Learning at Work week is an annual event in May. It aims to to put a spotlight on the importance and benefits of learning and development at work. This year it takes place from 15th-21st May and the theme is 'Curious & Creative'.

ScOPT are running a series of articles on the website to tie in with Learning at Work week, as well as highlighting appropriate resources each day.

The post by Moira Dunworth is about a tool which enables wider feedback on a student's practice.

Assessing learners

Assessing learners on placement needs to be multi-faceted, particularly assessing ability to reflect on practice. I found the assessment tools in the ALPS CETL website (ALPS, 2013) useful in helping students with their transition to reflective practice. It is very sobering to read the research findings in Gibbs and Simpson (2004) on how little students use feedback from tutors. Well, let’s try to get feedback elsewhere then. An element of these tools is the incorporation of direct feedback from service users.

These ‘tools’ are sets of forms to be used by students and their assessors in order to reflect on particular aspects of a piece of work undertaken with a service user. An element of these tools is the incorporation of direct feedback from service users. The students with whom I used these tools paid attention to such feedback in a very different way than to my feedback. They were very thoughtful about it, even though it (the feedback) was often all positive; the students said that they were able to see themselves and their work in a different way.

The research reported by Gibbs and Simpson (2004) made two important points, which should be obvious but of which we are not always aware. Firstly students can't learn from feedback which they don't understand. Feedback from service users is usually in very clear language, ‘she comes back about things we talked about last time’. We, the practice educators, tend to come from a much more sophisticated cognitive position than the student and do they might not understand what we are saying in the feedback, particularly if we mask negative feedback in obscure language. The second learning point for me from Gibbs and Simpson (2004) is that students are unlikely to learn if the feedback is seen as personally critical of them and this can negatively affect their self-efficacy. This is problematic when providing feedback on social work practice because the student IS a huge part of the practice which I am assessing or on which I am commenting. The tool used in this inquiry helped to frame the feedback because the different parts of the tool collected feedback from different sources – the student’s self-assessment, my feedback and the comments of the service user. So a structured multi-dimensional tool can help to mediate feedback which might otherwise be difficult for a student to hear.


ALPS (2013) ALPS Assessment Tools, Assessment and Learning in Practice Settings, http://www.alps-cetl.ac.uk/tools.html (accessed 10 May 2017)

Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C. (2004) ‘Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning’, Journal of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 3–31


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