allowing these new homes, warehouses and offices to come to life with architecture, planning, project management, brickwork, carpentry, roofing, plumbing, glazing, site management, health and safety…… the list goes on.

All these skilled people are working as one enormous team to ensure smooth running and good use of time and resources to achieve the end result. But of course, it’s not just about leadership and team working. One important aspect of any business is the quality assurance of the operation.

In terms of the construction industry, I know this can be especially difficult as the technical knowledge and background of each of the various skills and trades will have specific quality requirements and regulations, each one must be checked and verified against the appropriate and correct standards.

The need for qualified assessors to undertake these essential checks and confirm that teams and individuals are operating within the standards are obvious.   Back in March, during the latest budget statement, I was pleased to read that the Government are investing in new technical qualifications particularly to help and support young people in the area of construction.

Builder Using Cement Mixer On Building Site With Apprentices

Yesterday, I was delighted to see a recent press release from the Construction Industry Training Board recognising the amount of construction already being undertaken in the UK and that the numbers of qualified assessors would not be adequate to meet the needs.  Congratulations to CITB for their foresight in anticipation of current and future demand by providing some much-needed resources to support the industry, as it moves forwards.

Of course, assessing is also a professional skill which is needed not only in construction but in most walks of life – we see this regularly with those that register on our assessor training programmes from the large range of different industries in which our programme participants are working.

Like those who are constructing buildings, we like to build people skills, and are looking forward to supporting CITB’s initiative in building assessor and quality assurance skills within the construction sectors.

If you are working in construction, or perhaps part of the many crucial supporting trades and would like to become a qualified assessor, have a look at our latest course list and make contact with us to see how we can help.   Our courses are flexible with different options, so they can fit around busy site-going professionals.

 

Notes to Editors
ATi provide a full range of TAQA progammes and qualifications through supported blended learning and bespoke open programmes.  One of our most popular qualifications includes the Level 3 Award in Assessing Competence in the Work Environment.

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

Bump-Start for success!

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Bump-Start for success!

Taxi

Recently my colleagues and I met in readiness for presenting at a CIPD Learning and Development conference for Approved Centres in Manchester, UK.  Being the evening before a conference, we decided to go for a team meal together and booked a taxi to take us to the restaurant of our choice.

The taxi arrived, we got in and told the driver where we were heading.  That’s when the issue arose – it wouldn’t start, and the battery soon became exhausted. We could hear the driver speaking on his radio to his controller, who was checking for a replacement car, but to no avail.    We were faced with a dilemma – what to do.   Just like a failure of regular business supplier, or failure of another department providing us with a service, our natural instinct was to complain, wonder who’s ‘fault’ it was and seek an alternative service. But we were hungry, and given it was a peak time for taxi bookings, we realised that an different taxi firm wouldn’t be able to help either.

So, what alternatives did we have? We could have done without the service – but how many of us in business can decide to abandon a required service suddenly without due consideration?  As we were getting increasingly hungry, something had to happen soon – a “business imperative” if you like.   We considered changing our dinner plans, but should we allow a sudden and unexpected failure of a service provider to alter our vision, mission, aims or objectives? After all, we had chosen our restaurant for a reason!

One of the team suggested that instead of abandoning the provider, perhaps we should consider how we could assist instead. Solving the taxi driver’s problem would of course also help solve ours.  It was obvious, if we valued the service we wanted and we could support our provider, we would soon find mutual solution!  So ….. several colleagues jumped out of the taxi, and in the middle of a busy street in Manchester at a peak time, proceeded to push and successfully bump-start the taxi!

What was also so unusual and very gratifying was that a passing stranger joined the team pushing the taxi, melting into the background afterwards with no reward other than a simple thank you from our team of pushers!   We arrived at the restaurant slightly later than intended, but thoroughly enjoyed our meal together, reflecting joyfully on the approach we had taken and its effectiveness.

So…. what lessons can we draw from this when we hit a problem in our businesses with services or goods from our suppliers, other departments or contractors?

  • Firstly, the initial emotional response of ‘complain, cut and run’ is usually not the best answer
  • Looking for options is always a good approach, understanding and accepting that in business, not everything runs smoothly all the time
  • When looking at options, it’s often beneficial to consider some of the more unusual and uncharacteristic possibilities, including where necessary those that lead to rolling up the sleeves and getting involved in very detailed operational activity
  • Try to remember that all parties involved in a transaction want it to succeed, so mutual understanding, help and support will often give a positive outcome when there are problems (even if this is from unexpected ‘passers-by’ from other teams and departments!).

Why not try to ‘Bump-Start’ the problems you are encountering with your providers, suppliers and  colleagues, to gain a mutual beneficial solution?

push start

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

Leadership and Communication: the missing link?

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Loud hailer

Our recently completed programme ‘Leadership Communication in a Challenging Context’ for visiting overseas government officials, caused me to reflect on how leadership style and communication style are often very strongly interlinked.

Much is written about Leadership Style, and most of the theories, models and concepts identify quite rightly that a wide range of styles are available. Most commentators suggest adopting the most appropriate style for the circumstances and context, from the range of options available.  I have no problem with this.  However, these leadership styles often tell people what to do and not how to do it.  Messages in a “Tell” type of Leadership style can be delivered in both an authoritative manner or in a friendlier relationship-orientated manner. In the English language, the difference is not only one of the choice of words, but also in the tone of voice and body language used in the communication.

Similarly, messages in a fully “Collaborative” or “Delegating” leadership style (often considered the best or optimum style) might be delivered using words, tone of voice and body language that do not match perceived intentions.

What IS Effective Leadership?

I am going to be bold and suggest that we should think of this as being more about effective communication rather than just leadership. In other words, this is more about relationships and behaviour.

Is Leadership then really a Communication style?

Well yes, it might be. If we think about those who are considered to be great leaders in history, many were great orators, communicating in a way that appealed, galvanising support and acceptance by whole communities (even though what they were leading, turned out in some cases to be the horrors of war and genocide!).

My view has been for a long time that how you communicate actually defines your leadership style.  Personal presentation and public speaking are skills to be learnt as are essential skills in using appropriate ‘behaviours’ when writing reports and emails. More recently, this has been made a bit more complicated with the popularity of so many social-media platforms, many of which have their own individual sub-sets of acceptable protocols and conventions.

tin cans 2

Our Presentation skills, Public Speaking skills and Communications programmes, like the one we have just completed with senior staff in the Cambodian Government, all build upon that notion that effective leadership is also really effective communication. Some of these core summary elements include:

  1. Information without feedback is just that, information. Effective communication is always two-way, something that many leaders forget (or choose to forget)

  2. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that that the message is not only received by the recipient, but also understood in the way intended

  3. Leaders need to carefully choose the mode and channel for their message and grasp that different audiences will want messages in ways that are suitable to them and their contexts

  4. In the noisy and busy world that we now live in, leaders also need to accept that messages need to be both meaningful and If the message is not easy to understand or there is doubt about how it applies to the receiver, they will tune out, switch off and even find an alternative message they prefer, from elsewhere.

  5. Leaders must seek appropriate feedback, and recognise that there is a large difference between hearing and understanding. Hopefully, this understanding will allow the leader (and fellow leaders) to do some tangible things to address what the senders of this feedback want to be done differently.

Some things to think about (and then act upon!).

  • How does your own communication style affect your overall leadership effectiveness?
  • When was the last time you sought and genuinely acted upon some feedback?
  • How do you really know that you communicate effectively?

communication cartoon

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

Coaching, Performance Management and Reflecting on Reflections

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self-reflection-mirror-01

It has been delightful working with two groups of senior civil servants from the Indonesian Government over the last three weeks. They had come to the UK to explore issues of Strategic Performance Management and Coaching and Mentoring for Trainers. It has been a pleasure for ATi to host these delegates, these programs again running in partnership with Middlesex University Business School.

As well as supporting our delegates to further enhance their subject knowledge, one of the things that we particularly focused upon was the importance of reflections. It occurred to me that as English was not their first language, from time to time some individuals used an online dictionary to check the meaning of words – “reflections” being potentially quite ambiguous.

Take the idea of reflections being what you see when you look in the mirror. This was appropriate as one of the focal points of their training was to encourage people to look at themselves in terms of their actions, skills, knowledge, approaches, behaviours, and emotional control (my ‘ASK ABE’ model, published back in 2007). This work quite well, although culturally this is something that does not come naturally to individuals in South East Asia, where people are often more interested in the relationships with other people than in examining themselves. Reflections in a mirror therefore fits quite well with looking internally to see what actions could enhance each individual and their interpersonal behaviour and performance.

Reflections can also be taken to mean reviewing. In this sense we were encouraging people to review the systems and processes policies and procedures and the way in which these were utilised in their organisation to look for the strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats in order that they might identify areas that could be changed to optimise their operations.

Reflections can also be considered an important part of many religious faiths – reflecting on the world at large, life in general, and the current situation and context of the individual and groups. The majority of our guests were of the Muslim religion, and it was very clear, especially as Friday prayers were approaching, that reflection would form an important part of their prayer meetings.

Each Friday for our groups we allowed some additional time in the afternoon following Friday prayers for training programme and workplace reflection. We did not specify, however, where this should take place. For our guests this was mainly their first visit to the UK, and whatever spare time they had was taken in sightseeing and shopping. A new meaning was added to my idea of reflections when one of our participants told me they were going to reflect as they walked around, and that they had a number of shopping bags with them in which to put their “reflection notes”!

So what is reflection? There are many writers providing self-help books, life coaching books and online processes for CPD, all referring to reflection. For me reflection is about looking at what has recently occurred and asking myself – What happened? Why did that happen? Was this good or could it have been better? What needed to happen to improve or enhance it? What were the key points that I learnt from it? How could I use this learning to be more effective next time this or something very similar crops up?…… and so on.

Michael Jackson had it about right with his 1988 hit Man in the Mirror (lyrics by Garrett and Ballard), that clearly sends the message “…if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change”. I too firmly believe that change starts within.

And then of course, ideally we should reflect on reflections…… Thinking about how well did we just reflect? Did we genuinely pick out the good the bad and the ugly from recent activities? Did we truly look at the learning points? Did we really take the time to examine a range of options to enhance this next time? Did we make notes or something similar to be sure that next time the activity occurs we really did learn from last time? Or were we simply reflecting in passing whilst shopping or sightseeing?   And, of course, for those who must keep or like keeping CPD records, how has this reflection been recorded?

Ultimately we all need to reflect effectively, and reflecting on our reflection skills must surely therefore fall into the categories of essential life skills as well as management skills.

So what are your reflections on my thoughts? More importantly, what have you learnt from this, and how will you use this learning?  All our participants seem to gain significantly from their visit to Middlesex University in London and I’d like to thank all my ATi and University colleagues and associates for their hard work and contributions to the programme. We all wish our new friends in the Indonesian Civil Service the very best of luck with the challenges that lie ahead!

mirror-self-reflection-image

 

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

Strategic Performance Management: What AND How

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I have been looking forward to the last few weeks of August for a while now – not just because of the prospect of some summer weather (at last) but also because this is when our Open Programme on Strategic Performance Management is taking place for overseas visitors, in partnership with Middlesex University London.

Last week my colleagues and I took great pleasure in receiving our distinguished guests from the Indonesia Government and introducing them to London.  Over the last few days we have been exploring a number of tools and techniques in relation to performance management from a number of different perspectives.

On a very hot summers day, as part of our programme we were very privileged to be invited to a senior UK government department to hear from a number of specialist senior staff about the context, strategy and detail of performance management within the UK Government.  My special thanks to our hosts for their help and support in providing such excellent sessions, and exceeding all expectations with both the content and the hosting of our visit.   All our delegates really enjoyed themselves and I know from our summary session afterwards that everyone had learned a great deal from the visit.

One of the most interesting things was the emphasis within UK government PMS of balancing the ‘What’ with the ‘How’ – making sure that both Task achievement, and personal behaviours are given equal weighting when reviewing performance.  I was also stuck by the inclusion of significant self-assessment as a cornerstone of the process.  These two focal points reinforced my own experiences of the very best in PM systems: those that looking at the person, not simply the task. Indeed, it is refreshing that my own maxim of “look after the people, and the people will be motivated to do the work well” appears to be very relevant.

When managing people, do you focus on the needs of the people that work with you, or focus on the needs of the task outputs? The UK government are setting a brilliant example from their internal and external research, and seem to have created a framework that has been adopted by almost all of the various government departments, which in turn encourages and motivates staff to offer high level performance.  How could we all learn from this?

SPM Group Cabinet Office 2016 (ATi)
Our SPM Group pictured here with Sam and Becky
Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

It IS still what you say

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 Letters

It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it.

W.C. Williams American Poet, 1883-1963

 

If this is true, then a major consideration must these days be the cultural aspect of both the phrases being used and the intonation an emphasis we put on the words and phrases we use.  One of my last blogs looked at how this depends on the individual words that we use.

Many years ago I first encountered the importance of this when running a residential training course for a multinational group who had flown in to the Heathrow hotel from several parts of the world to be with me.  The first day’s sessions were on time management and the importance of planning. I closed one of the sessions by confirming that ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. The result – a room full of bewildered people all wondering what sewing had to do with the day’s topic!

It gets worse when we consider the large number of proverbs and sayings that are in common use. Of course most cultures have their sayings, but translating them can be completely meaningless, as it is not the words themselves, but the concept that is being conveyed by the phrases.

Flag globe

There are several websites that explore such sayings – with, thankfully, the underlying meanings or intentions explained to support the translations. Here are a couple of my favorites about Chinese Proverbs.  Without the explanation, what might we assume from the phrase “The Changjiang River waves behind drive the waves ahead”?

Indian proverbs also make interesting reading.  For example “A dog will not make himself look like a horse, just by cutting off his tail”.

And what would our international friends understand from many of our own English or western sayings, such as:

  • No such thing as a free lunch
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  • You can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

The lesson here for us all is probably to try not to use too many sayings or proverbs, or when we do, make sure we explain what the key messages are that we are intending to convey.

So….I’ll ‘keep my fingers crossed’ that you will remember that ‘it is better to be late than never’ to change your approach!

 

 

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

The EU referendum: business as usual

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“Brexit”

So, after our referendum last Thursday on 23 June, the UK has decided to leave the European Union. Although this decision has been made, we of course don’t exactly know when, or at this point, how.  What is clear though is that it will happen at some point, over the next 2 years.

Business as usual

What effect will this have on Britain the UK and Europe? No-one really knows.  However, in terms of the various services that ATi provide, including our International and UK programmes, I want to be very clear that it is “Business as Usual”.

Already booked?  Still the same great service….

For those of you reading this who are already coming to the UK to join us for our programmes, you are still very much welcome. Indeed, for you there seems to be an immediate advantage, in that the exchange rates may well mean that the cost of your programme in your local currency could be cheaper.  The costs of things in the UK when you arrive therefore also at present cheaper to you than they would have been a few weeks ago!

As far as we can tell, there are no travel restrictions for genuine visitors to attend our programmes. Visa applications, although might take a little longer than previously, are not expected to be any different.

Same standards, same quality

The excellence of our programme content and qualifications remain the same and we continue to work closely and be highly regarded by our Awarding Organisations. Our programmes remain just as credible, important and of value to all of our participants.  In those programmes where we arrange visits to organisations to hear from experts in the field, these are still expected to take place, although we may need slightly longer to negotiate and arrange these.

Looking ahead to the future

Here at ATi we are forward looking, focusing on the many real opportunities of the challenges ahead.  In this new era, we are keen to further arrange our services to even better support you and your organisation in what you need from training, development and qualification programmes.

In Summary

  1. To our international delegates who have already made booking with us, your programmes are very much still running and we look forward to welcoming you. As usual, if you have any questions or are worried about this in any way – please get in touch so we can help resolve these quickly for you.
  2. If you haven’t yet booked and are interested in finding out about our programmes, either here in the UK, in your own country, or through our series of Supported Open Learning programmes, please browse our courses or email us for further details – we will come back to you with straight forward answers as soon as we can
  3. Our other advisory services of course also remain available. Please contact us for help and advice on our full range of services including training, development, quality assurance and accredited qualifications. We are very much here for you – whoever you are, wherever you are from and wherever you want to learn.
  4. To keep up-to-date with our developments and services, why not follow our company page on LinkedIn? We are also on Twitter and Facebook.

With very best wishes
Ian
On behalf of the ATi team

 

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

It IS what we say….or is it?

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It is what we say….or is it?

Thank you!

“It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it.”  (W.C. Williams American Poet, 18831963).

But is that actually true? Have you ever thought how much we depend on language – that is to say the actual words themselves?

Back in 1971 Mehrabian told us that only 7% of the meaning is actually carried by the words, 23% carried by the tone of voice.  This however is a very specific piece of research undertaken in a very specific context.  It would be wrong to generalise from this and state it as ‘fact’ across all communications (something these days often taken as such by the wider media and marketing gurus).

Language actually lies at the root of much of what we do 

It occurred to me the other day while writing some material for a programme I am leading during the summer that at work, at home and at play, language actually lies at the root of much of what we do.  Of course for this to be true, everything relies on the words that we are using being understood and having the meaning we intend when received by those who are listening to us, or reading what we have written.

This became very clear to me when working with some international students recently. We were considering the work of Belbin and his ideas about each person having ‘Preferences’ for the ‘Role’ they will naturally take when working in teams.  A simple concept, but one that can be completely misunderstood and misconstrued when these two key words are interpreted differently by different people.

Preference

Take the word ‘Preference’, for example.  Belbin, I think, intended the meaning to be something along the lines of ‘a natural characteristic’ or ‘automatic natural skill’. The UK’s Oxford English Dictionary however gives a meaning of “A greater liking for one alternative over another”, and the Cambridge On-line Dictionary says “the fact that you like something or someone more than another thing or person”.

Both of these definitions mention ‘liking’ which seems to me to introduce some idea about choice (incidentally, ‘like’ it seems to be defined as “find agreeable, want”). Belbin was not talking about what people like, or want, but much more that we each had inbuilt natural characteristics.

So, no wonder this was misunderstood by several people where English is not their first language; when they then used a dictionary to translate the word it stood a very good chance of being interpreted in a misleading way.

Roles

The other key word that Belbin uses that is key to his theory is ‘Roles’: ”A person’s function in a particular situation” says the Oxford English Dictionary. How would this translate to other languages? Many of my students did actually translate this to mean task roles at work as allocated by the manager – almost the complete opposite of what Dr Belbin was trying to illustrate in his ideas.

reveal listen

It strikes me that under many circumstances, the words we use are even more critical to peoples understanding that we might think. We should use words carefully, with due regard for how people of different nationalities, languages and cultures might interpret them.  To make matters worse, in the English language, we can actually draw some meaning from words that do not exist, when they are correctly used in a grammatical sense. Try this:

“…the strinklings gastipulatexed frobenaticly”

Meaningless……or is it? The strinklings, being obviously people or things, were undertaking the activity of gastipulatexing, in a manner that was frobenatic.

So, the American poet Williams’ idea that “It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it” may not be strictly correct – but then we all know this instinctively, don’t we?  So what do I suggest then?  When writing, speaking (or listening):

  1. Be proactive – to truly speak or write clearly, ask yourself first “what is the point I am making, what I am trying to get across?”  Sounds basic, but how many of actually do this well?
  2. Be honest, self-aware and slightly self-critical: identify how the words you like to use or intend on using that could be misinterpreted. Could you swap them for different ones? Use a thesaurus yes, but don’t just pick complex fancy-sounding words for the sake of it!  Often, straightforward is best.
  3. Be careful when using emotive words – are these rousing the emotions in your audiences that you think they will? Do you even intend these reactions in the first place?
  4. If writing or speaking for a specific purpose (e.g. at a seminar or preparing a report) get someone independent to test drive your language by asking them to summarise what they have understood. Can they explain the meaning you intended, how different is their interpretation?
  5. If hearing or reading something that is new, unfamiliar or just doesn’t sound quite right, don’t just accept it – check that your interpretation and understanding is the one intended by perhaps carrying out further research or by asking for a contextual example

In today’s busy multi-cultural world where different languages are everywhere, do we really pay that much attention to the individual words we use? We should, because it matters more than we might realise, especially if we want to be understood!

This article is part one of two – in my next blog I will look at the way in which phrases and local expressions can also add to the fun and diversity of multicultural communication.

 


References
Belbin R.M. (1981): Management teams, why they succeed or fail, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford UK
Mehrabian A (1971): Silent messages, Wadsworth, Belmont California

Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.

So how DO you become an External Quality Assurer (EQA)?

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Chicken & egg situation

Over the years there have been several LinkedIn discussions about how to become an external verifier – now called an external quality advisor (EQA). One of the challenges to everyone is that we seem to find ourselves in a chicken-and-egg situation (you of course can’t have a chicken without having an egg first, but you need an egg to be able to produce a chicken – which comes first?).

In my view, the same thing is now true of becoming a fully qualified EQA – the practical unit requires you to be engaged by an Awarding Organisation and undertaking EQA activities for them, but many Awarding Organisations will not appoint an EQA who does not already hold the qualifications.

As widely acknowledged, the role of an EQA is a very important one and involves representing the Awarding Organisation in overseeing the quality assurance of that Approved Centre’s operations.  This of course includes checking the Centre’s delivery, assessment, and internal verification to the correct standards, so that candidates are registered on appropriate programmes and only certificated when they have truly demonstrated the requirements of the qualification that they are taking.

Awarding Organisations are in turn responsible to the UK government regulator Ofqual to ensure that this is undertaken rigorously and professionally. It is no wonder then that Awarding Organisations look for their EQAs to be qualified and up to the job.

So how can this be achieved?

The EQA qualifications consists of two units, a Knowledge unit and a Practical unit. Whilst the Knowledge unit is straightforward and can be undertaken by anyone at any time, it is this Practical unit that presents us with the challenge because:

  1. The criteria to achieve this unit can only be met by those who are fully active in the field of EQA operations
  2. It’s one of those qualifications where not only is simulation not permitted it could be argued that this is not even possible
  3. Evidence must be produced of having undertaken formal EQA visits to Approved Centres on behalf of an Awarding Organisation

When LLUK first created the TAQA suite of qualifications (which include the EQA qualifications) it is clear that one of their key motivations was to ensure a good professional standard of operations within external verification communities.  This was to apply to all Awarding Organisations and to raise the standard nationally of external verification work and in my view an excellent intention!

However…..what was missed was what we might consider to be the “succession planning component”. What mechanism was there to ensure that very experienced and high-quality IQAs had a pathway into the external verification profession?  As a result, around five years on, we find ourselves in the position that we are today.

So how CAN I become and EQA?

To my mind, there are two approaches which seem to fit this current conundrum.

  1. Awarding Organisations could include in their recruitment some new EQAs who are not qualified, and then train and accredit these EQAs to the required qualification standard. Whilst some major Awarding Organisations do appear to take this approach already, there is some evidence that the training and accreditation is not necessarily taking place; I accept that this can be time-consuming, sometimes costly and an Awarding Organisation that is recruiting is usually looking for staff to hit the ground running to do the job immediately without too much training or supervision.

I worry a bit about this and within the last few years I have become aware of (and needed to challenge) poor practice increasingly creeping into our national quality assurance framework. Something else that adds to my concerns is the lack of a requirement by Ofqual for Awarding Organisations to have EQA-qualified staff, so that within Awarding Organisations the proper training and accreditation of EQAs can easily be overlooked. This is not currently an area of focus for Ofqual it seems.

  1. The second possible solution is that aspiring EQAs could commence their Knowledge qualification training in advance of an application to an awarding organisation, to show determination, commitment, and that they hold or are gaining the knowledge of EQA work in preparation for undertaking the required EQA duties once appointed.

This seems to be happening increasingly, and is clearly good practice within the current circumstances. However, part of motivation for writing this is that not everyone is aware of this as a route to becoming an EQA, as well as it being an excellent way of increasing knowledge and understanding for the CPD of experienced IQAs.

If Awarding Organisations don’t look after the succession planning of our EQA’s nationally, the time will come when the quality assurance system that safeguards the high quality and reputation of UK qualifications throughout the world will become damaged.  I fear ultimately some devastating effects of this on our international reputation for providing high quality qualifications.

In the meantime….

If you are an IQA, have you thought about looking at the EQA knowledge qualification for your own CPD, and to position yourself in readiness for a position with an awarding organisation as an EQA? If not, maybe the time has come when you should do this?  ATi is one of a very small number of providers that are formally approved to offer the full suite of TAQA qualifications, including both the Knowledge unit and Practical unit of the EQA qualifications.   Check out our qualification pages and current courses list or get in touch to see how we might help.

Doing this will help the UK maintain the reputation for the high quality of qualifications whilst positioning yourself well for your own future opportunities, including as an EQA with an Awarding Organisation.

Posted in EQA
Professor Ian Favell
Ian is a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and has been Chief External Verifier for CIPD for almost 20 years. As Principal Consultant for Assessor Training Ltd Ian is particularly interested in quality assurance, assessment and verification, training, learning and development, and the development and use of competencies and competency frameworks.