This paper synthesises and discusses a number of themes arising from self-evaluations
conducted by four Central Academic Units in the Open University. Some of the themes
were also discussed in an earlier paper, Issues in the assessment of practice-based
professional learning, which is available on the PBPL CETL website.
Some pedagogical implications of the difference between professional learning in two
milieux, on placement and in one’s own workplace, are acknowledged. In the latter
milieu, a course participant has the advantage of familiarity with the workplace
environment, but this may make it difficult to draw in a proper manner on workplace
resources when responding to course assessment tasks.
A number of curricular issues are discussed, including the appropriate blending of
theoretical and practical understandings; the problems of providing workplace learning
opportunities; some aspects of e-learning; and the twin challenges of stating standards for
courses involving professional learning, and assessing against them. The more
individually focused is the curriculum, the greater the problems of ensuring robust
assessments and the greater the cost implications (the same apply broadly in respect of
the assessment of prior experiential learning).
The problematic nature of grading is often under-appreciated. However, when even a
three-point grading approach (fail/pass/distinction) is adopted in practice-based
professional learning, challenge presents itself – and is particularly evident where the
distinction grade is involved. This is an aspect of assessment that demands further
Another aspect of assessment that is worthy of further study is the use of assessors and/or
verifiers from the workplace. The Foundation Degree in early years is pioneering the
use of verifiers, which is an approach that merits formal study since it has implications
that could extend well beyond the Open University.
The challenging curricular and assessment issues have implications for staff and student
development, and for quality assurance.