Engagement in Assessment


Assessment is the process by which evidence of student achievement is recognised and judged. Ecclestone, (1996), identifies three main reasons for assessing people in education:

  • To diagnose their learning needs
  • To select them for the next educational stage or for work
  • To certificate their achievements

Assessments have to meet the requirements as stipulated by professional bodies, legislation, government directives and Quality Assurance Agency(QAA). 

The involvement of service users and carers in assessments adds to the validation of the assessment.  Benefits for students are identified as:

  • Providing thought-provoking feedback to reflect upon
  • Increased confidence
  • Increased motivation
  • Encouragement to further enhance their practice (Duxbury and Ramsdale 2007).


Assessment methods are varied and can be constrained by the nature of the qualification and the regulations of the awarding body. In order for service users and carers to gain insight into the assessment process the following questions need to be considered:

  • What is being assessed?
    • Subject based knowledge
    • Application of skills
    • Competence to successfully perform
  • When does it need to be assessed?
    • Some assessments are ongoing whereby the student receives regular feedback
    • Assessment will also take place in line with academic and awarding bodies
  • Why is it assessed?
    • This is to see how the student is progressing
    • To meet specific criteria as set by the awarding body
    • To build academic credits towards an award

The assessment process can either be formative or summative.

Formative assessment offers feedback to students at a timely stage to allow the student to gain a view of their strengths and development needs.

Summative assessment takes place at the end of a learning period and provides a grading structure for a qualification.

Areas that service users and carers can be involved in:








Writing assessment

Checking criteria

Preparing students for assessment /

Launching of assessment with students







Reading drafts




Mock assessments



Observing students







Marking/grading students work


Compiling module report

Presentation of module report at Subject/Award Board

Planning meetings

*OSCE Objective Structure Clinical Examination

How do we prepare service users and carers to be involved with assessment?

It is vital that we provide relevant training in all aspects of the role that service users and carers will be undertaking. Levin (2004:23) identifies the importance of training “training and support have been identified as levers for making service users’ and carers’ participation work”. A supporting framework should be established that includes induction, briefing and debriefing sessions. Service users and carers should be encouraged to identify their own learning needs and should be involved in developing their own training programme to include security, confidentiality and diversity. Usually there will be courses in a university that will help service users  and carers in assessment activities. These may include IT(Information Technology), equality and diversity, report writing and also certified courses such as PGCE. An example of a module to assist service users and carers in engagement within HEI’s is, ‘Partners in health and social care and education’, University  of Wolverhampton.

"inclusion of service users on an assessment panel added richness to the process that would have been unlikely to have been achieved any other way. Their unique insight into what the students were trying to achieve gave the feedback a level of credibility that we could hardly have hoped for." (Duxbury & Ramsdale 2007: 31)

Case Study

Service users and carers can play an active role in patient simulation and the summative examination of doctors in training. This usually involves service users and carers being given a ‘condition’, and the trainee doctors are observed, examined and ultimately assessed in the examination of the ‘patient’ against measured outcomes.


Duxbury, J. and Ramsdale, S. (2007) Involving service users in educational assessment. Nursing Times, 103(1), 30-31.

Ecclestone, K. (1996) How to Assess the  Vocational Curriculum, London: Kogan Page

Gray, D., Griffin, C., and Nasta, T. (2000) Training to Teach in Further and Adult Education. Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes Publishers Ltd.

Levin, E. (2004) Involving service users and carers in social work education, Social care Institute for Excellence. London: Policy Press.