The horse’s mouth…

The main area of progress since the last post was my visit to discuss my ideas with students and staff from a university where I used to work. This university uses a peer assessment format that I was familiar with when I used to work there but no-one had evaluated it. Like the idea that I have, this assessment is used in practice rather than in a classroom or in a simulated practice setting. Therefore I thought it would be useful to go back and discuss with staff and students their opinions on using it.

This trip down memory lane proved valuable to me and to the staff as well because following my visit they have realised there are some issues with the assessment that t hey need to deal with. The session with students was very revealing and gave me many ideas for designing the assessment that are too numerous to mention here. However, it would be fair to say that students saw a value in what they were being asked to do but needed more guidance. They felt that keeping a record of their peer assessments over three years could be a good resource for them to look back on to track their own development. They supplemented this by saying that guidance could be written down in more detail for them in their practice assessment documents. They wondered if they were being ‘too complimentary’ in their comments to their fellow students. However, some felt that one of the key points might not be the accuracy of their assessment but the fact that they would become more engaged with practice (music to my ears because this is one of the hopes for my own version of the assessment). On the negative side, one of the students commented that community settings make it ┬ámore difficult to ‘buddy up’ with a peer assessor.

From the staff point of view, they saw the assessment as a way they hope students would engage more with the placement. However, they admitted that without a formal evaluation, they were guessing at the benefits and hoped to be able to carry out their own evaluation. They agreed that more time should be devoted to developing competence in giving feedback and receiving it, so they were going away from the meeting with a plan to do this.

So, I took a great deal from this trip and in the main it reinforced many of my thoughts on the topic to date. The greatest advantage was getting a view ‘from the horse’s mouth’ as they say.

Welcome to the world of learning disability nurse education

Welcome to my first post about the innovation project I am undertaking at the University of Northampton. The University has funded me from its innovation fund to develop a peer assessment for student learning disability nurses who are on practice placement. This combines two of my interests. Firstly, I am passionate about improving the lives of people with learning disabilities and I am still enjoying my career in this field which is well into its fourth decade! Secondly, after having spent most of my career encouraging people with learning disabilities to become partners in their own care and support, I am keen to encourage students to play a greater role in their own learning. Peer assessment is one of the way in which students can achieve this.

Although I have discovered that peer assessment has been used many times in higher education, nurse education has been a little slower at adopting it. Where it has been tried, it has been confined to relatively small scale academic activities or in teaching student nurses a practical skills such as hand-washing. I want to build upon this by developing an assessment format that students could use when on placement that would require them to deploy a greater range of observation and reasoning skills in making judgements about each other’s practice.

I am at an early stage in the project: still trawling the literature, completing ethics application forms and testing out ideas with colleagues. My next step is to visit another university that uses a similar approach to see what can be learned from both staff and student nurses who use it.

Peer assessment in learning disability nurse education