2021 Curriculum Assessment Guidance

Published: 24/05/2021

Philosophy of assessment

The key aim for assessment is to improve practice by concentrating on the educational potential of assessment through reflection and analysis, and de-emphasising the collection of evidence of achievement.  Assessment within the 2021 Curriculum is therefore intentionally weighted towards formative development where we give an account of practice to enable improvement rather than accounting for practice or quantifying achievement.  The learner is expected, and should feel confident, to demonstrate a journey of progression, in which the process of improvement is appreciated in addition to achievement. 

Anaesthetic practice is complex and uncertain, expertise is developed by immersion in a ‘community of practice’ and anaesthetists are actively engaged in their own learning, moving from peripheral participation in the anaesthetic community towards expertise.  The developmental process is necessarily a journey where acquiring knowledge, practicing skills, and perfecting professional artistry are opportunistic.  It follows that every experience that an aspiring expert in the practice of anaesthesia encounters should be an opportunity for learning.

The process that underpins that learning is an experiential cycle of concrete experience, reflective observation and abstract conceptualisation.  The expectation is that the performance of the anaesthetist in training will improve through repeated cycles of experience, reflection, conceptualisation, and application.

Key to enabling assessment to improve practice is that the expert trainer enables reflection and conceptualisation within this cycle, focusing the learner on analysis of their performance in a developmental conversation.  Recording elements of that conversation may help anaesthetists in training consolidate and apply concepts gained over a number of encounters.  Every training encounter should therefore be undertaken with this iterative development in mind: they should examine the performance of the anaesthetist in training and explore ways in which it might be improved.  Such discussions may be captured as part of a Supervised Learning Event (SLE) throughout the curriculum.

Assessment shapes every aspect of the learning experience and thus emphasis should be on the positive impact of improving learning and practice rather than being regarded as a series of hurdles to progression.

It is hoped that by refocusing attention on participation in developmental conversations and moving away from SLEs being viewed as a summative assessments, these conversations become a normal part of everyday practice in which teaching, learning, and assessment happen simultaneously.  The intention is that training moves away from performing SLEs for the purpose of demonstrating ability, towards a more open culture where frequent, informal, formative analysis of performance is both expected and achievable, and  where those powerful conversations, guided by the standards within the curriculum, serve as the scaffold to the achievement of excellence.