Big Four

We have completed our first round of formal training session observations, and some common themes have emerged that we can work on as a team. Also, our 2015-2016 Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) has been finalised, detailing clear targets and actions for improvement identified in the self-assessment report (SAR). Self-assessment and quality improvement planning must be integrated into the wider quality assurance and planning processes of all training providers.

It is important that a strong link is made between quality improvement and strategic planning. Although a provider may produce a whole-organisation self-assessment and quality improvement plan, this is normally evidenced by a subset of quality improvement plans produced by the curriculum areas. In our case, the resulting subset for our training and assessment team is called “The Big Four.”

Big Four Poster Jan 2016
Learner-centred Teaching
The emphasis in any learning environment should be on the learning outcomes and the purpose of learning rather than on control. Learners should not be regarded as empty vessels; they come with their own perceptions, prior knowledge, attitudes, opinions and preferences etc.

We know that learners learn in different ways and have different learning styles. Personalised/individualised approaches to teaching are encouraged which will help to foster creativity in learners.

The role of the tutor is that of facilitator, helping learners to access and process information. This probably means ‘less’ work for the tutor during the training session (as learners are directed to solve carefully constructed tasks by themselves, and in collaboration with their peers, under the tutor’s supervision), but more work outside the session to plan and then evaluate learners’ work in preparation for the next session.


English Language Development
One of our targets is to ensure all tutors and assessors correct spelling and grammar of all written work.  There must be minimal errors of spelling, grammar punctuation in learners’ written work, which will result in learners who are all able to make outstanding progress in improving their English (and Maths). This will be supported via feedback and the documentation generated for assessment visits.

When conducting research for assignments, learners need to know how to make effective decisions about what they have read – when to skim, when to focus, and how to take concise quotes. Copying from source material constitutes plagiarism and does not indicate whether the learner understands the context or implications of the material.

Learners can also develop the quality of their English via speech. In this instance, tutors should be using specific strategies to improve the quality of any discussions, and any tutor intervention should be should be minimal and timely.


Most educational research indicates that around 80% of classroom questioning is based on factual, recall questions which do not develop higher-order thinking skills.

Outstanding tutors use an array of approaches to assessment which maximise the quality of information they receive, whether that is around prior knowledge or checking that learners have really learned (and understood) what was originally planned. Using this information enables them to make judgments and accelerate the progress of learners.

You cannot measure progress without first establishing the starting points of the learners. Their individual starting points vary, depending on what is being covered during that session eg topics covered in school or college, topics covered in previous training sessions, and experience gained on work placements. This ties in with differentiation and equality and diversity.


Getting to know our learners and using that knowledge to shape the training session is an important prerequisite for effective differentiation, not only does this empower them, but it also demonstrates equality and diversity. Tutors should view every interaction as an opportunity to get to know their learners better.

The question tutors must ask themselves throughout their training session is: “Has sufficient provision been made for all learners to be included?”

Our target is to develop a set of resources and CPD training sessions aimed at helping tutors challenge all learners, such that they all feel stretched by training. Every tutor should also be able to make outstanding provision for additional needs.


Further Reading
Gadsby, C., (2012) Perfect Assessment for Learning: Independent Thinking Press.
Jones, R., (2014) Don’t Change the Lightbulbs: Crown House Publishing Ltd.
Maclean, A., (2004) The Motivated School: Paul Chapman Publishing

Feedback is not Marking

The old-fashioned image of a solitary tutor wading through piles of marking has proven to do very little to raise achievement, because:

  • Learners don’t always read the written feedback they receive;
  • If learners read their feedback, they don’t necessarily understand it; and
  • Even when it is understood, learners might not act on it in a way that helps them make progress.

Feedback, on the other hand, should be interactive and collaborative. It’s part of a working partnership and not limited to achieving success in assignments or exams.

The Ofsted outstanding criteria require that:

Learners are making substantial and sustained progress as a result of incisive feedback.

Therefore, feedback must be impactful, resulting in positive change, as opposed to merely indicating correct and incorrect answers in the work that associates are producing.
An interesting piece of research conducted jointly by The Sutton Trust and The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), suggests that effective feedback can accelerate learning by up to 8 months. On a 12 month programme like ours, this is highly significant.

When giving feedback, tutors, assessors and mentors should also promote English, mathematics, ICT and employability skills where appropriate.

In those instances where it is possible for associates to achieve the units comprising their qualification without correct and accurate numeracy and literacy, we would be doing them a disservice by ignoring these. Even if we don’t, they will be held to account further down the line for incidences of poor spelling, grammar, punctuation and basic mathematical ability.

On the Step Forward programme, opportunities to give feedback are many and varied, including conversation, demonstration and observation.

Within our delivery team, verbal, non-verbal and written feedback are given to and received by associates, tutors, assessors, mentors and employers. The following checklist is useful for pathway training, PD training, ILP visits, assessment visits, assignments, exams and one-to-one meetings:


Feedback Review Checklist

  1. Do the associates understand the assessment criteria and what members of staff are looking for?
  2. Are the associates assessed regularly?
  3. Are there examples of comments that give appropriate advice?
    Do staff pose questions as part of their feedback or identify specific areas for improvement?
  4. Are associates made aware of spelling, vocabulary, punctuation and numerical errors?
  5. Do associates respond to feedback?
    Does their work and/or behaviour show progress over time?
  6. Are there areas of good practice to share?
    Are there areas of strength in the associates’ work?


Further Reading
Bentley-Davis, C., (2014) How to be an Amazing Middle Leader: Crown House Publishing Ltd.
Gadsby, C., (2012) Perfect Assessment for Learning: Independent Thinking Press.