Tom and Nick from Train Aid discuss the various different assessment types that can be utilised in both the workplace and vocational settings. Listen to their ideas and then put them into practice yourselves...
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Tom- “We are here to talk about the Level 3 Certificate in Assessing Competence and Vocational Achievement otherwise known as CAVA qualification, and the different assessment methods available for learners to use on their practical assessments.”


Tom - “We will begin to look at workplace assessments which is unit 2 of the CAVA course and then we will move on to look at vocational assessments which is unit 3.”

“For anyone who has attended the initial two classroom days of the CAVA qualification will have gone through the theory of principles and practices of assessing, and will return to their workplace and carry out 4 workplace assessments. They are specific in that they need to include three types of assessment methods:”

“Observations - observing candidates within their work roles”.

“Questions - supplementary questions asked by the assessor to the learner after the assessment has taken place.'' 

“Work Product- This is produced by the learner to demonstrate their knowledge or performance of the assessment”.  

“We are going to be discussing the observations looking at the benefits of each method”. 

Nick - “In terms of the CAVA assessing qualification, we have seen a variety of observations within the hair and beauty industry, construction, local businesses, where assessing is becoming a lot more prominent in the upskilling of staff. The scope of assessing is getting larger for both new staff members and the upskilling of current staff.”

Tom: “The key with the observations is that the candidate assessor needs two learners in a work role, they do not have to be apprentices, they can be experienced colleagues and the key thing is that they are assessing against some form of industry standards that they are mapping the evidence to the criteria.”

Nick - “The key thing is the criteria, a good hallmark of any assessor is making the staff member aware of the different criteria to show them exactly what exactly they are going to be looking for. One bit of advice I offer learners attending this course is to be open to staff members or learners, and have a prior meeting to go through the set criteria of the observation.”

Tom - “Observations are the primary method for the workplace assessments because they help authenticate the learner / staff member within a work role with a degree of high validity and reliability. In terms of what we recommend for these observations, we stress on the course that it is important to be organised and plan the date and time of the assessment with the learner. Then you can let them know how they are going to be observed and provide constructive feedback in a positive style throughout the whole experience.”

Nick - “I believe early planning is important to communicate with the learner or staff member who is going to be observed and also your manager to talk to them about whether or not a shift needs to be covered. Record keeping is important within assessments to make staff aware of timings and setting up a familiar system with staff so they understand who is going to be assessed and where.”

Tom - “The next step is the supplementary questions. These take place after the observation have place and the questions allow for the candidate to expand on their knowledge and to show that they fully understand the criteria.”

“One common query is how many questions should I ask? As an assessor there are no set amount and it does depend to a certain extent to how well the observation went and if the assessor got everything they wanted from the observation. If the observation was somewhat limited and they were not able to prove that the candidate met the standards, then further questions will become a lot more involved.”

“Often candidates will often ask if they can  pre-populate or write the questions beforehand? Yes you can as you are going to link these to the standards but at the same time there has to be a degree of flexibility if there are certain avenues and areas that you are mapping these standards to.”

“There does not need to be open questions or leading questions, which leads to the candidate coming out with the answers.”

Nick - “Yes I agree, I think the questions are a vital part of assessing and I think it is an opportunity for the candidate to assess the learner’s knowledge about the company’s own policies, legislations and procedures. Also to check to see whether they are staying current and that they have an updated knowledge of these legislations. If learners do have gaps in their knowledge, then perhaps you can sign post them to any updates or changes in legislation and make them more aware.”

Tom - “There is nothing wrong with informing the learner what they are going to be questioned on. That comes into the planning again - for example ‘please read up on this area of your course or this area of the industry as this is what we will be asking you questions on’.  The other thing to consider is the fact that with these questions and the answers.”

“How do you record that as a candidate on the CAVA course- we have a couple of options you can write them out in full or you can do audio recordings. From our experience a few of the learners do use the latter option, which  may be easier and more practical than writing up the written responses.”

Tom - “The third assessment method on the workplace assessment pathway is the use of work product. The key thing with the workplace assessments is that they are within a work role and what the work product actually does is authenticate that actual work based assessment took place. A good example that we have seen in the past is a risk assessment that has been completed. It can be a checklist such as a vehicle checklist or a course register from a classroom which can be signed off by a member of staff.”

Nick- “The work product is evidence that the assessment took place, such as a checklist. We do see photos of work evidence such as hairdressing and nails (beauty), which show the photos of the customer’s end result.” 

Tom - “We often get asked  about confidentiality and GDPR, we appreciate that some information is sensitive and can’t be shared, so there is nothing wrong with removing names if required.”  


Tom - “One of the most common questions is what is the difference between workplace and vocational assessments? A workplace assessment is where you are observing or assessing someone within a work role (day to day) E.g a personal trainer is working with a client or if it is someone working within a construction site working on machinery working on that role. The vocational is more the training side, often the theory or knowledge side of assessing typically based within a classroom or training room. You are observing someone or questioning.”

Observation - “With any vocational observation it is common to conduct a role play or scenario as opposed to a real life environment. An example would be first aid training where there are scenarios set up where skills such as CPR and choking are demonstrated on peers or manikins. The format is very similar where the assessor is observing them perform their tasks, they are graded and mapped against the criteria but they are not within a work role. It is an effective assessment method as you are simulating a work role.”

Written Questions - “These are a common formal of vocational assessments, these enable learners to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject, they are often marked against a criteria. It is an opportunity for the learner to reflect on their own role. The written questions could be designed by the tutor or written by an exam board. It is important for the questions to be mapped against the grading criteria.”

Skills Test - “These can often be multiple choice or short answer questions common on qualifications such as first aid or manual handling courses. It might be set under test conditions. The downside to skills tests are that the learner may feel under pressure within an exam scenario, however a key advantage is that a number of people can be assessed at once. A skills test is a recommended method which can be designed by the assessor such as making a 20 question multiple choice test. Tests can be standardised and they have a required pass grade.” 

Assignments - “There are a number of courses which require assignments as part of their assessment method such as the Level 3, 4 and 5 teacher trainer courses. These assignments can be marked by the assessor and to use the criteria as a reference point. An advantage of assignments is that learners can provide their own opinions or points of view can be shared.” 

Professional Discussions - “This is where the assessor can speak to one candidate to check whether or not there are any gaps within the knowledge. These can be a discussion to see whether the learner does need any additional training to improve their own practice.”  


Tom - “Hopefully we have distinguished between vocational or workplace assessments. On the workplace pathway of the qualification there are three mandatory methods: observations, questions and the work product which are set out by the assessor. With the vocational pathway it is important to include three different assessment methods overall (written questions, skills test, assignments or professional discussions).”