Assessment and tracking progress (NTC)

Assessment and Tracking Progress

North Tyneside Council

Research Plans Should Revolve Around LearnersThe aim of this action research project was to identify and develop assessment for learning methodologies that can help promote learners’ self-belief and their capacity to be successful on mandated DWP programmes. The project focused on assessing and tracking the communication skills of learners on two employability programmes. Practitioner research outcomes were shared with Kendal College, where an assessment and tracking project with similar objectives was being undertaken.


Learners are mandated by Job Centre Plus (JCP+) to attend employability courses, which are designed to enable them to gain the knowledge and skills they need to apply for jobs. Many learners have just come off long term sickness benefits and have been out of work for long periods of time and can be reluctant to attend.

Learners often lack the self-confidence to communicate effectively in a workplace setting. The rationale for the project was to develop an assessment and tracking approach that helps support learner motivation, confidence and success.

Project Activities and Outputs

Approach and Methdology

The core project team comprised a Project Lead and Deputy Project Lead, both of whom are members of the North Tyneside Council Senior Management team, and six Employability Tutors.

The team designed, trialled and piloted two individual learning plans (ILPs) for each of the two employability programmes that aimed to:
• Enable learners to recognise their strengths, areas for development, self-confidence and motivation to learn and improve
• Enable tutors to personalise learning, signpost learners to additional support and help them meet summative assessment requirements, with a focus on written and verbal communication skills
• Embed the Effective Practice Guidelines (EPGs) (Education and Training Foundation, 2017).

The project team met each month to plan and evaluate their action research activity, and the Project Leads met with staff from Kendal College on three occasions to share outcomes.

Feedback was also gathered from DWP colleagues on the effectiveness of the assessment and tracking materials from a JCP+ perspective.

Subsequently tutors have researched the impact of the revised ILPs and assessment processes in supporting learners into employment.

Professional Learning

Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices.

There was a strong focus on the EPG’s throughout the ILP design process. Tutors’ awareness and understanding of the EPG’s increased, and they were able to use them to guide and inform their approach to the design, e.g. by ensuring that assessment is embedded in the job search context (EPG 10) and that the ILP is a learner-led and living document (EPG 11).

There was also ongoing reference to the Professional Standards, with tutors being encouraged by the Project Leads to self-assess against these throughout the project.

Tutors reported that feedback on the ILPs from learners, teaching colleagues from other departments and DWP managers has enabled them to evaluate and challenge their own practices, values and beliefs.

Tutors felt that the specialist led CPD on action research offered to them through the project enabled them to become more confident in their abilities as researchers.

Evidence of professional learning and changes in practice can also be found in the ILP’s produced, minutes from project team meetings and attendance at and contributions to OTLA CPD events.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisational practices

Staff involved in the development of the ILPs felt they benefitted from being able to meet peers from other organisations, and from the chance to exchange ideas on teaching, learning and assessment. They also valued the opportunity to build new, collaborative relationships with colleagues teaching in different contexts.

The outcomes of the project were shared with staff from Kendal College and from South Tyneside Council, where a similar approach to ILP development is now being considered.

The process of designing and trialling the new ILPs has challenged existing practices and helped shaped new ones, with the new ILPs now being used successfully across the respective employability programmes.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression.

Learner behaviour and motivation improved: the new ILPs helped learners to focus on how their skills are developing, so that they experienced success and were more likely to complete their programme and progress into employment.

The new ILPs also:• provided a basis for the planning and delivery of effective learning sessions for learners with a wide variety of health needs and other barriers to learning
• supported greater learner engagement with new technology associated with job search activity
• enabled learners to take responsibility for their own learning and to set and monitor their own goals
• promoted learners’ belief in their capacity to successfully gain sustainable and worthwhile employment.

As a result of their research tutors made adjustments to the entire assessment processes. These included providing 1:1 support; adapting the assessment process so that it was limited to what was necessary and assessing for self-belief and motivation (EPG 6 & 7). These adaptations successfully supported tutors and learners in negotiating effective strategies to overcome issues with low self-esteem.

One learner who had had a longstanding conviction that she would never be able to gain employment was supported into gaining a work experience placement which subsequently resulted in her obtaining paid work with the same employer.

Engaging vocational tutors in the full assessment process ensured that everyone involved was fully aware of the assistance learners needed (EPG4). As a direct result of this one learner was given tailored support in achieving a qualification that he had repeatedly failed. This resulted in him progressing straight from the course into work on a construction site
The revised ILPs have proved so successful that learners have reported using them as prompts during interviews with employers. As a result of this one learner was successful in gaining a role as housekeeper in a local hotel. She has since applied for and been successful in a further role with the same organisation and is now in a supervisory position.

Concluding Remarks

Learning from this project

  • The project team adopted a collaborative approach to enable them to make changes to their teaching, learning and assessment practices, drawing on the theories of practice architectures and ecologies of practices they had been introduced to by the OTLA Research Lead. They invited all the interested parties: learners, tutors, DWP staff and administrative staff, to join a sincere and genuine “conversation” about how they could work together to bring about change (Kemmis, McTaggart and Nixon, (2014). This collaborative, whole organisation approach was key to the success of the project.
  • Specialist input on action research was a feature of the CPD programme. This enabled the project team to gain confidence in the validity of their observations and in their capabilities as researchers.
  • The EPG’s provided a framework for the action research. The team embedded the EPG’s into their research, using them as the basis for the development of successful assessment for learning methodologies.
  • The ‘time out’ to reflect on and develop their own practice was particularly valued by practitioners.
  • The collaborative approach supported organisational development and quality improvement.