Facilitating learning in practice
Facilitating learning in practice

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Facilitating learning in practice

3 Evidence to inform assessment

Prior to assessing learning and competence, the student should engage in some form of self-assessment, either by completing a SLOT analysis (see Week 5) or by self-assessing against those criteria required for the particular practice area. Often it can be assumed that the student will be aware of their own capabilities; however, the process of self-assessment will encourage an opportunity to plan learning. You could discuss with the student their:

  • knowledge base
  • strengths
  • limitations
  • self-perceptions and confidence.

Nevertheless, this process should only be used as one method of assessment in conjunction with others such as direct observation and questioning, which will be needed to confirm current capabilities. Baxter and Norman (2011) suggest that caution is needed when utilising student self-assessment as a method of evidence for competence, as findings from their study recommend this common practice is less than effective and is not an accurate measure of clinical ability when used in isolation. It does however give an insight into how the student perceives their own capabilities and their level of confidence in specific areas of practice.

Activity 2 Exploring methods of assessment

Allow 15 minutes
  • From Table 1 below, what methods of assessment do you feel you could utilise in assessing students learning in practice?
  • Next identify the methods you feel most comfortable with or that you feel you need more experience with.

Table 1 Methods of assessment

Direct observation

Does the student need more practice and guidance? Additional role modelling may be required.

Does the student appear nervous when being directly observed? Reflect on the impact of your presence and observation technique to ensure these are performed in a supportive way. Clarify when you may need to intervene (i.e. client safety).

Questioning of related evidence-based practice Does the student understand the underpinning theory relating to the skill or competence performed?
Working alongside the student during an episode of care or placement period Holistic assessment over a longer period can give context to a required competence. Examples of care settings could include an acute care or community setting, a service user’s home, or a health promotion setting. Values and attitudes can be monitored.
Feedback from colleagues, other mentors, service users Adds to the reliability of decision making and identifies if overall standards of practice have been achieved.
Oral presentation Must be conducted in a supportive environment. Allows the student time to research and prepare. Can lead to shared learning and new insights.
Reflective discussion/writing Promotes self-awareness and encourages critical analysis of episodes of care. Helps to demonstrate knowledge learned, what went well and what could be done differently in future care interventions.
Problem-based scenarios or patient stories This method can be useful to discuss possible scenarios that have not been observed. These can determine a student’s understanding and application of nursing knowledge to a variety of situations and must include holistic care of people with disabilities and learning needs, including visual and hearing difficulties that may not be physically obvious.


All the above methods provide sources of evidence that can be utilised in your overall assessment of student learning. It is useful to make notes either during or immediately after an assessment and refer to these in future discussions. Encouraging the student to write down their reflections from the above assessment processes will also help to demonstrate current knowledge and understanding, and identify potential areas for improvement. Gaining written feedback from colleagues and other mentors is more effective than a rushed ad hoc conversation, and can be more productive in identifying the student’s potential strengths and limitations. Asking several colleagues who have worked with the student rather than just one provides a more balanced approach and can identify if there are multiple concerns or multiple areas of progression that can help to inform your decision making about a student’s stage of learning (Price, 2012).

Mentorship programme

If you are completing these learning materials as part of an NMC mentor preparation programme, use the protected learning time allowed to discuss the above methods with your own supervisor/mentor and identify opportunities for further exploration of these methods.

Critically reflect on these experiences within your portfolio of evidence to demonstrate new learning. NMC (2008) requirements state that ‘most assessment of competence should be undertaken through direct observation in practice’ (p. 32).


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