GQA Qualifications Blog

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Have you considered?

Digital Voice Recorders

We have all done it, carried out a candidate observation either in driving rain, freezing cold conditions, stuck on top of a 50ft scaffold or squeezed into a small area in a workshop trying to observe the learner carry out a task. Then as you stand there shivering with cold with rain dripping off your chin or wedged in a tight space with your arm going numb you have to write a detailed report of what you have seen the candidate carry out.

I expect that NASA have already invented a waterproof pen, pencil and paper, however with limited budgets it is not something we can all go out and purchase straight away. So we struggle on writing on the wet paper with a ball point pen and as we write down our well thought through statements you seem them wash off the page or just melt into one big blue mess on the paper. At this point we give up and rely on our memory to record what we are observing and get distracted by the thoughts of that hot cup of tea and a digestive biscuit and trying to keep warm, and considering if this is really the job for me.

Then when you get down from the scaffold, you make some quick notes of what you have seen, wave goodbye to your learner and trudge back to the office to write up the observation. You sit down and look at your notes and you have either written it in a shaky spider like written or you just cannot read what you have written and need to rely on what you can recall However you may find that somewhere between being freezing cold and lovely and warm, the thawing process seems to have affected your brain and you forget what your saw and spend the next hour looking through the standards to see if something jogs your memory.

There is a much more effective way to carry out an observation without using pens, pencils, folders and laptops.

The answer is to use a digital voice recorder to record a narrative of what you are seeing the learner do, this means that you have not got to struggle holding down bits of paper in the wind and trying to keep everything dry at the same time.

The benefits of using a voice recorder are:

  • No need to carry out around, pads and reports, pens and pencils
  • No looking for somewhere to lean on to write down the report
  • An accurate report of what you are seeing as you can focus on what the candidate is doing rather than what you are writing
  • Better chance to catch everything the learner does and not bits and pieces of it
  • You can add much more description to the audio recording and get a fuller report than if writing a report.
  • Also use the process to record oral questions or professional discussions
  • Do not need to rely on memory when writing up the observation
  • Once recorded the work is done, all that is needed is to review the recording and reference to the appropriate standards
  • When using e-portfolio systems much easier to upload than scanning documents and waiting for learners to send in their work

So, perhaps next time you are up a scaffold on a freezing day making notes and blowing on numb fingers you may consider using digital voice recording to carry out your observation.

Martin Sadler, GQA EV.