By Adrian Gray, Public Services
Public services have examined the effectiveness of enrolment via interviews, a system that we tend to depend on because we’ve always done it that way. A team evaluation of this showed that the interviews seldom exposed any issues as regards to a prospective student’s suitability for a course. Rather if they only served to check they had the correct qualifications and they were offered a course in line with those results. This led to an unhealthy attrition rate.
Attempts to overcome these issues were made using a ‘summer school’. However, this had little positive effect as attendance was voluntary and those that perhaps would really have benefited most from the event seldom attended.
This year we have tried a new strategy. Whilst the interviews still occur (but maybe this could be changed to an information and expectations type event using videos etc. from previous courses) students are now required to attend a two day assessment centre run during the summer. These events are structured according to the course level but basically have the same elements differentiated by level.
The assessment tests the qualities necessary for success on our courses. To start, attendance and punctuality to the sessions are measured and recorded. On the first day students are required to produce a piece of written work on a given topic. This requires comprehension of the topic, tests English and incorporates the use of mathematics in that the student has to report of the numbers of casualties in different incidents.
Following this, students are required to deliver a presentation on why the college should offer them the opportunity to study on the course. This brings out the level of motivation and helps to decide what level of course they are most suited, thereby aiming to reduce drop outs.
On completion of the first day, all students are given a piece of homework to be handed in the next day. This tests reliability and the commitment to complete work at home which are vital aspects of the courses. This has proved invaluable and highlights the few who have simply not done the homework stating they chose to go out with friends instead or just copy and pasted from the internet!
The second day includes physical tests similar to those activities that are part of the courses. The aim of these is not to assess the student’s fitness but to analyse their grit and determination. It should be emphasised that the assessment centres are designed to stream students on to the correct courses. Indeed it was often the case that while some students had narrowly missed the academic requirements of a particular course, analysis of their work and motivation afforded the opportunity for them to be accepted on a course previously not available to them.
We’ll be constantly evaluating whether this new approach has had the desired effects throughout the year to come!