The government have commited to increasing the amount of students studying at further education (FE) level, and this is reflected in the fact that there were 2.2 million students studying at FE colleges in the UK in the 2019/20 academic year. With more students comes the need for more college assessors. The importance of vocational training has grown rapidly in recent times, which has increased the assessors of the vocational variety. Vocational assessors are expected to be a 'dual professional', “being skilled in their professional area such as plumbing, and equally skilled as a teacher”.
The assessor role will require the candidate to determine whether or not a student’s work is up to national occupational standards for that particular skill, in order to achieve their qualifications. They will assess a student’s work for evidence of this, as well as conduct face-to-face assessments.
Good communication skills are a must, whether speaking or listening to a student’s justifications for working a particular way. Within this sphere comes the ability to provide feedback that can help a student improve their practices. Expect to be quizzed on your abilities in this area.
Remember, no-one likes interviews. Aside from moving house, they are regularly held up as being the most stressful of life events. But never fear! If you do your homework, that is half the battle won.
Preparation is key
When interviewing for the college assessor role, there are certain questions that are likely to crop up. It would therefore be beneficial to plan how to best answer these questions before the interview. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
It is important to bear in mind the job specification when preparing for your interview. You should think about the skills and experiences that you possess and how these match what the employer is looking for in a candidate. For instance, the carpentry and joinery trainer/assessor role at Wigan & Leigh College requires the desired individual to “carry out workplace assessments, reviews and set action plans for apprentices, including SMART Targets and deliver on professional qualifications at Levels 2-3 including the embedding of Functional Skills”. Sharing your experience of undertaking these tasks is a must, as is an understanding of SMART targets as they relate to the college assessor role.
Questions and answers for college assessors
A quick Google search will show you that some of the most common interview questions in general include: “What are your strengths?”, “What are your weaknesses?”, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why should we hire you?”.
It’s all well and good having the answers to these general questions in your interview toolbox, but we will examine some questions specific to the assessor role. So, something that can be asked in any interview can be tweaked to be college assessor-specific.
For example, “Tell me a bit about yourself” can be extended to include “… your skills and your NVQ Assessing experience?” Your answer should always bear the job specification in mind so that you match your skills to what the college is looking for.
You will likely be quizzed on your knowledge of sectoral changes. You research will come in handy if you are asked something along the lines of “How do you keep yourself up to date with sector changes?” A detailed knowledge of recent changes will set you apart from other candidates, as well as showcase your passion for the role. A question along the lines of “how do you offer advice to candidates who are not meeting the standards?” requires you to offer examples of your skills. The college will likely be looking for ways you can demonstrate constructive criticism given to students and how you provide support to those struggling with the course.
Expect there to be a question in there that examines your ability to observe and assess students. This could be: “What is your approach to observing and assessing candidates?” Here, you can display your proficiency in understanding the different ways of gauging a student’s competency.
Showing the interviewers your adeptness with different forms of questions is to be advised. You should explain how you use oral questions, short-answer written questions and multiple-choice questions.
You should provide an overview of your working knowledge of how you tailor your questions and are careful to ensure they are asked in such a way that answers are clear and unambiguous.
The STAR method
The STAR method is a very useful framework to apply to your interview questions, as well as show your skills and experience. STAR stands for:
· Situation - give context for your anecdote
· Task - explain what you were asked to do
· Activity - describe what you did
· Result - explain how the situation played out.
By framing your answers within the STAR method structure, you will be able to provide a rich and in-depth answer that will tick the interviewer’s boxes.
Steps needed to undertake an effective assessment
There are certain steps outlined by the Scottish Qualifications Authority that are essential when providing an effective assessment. These steps are universal across the board in the UK.
These steps involve:
· Assessment planning
· Generating and collecting evidence of the student’s competence
· Weighing up the evidence of the student’s ability and subsequently making an assessment decision based on the evidence found
· Finally, recording the assessment decision
Demonstrating a working knowledge of these steps is advantageous for candidates as the interviewer will certainly be looking for clues that you are ofay with what makes an assessment effective.
Kerry O’Neill, an assessor for apprentice hairdressers, says that diversity training has changed the way that assessors work with students from all walks of life. She explains that if, for example, someone comes into a salon needing wheelchair access, you need to consider “how we can embed that into our everyday assessments”.
Adherence to the Equality Act (2010) is of paramount importance in the modern workplace and in wider society. The Act seeks to legally protect individuals from discrimination and every effort should be made to uphold its principles. A knowledge of this will stand you in very good stead in a college assessor interview, as well as the role should you be successful.