Developing mentors to support students in practice, Part assessment and Accountability; – Assessment in practice. Summary

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Assessment Methods

The inclusion of multiple methods of assessments according to Quinn and Hughes (2007) can help a student to integrate, synthesise and assimilate the theoretical components of the learning outcomes with the clinical application in practice. One essential method of assessment as advocated by the NMC (2008a) is that of continuous assessment.

Continuous Assessment

Assessments should begin early and include regular feedback, they need to be realistic, understood and based on insights shared by other colleagues (Price 2012). Furthermore, Price (2007) asserts that assessments need to be continued over time so that mentors and practice teachers can assess for consistency of performance in varying situations. Moreover, Sharples et al (2007) suggest that a student should be observed on a number of occasions over the weeks to provide a better picture of their abilities to perform the task so that direct evidence of competence can be collected. This is also suggested by Oliver and Enderby (2000) who stress that no single final procedure is adequate for assessing clinical competence and therefore, continuous assessment is essential. Dogra and Wass (2006) also concur that assessment of clinical performance needs to accommodate the diversity of the service user in order to make a judgment of a student in terms of their cultural sensitivity. In addition, according to Hand (2006) continuous assessment allows a student to increase his or her confidence before a final judgement is made.

Through the use of a mutually agreed action plan the mentor or practice teacher should work with the student regularly to enable the student’s performance to be under scrutiny over the duration of the placement. This will enable their day to day clinical practice to be observed and judged, however, this can be very time consuming for the mentor and practice teacher (Walsh 2010, Kinnell and Hughes 2010). It can also be seen as subjective and lead to more favourable judgements due to the bond that may form between the student and the mentor or practice teacher. From a student’s perspective, being observed continuously can create a degree of stress and anxiety which may then influence the student’s achievement (Kinnell and Hughes 2010). Nevertheless, according to Duffy and Hardicre (2007) continuous assessment provides an avenue for providing a student with constructive feedback regarding their strengths and weaknesses. This will then highlight the areas for development which in turn can motivate a student through the fear of failure (Kinnell and Hughes 2010). Providing feedback to a student regarding their progress is very important and should be given at regular intervals. This should be given informally following an episode of care or at the end of each shift and formally via the planned formative and summative assessments. For further information on the importance of feedback refer to part two of this three part series and is part 7 of this whole series named ‘developing mentors to support students in practice’ Assessment and Accountability 2; Importance of Feedback and managing failing students in practice.

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