The introduction of apprenticeship standards coupled with OfSTED’s new Education Inspection Framework has led apprenticeship providers to consider how they develop delivery programmes and associated curriculum plans.
Providers need to consider how they build coherent plans that lead to a positive apprenticeship experience. They have to consider the level of delivery and what they are going to teach apprentices and why. Most importantly, they also need to identify the apprenticeship standards that learners are expected to meet and be able to measure that the expected knowledge and skills are being achieved.
In this article, we are going to explore how apprenticeship providers can develop delivery programmes that focus on the required knowledge, skills and behaviours and how assessment should be used to determine if learners are achieving the standards.
A major benefit of apprenticeship standards is that they provide ready-made outcomes. For many other programmes, staff need to write learning outcomes. The standards clearly set out what learners need to know, be able to do and how they should behave. Providers also have the additional benefit of knowing how the learner will be tested by having clear end point assessment plans.
The difficulty for apprenticeship providers is planning a programme that ensures that learners are being developed against each of the standards and then, being able to measure the performance of learners. Providers might have ePortfolio systems and run courses and workshops but what measures are in place to determine if learners are developing the knowledge, skills and behaviours?
Providers need to ensure that they provide an holistic and coherent learning experience with clear outcomes and expectations.
The new OfSTED EIF has also made it clear in the Quality of Education judgement that providers have to be able to demonstrate their curriculum intent, implementation and impact. Providers should consider that this is more than just a document setting out a vision. It should be a framework setting out and being able to demonstrate what you will deliver and why, how you will measure the delivery and how you will review and improve it on an ongoing basis.
Apprenticeship Programme Planning
All programmes need to have the following:
- Assessment Criteria – This sets out how providers will measure the extent to which learners are meeting the standards.
- Assessment Strategy – What assessment is planned and what are learners being asked to do and why.
- Learning and Teaching – This involves curriculum planning, sequencing and mapping and setting out what learners will learn and how.
- Programme Review – This provides staff with the process to analyse if learners are meeting the assessment criteria and if they are not then improvement actions should be implemented.
Once the apprenticeship standards have been identified, the next step in the programme design process is to identify how delivery is measured.
The main question is – What measures should be used to determine that learners are achieving the standards?
This process involves identifying:
- What does the learner need to know and why? The standard will stipulate the expected outcome but the measure needs to set out what exactly is being asked of the learners and why. It could also identify how the measure builds on previous learning.
- The type of measure. What is the learner required to do to demonstrate they have the required knowledge or skill? Examples include:
- Portfolio submission
- Professional discussion
- Participation in a debate
- What is the benchmark or pass mark? The measure needs to be set for a pass level not what the highest performer is likely to achieve. It needs to be relevant to the programme, set at the right level and be achievable.
- When the measure is expected. Be sure that learners can achieve the requirement in the given timescale
Use of Assessment
Apprenticeship providers need to think carefully about the use of assessment.
When used effectively, assessment can help learners to embed and use knowledge fluently and to show that they are competent in applying their skills. The results of effective assessment assist teachers to produce clear and achievable next steps for learners. However, assessment is too often carried out in a way that creates unnecessary burdens for staff and learners. It is therefore important that leaders and teachers understand its limitations and avoid misuse and overuse.
Inspectors will evaluate how assessment supports the teaching of the curriculum, while not driving teachers towards excessive individualisation, differentiation or interventions that are almost impossible to deliver without lowering expectations of some learners and/or driving up teachers’ workload. OfSTED EIF 2019
The use of assessment should enable providers to judge the development of learner competence and knowledge throughout their programme. This is a formative assessment. EPA is a summative assessment.
- Formative Assessment – provides a mechanism that enables providers to ensure that the training and learning process is supporting learners towards success at EPA
- Summative Assessment – is used at EPA to make a judgement on the apprentice and the extent to which they meet the KSB requirements.
Principles of Assessment
- The relevance of Assessment – Ensure assessment methods are relevant to what the learners need to demonstrate – a motor vehicle mechanic might demonstrate more through observation than a data analyst apprentice.
- Range of Assessment – use a wide range of assessment that reflects what is required – for instance, skills standards are more likely to be demonstrated through observation and assignments will show that knowledge standards have been achieved.
- Purposeful Assessment – if two or more standards can be assessed by one submission then do this rather than just identifying an assessment requirement per standard
- Individual Assessment – providers still need to ensure individual assessment is valid, reliable, authentic and fair.
Once the assessment plan has been completed, the next stage in programme design is to develop the curriculum plan.
The curriculum is the substance of what is taught. It is the specific plan of what learners need to know and should be able to do. The curriculum shapes and determines what learners of all ages will get out of their educational experience. For this reason, the curriculum is at the heart of the proposed quality of education judgement. OfSTED
Curriculum planning is a process that identifies what needs to be delivered for a programme that gives learners the knowledge and skills development they need.
OfSTED is clear that it wants to see curriculum plans that focus on learning over a period of time and allow learners to build on their previously gained knowledge.
Curriculum planning involves identifying the strategy to deliver the knowledge and skills required for the apprenticeship. This can be done in different ways. Providers may take a modular approach or create a more detailed plan that focuses on individual workshops or activities.
During the planning of the curriculum, staff need to identify learning, practice and assessment activities. It is useful to also create a curriculum mapping that identifies the outcomes and how they have been covered by curriculum activities.
Staff need to make sure that the curriculum meets the needs of both the apprentices but also the employers. They should factor in employer requirements and possibly employer training too. When building the curriculum, staff should also identify the training materials that will be needed to deliver the training.
When developing the curriculum, the staff should consider the following:
- How is the delivery being sequenced?
- Does the curriculum build on previous learning?
- Does the curriculum cover all of the standards?
- Are suitable resources available to use in delivery?
- Does it meet the organisational delivery strategy?
- What cross-curriculum links can be added?
Staff need to design the curriculum so that it sets out the knowledge and skills that apprentices need to master. It should be done in a logical and sequenced manner so that the completion of each curriculum activity allows learners to move on to the next level.
- Topic / Module centred
This focuses on the specific subject matter. If staff are designing a business administration apprenticeship curriculum plan they might break down the activities by topics such as:
- Introduction to Business Administration
- Business Fundamentals
- Business Communication
- Business Documentation
- Team Work
- Planning and Organisation
- Coaching and Appraisals
- Project Management
- Apprentice centred
This focuses on the needs of the apprentices’ requirements and goals. This is used when not all apprentices are following the same path. This allows students to have different learning material and select their own assignments but it can create pressure staff as they have to create material for the needs of each apprentice.
- Problem centred
A problem centred curriculum focuses on the apprentices to look at problems and decide their own solutions. This provides the opportunity for learners to look at real work issues or scenarios and develop the skills to meet them. This form of curriculum design has the advantage that it is set firmly around the industry the apprentices are working in. However, it makes it challenging to map the activities to the apprenticeship standards.
Designing a curriculum
Apprenticeship providers should consider a number of factors when developing a curriculum plan:
Employers will have specific training needs for their apprentices. They may want additional modules that will need to be factored into the plan. Employers will also add time constraints – they may limit the number of days that learners can be released to attend training so the curriculum plan needs to ensure that all learning is delivered in a specific time period.
A curriculum plan should not just be a table on a document that sets out what will happen on a week by week basis. The content of the curriculum plan needs to identify:
- What learning activities will be delivered?
- What practice activities will learners be expected to do?
- What assessment activities will be required?
- Which standards does the activity cover?
- What delivery material is required? Workshop plans / Powerpoints / Handouts etc
How has the curriculum been sequenced? Is it in a logical order that allows learners to build on previous knowledge and will it help learners commit information to their long term memory?
Curriculum mapping is an important part of curriculum design as it allows providers to properly evaluate the sequence and coherence of instruction. Curriculum mapping provides a visual display of the curriculum and allows staff to identify potential gaps, redundancies or alignment issues in the sequencing of instruction.
A curriculum plan cannot just be developed once and then forgotten about. It is an ongoing process. If programme reviews are conducted then it will provide areas for improvement and the curriculum will need to be adjusted accordingly.
A curriculum plan should not be a secret. Share it with learners, employers and parents. Add it to websites or learning management systems. If your key stakeholders can see it then they know what they are working towards and employers may be able to support the delivery by aligning work activities to the curriculum plan.
This is an example of a shared curriculum – click on the L / P / A to view the detail.
Conducting programme reviews is an intrinsic part of the delivery cycle. At specific points in time, usually, annually, staff need to review the assessment plan and add findings against each of the measures. This is where providers are able to analyse curriculum impact.
If there is a measure that sets out that all learners achieve 80% for a test and this was not achieved then what needs to be done? All programmes need to have an improvement plan. What will be done for the next cohort of learners to ensure that all learners achieve 80%? What needs to be changed in the curriculum?
About Capella Systems
Capella Systems supports education and training providers through innovative systems and process management.
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Stedfast provides modules covering:
- Assessment Planning
- Curriculum Planning
- Staff Performance Management
- CPD Management
- Policies and Procedure Management
- Risk Assessment Management
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