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The role of the mentor in evaluating learning

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This paper aims to give an overview of the role of the mentor within the sphere of the evaluation of learning, with particular emphasis on the intermediate interview and student reflection on their learning experience as formal tools for evaluation. Although the terms 'evaluation' and 'assessment' are often used in similar contexts, it is important to distinguish between the two concepts. The importance of evaluation of learning cannot be over emphasised as it is an important part of ensuring that students develop as expected (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) 2008). Therefore, failure to evaluate learning can have a negative impact on the student and their learning throughout their programme of study.
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THE PRACTISING MIDWIFE September 2013 Evaluation of learning 15
What is evaluation of learning?
Domain four, within the NMC’s
standards to support learning and
assessment in practice (Nursing and
Midwifery Council (NMC) 2008)
suggests that mentors should
contribute towards the evaluation of
student learning, thereby recognising
aspects for change. Chow and Suen
(2001) suggest that the mentor is the
ideal person to evaluate learning,
which can take the form of verbal and
written feedback, reflection and
formative assessment. Therefore, good
documentation must be maintained,
providing evidence of the student’s
learning journey (Duffy 2004). The ideal
strategy for evaluating student learning
differs, depending on the situation and
skills involved (Goldenberg and Dietrich
2002); however, the mentor could
consider whether it is the product of
the learning experience (it is the
learning outcomes that are important),
or whether it is the quality of the
teaching activities and learning
experiences (the process) (Morrison
2003). On a practical basis, mentors
would usually adopt a mixture of
approaches tailored to the learner’s
needs.
Application to practice based
learning in the midwifery setting
The preliminary interview
Student documentation usually
includes the initial, intermediate and
final interviews, which can be useful
tools to evaluate student learning
(Gopee et al 2004). The preliminary
interview should be completed early in
the placement (Hand 2006), with the
existing level of knowledge and
experience being valued and discussed
(Fisher and Webb 2008). It can be
challenging to allow time for a
preliminary interview in a busy
maternity unit; however an informal
discussion can provide useful
information, which can be documented
later. The evaluation process should be
SUMMARY This paper aims to give an overview of the role of the
mentor within the sphere of the evaluation of learning, with
particular emphasis on the intermediate interview and student
reflection on their learning experience as formal tools for evaluation.
Although the terms ‘evaluation’ and ‘assessment’ are often used in
similar contexts, it is important to distinguish between the two
concepts. The importance of evaluation of learning cannot be over
emphasised as it is an important part of ensuring that students
develop as expected (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) 2008).
Therefore, failure to evaluate learning can have a negative impact on
the student and their learning throughout their programme of study.
Keywords Evaluation, learning, students, feedback, midwifery
education, mentor
Authors Claire Bunyan, midwife in West Hertfordshire NHS Trust and
Louise Lawson, senior lecturer in adult nursing at the University of
Hertfordshire
The role of the mentor in
evaluating learning
Claire Bunyan and Louise
Lawson describe the role of
the mentor in the process
of evaluation
The mentor is the ideal
person to evaluate
learning, which can
take the form of verbal
and written feedback,
reflection and
formative assessment
16 Evaluation of learning September 2013 THE PRACTISING MIDWIFE
continual, evolving and inclusive of the
student, thus engaging them in the
learning experience and ensuring
student-centred learning.
Tools for evaluation
The intermediate interview
Usually half way through a practice
placement, the mentor and student will
have a formal discussion about progress
and re-set objectives for the remainder
of the placement (Rassool and Rawaf
2007). Mentors have an obligation to
evaluate student learning to ensure
that the student, as a future
practitioner, is safe and provides
evidence-based care (Parker 2009).
Therefore, failure to evaluate learning
can lead to a student progressing
through the course without sufficient
knowledge and skills for safe practice.
Feedback to and from the student
Muir and Sherwin (2011) remind us
how the giving and receiving of
feedback can benefit both mentor and
student. Feedback encourages the
student to reflect on their capabilities,
develop critical thinking and self-
reflection (Gaberson and Oermann
2010) and make suggestions for future
growth (Howard 2009). Feedback gives
the mentor valuable information about
the strengths and weaknesses of their
own teaching strategies, enabling them
to refine their future teaching (Hill
2007). Feedback between the mentor
and student should be an interactive
communication given in a timely
manner (McKimm 2009), informing the
student of whether they are achieving
the expected standards (Hill 2007).
Community midwifery placements,
where the mentor and student travel
together between visits, offer a perfect
opportunity for regular feedback and
discussion. Hospital based
opportunities include the time
following birth, after transferring the
woman to the postnatal ward or
discharging her. Feedback to the
student needs to be critical,
constructive and developmental,
helping to build their confidence in
their own abilities, encourage further
learning and ending with areas for
development being acknowledged and
an action plan set (Sherwin and
Stevenson 2011). This empowers the
student to analyse and develop
themselves as practitioners.
Communication and interactive
listening skills can be key to successful
mentoring as feedback from the
student allows the mentor to clarify
what information the student/learner
needs from the mentor, verify that the
student/learner has received that
information, and reflect on the
experience (Haidar 2007). An effective
way to evaluate understanding is to ask
the student to explain and perform a
clinical procedure to another student or
woman (Roberts 2008); this increases
their confidence in their abilities and
allows the mentor to evaluate how
effective their teaching has been
(Goldenberg and Dietrich 2002). This
method can also be used to develop
their skills. For example: they can start
by performing a set of observations,
then moving on to performing the
whole postnatal check. Whilst
remaining professional, the mentor
should try to build a rapport with the
student to encourage dialogue between
them and ensure that the student
views questions from the mentor as
non-threatening (Gardener 2006). This
allows the mentor to establish the
student’s understanding, reinforce good
practice and encourage development
(Bairns and Paterson 2005). The mentor
must remember that each student is an
individual and their teaching style must
be adapted to the student’s needs
(Goldenberg and Dietrich 2002). At the
end of each shift it would be valuable
for the mentor to ask the student how
they think they have done, offering
positive feedback and suggesting some
areas for development (Gopee et al
2004). Taking this time will allow the
student to raise any immediate issues
or concerns that they have. The mentor
can therefore reflect on their own
experiences and encourage the student
to do the same (Goldenberg and
Deitrich 2002).
Conclusion
Evaluation of learning is an ongoing
process, with the mentor using both
formal and informal tools to ensure
that learning has indeed taken place.
The mentor should not assume that the
student has learnt what they think they
have taught. The intermediate
interview can provide a more structured
evaluation of the student’s learning and
allows the mentor to raise any
concerns; failure to do so can affect the
student’s learning. Evaluating learning
provides the mentor with the feedback
to adapt their teaching styles for the
individual student and generally. Whilst
the student is an adult and must take
responsibility for their learning, the
mentor also has a responsibility to act
as a role model, to actively look for
appropriate learning opportunities and
to support the student to become a safe
practitioner. Domain four from the
NMC standards to support learning and
assessment in practice (NMC 2008)
highlights that mentors must
determine strategies for evaluating
learning in practice. Therefore, the
mentor’s role in the evaluation of
The evaluation process
should be continual,
evolving and inclusive
of the student, thus
engaging them in the
learning experience
and ensuring student-
centred learning
THE PRACTISING MIDWIFE September 2013 Evaluation of learning 17
learning is key to ensure that high
standards of proficiency are met both in
pre- and post registration. TPM
Claire Bunyan is a midwife in West
Hertfordshire NHS Trust and Louise
Lawson is a senior lecturer in adult
nursing at the University of Hertfordshire
References
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