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

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Observation of Practice.

Observation of a student’s practice is by far the most appropriate and widely used assessment strategy in practice and certainly provides face validity. The NMC (2008a) stipulate that the majority of assessments of competence should be assessed through direct observation in clinical practice. Not only does it allow a student’s performance of skill to be reviewed but it allows the mentor or practice teacher to observe a student’s attitude and ability to respond in different situations (Walsh 2010). Sharples et al (2007) believe that if a student knows they are being watched they will automatically improve. However, Hand (2006) warns that mentors and practice teachers can never really know how a student will act when not under scrutiny.

Observation of practice is not without its problems because observation alone captures a student’s behaviour rather than reasoning (Price 2007). Mentors and practice teachers also need to establish a student’s knowledge and the rationale for a student’s practice thus, observation alone lacks content validity. Therefore mentors and practice teachers need to develop the observations of practice into questioning, but at an appropriate time. This can be achieved by having a question and answer discussion after (or as soon as appropriate) any episode of care provided by the student. This should be somewhere private away from the service user and a place where they cannot be disturbed.

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