Case Study - The Assessors' Course
(The date of the course coincided with Margaret Thatcher's resignation: I would look that up but I can't be bothered)
1 The course attended was for the Trainers of Assessors, for National Vocational Qualifications in Social Care (which had not at that point been inaugurated). It was a three-day programme, to be followed by a follow-up day after four months, with presentation of portfolios of work done in the meantime. The researcher attended as a participant, initially with no intention of using the material of the course in his research. As the course developed, however, it became apparent that it provided relevant illustrative material. The record of the first day was made from "normal" participant's notes made at the time, expanded by a much more detailed account produced that same evening when the significance of the event had become evident. The record of subsequent days is based on detailed notes made at the time, to the extent that at one point the researcher was quizzed by one of the staff members about the nature of the notes he was making. (See para. 40)
2 The account which follows has been confined to the plenary discussions: note was also made of small-group discussions in which the researcher participated, but since his small group may not have been typical of the course as a whole, no attempt has been made to utilise that material except insofar as it has a direct bearing on the plenary process. Similarly, private conversations outside the sessions, although used extensively to check perceptions and interpretations, have not been referred to explicitly, unless they provide direct confirmation or contradiction of other interpretations in the main body of the record. This approach has been adopted principally out of respect for other participants, with whom there was no contract to make use of private conversation in research. Verbatim remarks are placed in double quotes ("). Within these constraints, every attempt has been made to provide as full a record as possible consistent with material in paras. 6.6, 18, and 18.2 (despite the fact that the latter provisions were never formally part of the course contract.
3 Because of the nature of the course, and the interaction of the content and the process, it has not been possible to disguise the material or the participants (including staff), other than by anonymity. Staff members are referred to by initial. Course members are referred to simply as members, except where the continuity demands that consistent contributions are linked to the specific contributor, in which case either an initial is used or cross-referencing to previous contributions is noted. Where a contribution is made by the researcher, this is attributed, so that any influence on the course of the event can be noted.
4 The context of the course examined is the introduction of a new system of graded qualifications in Social Care (roughly residential-, day- and domiciliary care) within the scheme of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ). This system replaces the In-Service Course in Social Care, examples of which yielded some of the material for earlier discussion in this research. One of the Joint Awarding Bodies for the qualifications is the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW), and as part of their effort to establish the required infra-structure for the programme, they require a sufficient number of assessors and associated roles to make the programme work. One of the major concerns in such a national initiative is to ensure that all assessment is done consistently, according to agreed criteria. In order to assess in a suitable manner, therefore, all assessors have to be trained, and the course in question was part of a rolling programme of workshops for lecturers and training staff within social service agencies to prepare them for the task of training assessors.
5 Like all NVQ qualifications, the Social Care awards are based on assessed practice in the work-place (or as near a simulation as possible). The areas to be assessed, therefore, are not academic "subjects" but working "competences", and they are to be assessed according to specific criteria (Performance Criteria). In addition, the assessment is characterised by also having to pay attention to "Core Performance Criteria" which enter into the assessment of all competences in the field.
6 The Core Performance Criteria, as listed in the "Residential Domiciliary and Day Care Project National Standards issued by the Care Sector Consortium" (HMSO, 1990) are:
Core Performance Criteria:
The following Core Criteria underpin all competences within the range of this Unit. They are integral to the assessment of each competence. It should be noted that as the competences in this Unit are not primarily client focused then not all the core criteria are likely to be applicable. Some may still apply to persons other than the client.
The candidate consistently ensures that:
6.1 The client is respected at all times (in relation to personal choice; privacy; confidentiality with regard to his/her person, belongings and affairs; the maintenance of self-worth; personal responsibility for his/her own actions and the individual's age, gender, sexual identity, physical and mental condition).
6.2 The client's independence is encouraged as far as possible.
6.3 Language and other forms of communication used are suitable for the needs of the client (where necessary this may require the use of an interpreter).
6.4 The cultural, racial and religious identity of the client is respected.
6.5 The emotional needs of the client are met as far as possible consistent with the role of the candidate.
6.6 Confidentiality of all information and sources is respected and disclosure is made only to those who necessarily require it.
(The above criteria also apply where the candidate relates to persons other than the client in the context of carrying out this Unit.)
7 The pre course information included the following criteria for selection of participants:
7.1 They should be in a position to organise the setting up of training for work based assessors (on Social Care NVQ programmes).
7.2 They should have training skills and know about the patterns of training, education and staff development currently available in the organisation.
7.3 They should be in a position to advise on the introduction of assessment and licensing systems in the organisations
7.4 They should be committed to anti discriminatory practice
7.5 They should have some background knowledge of national Vocational Qualifications or be prepared to do some reading before the workshops.
7.6 They should have time allocated by the organisation to follow up the workshop by setting up training of work based assessors...
8 The programme sent out before the course included the following statements:
The workshop has been designed with the following expectations: that the trainers of assessors:
8.1 Have an anti racist and anti discriminatory approach to their work.
8.2 Will use a participative approach in order to challenge assumptions and different understandings.
8.3 Meet all the stated criteria by which participants were selected.
8.4 Will attend the whole programme.
8.5 Will contribute their ideas
8.6 Will engage in an assessable presentation and production of a portfolio on a day to be negotiated.
9 The style of the workshop: "We will all be learning through active participation in exercises, including role play, and in exploration of the core values which will include confrontation of some of our current practice."
10 The programme was published as:
10.1 Day One: Introductions and Core Performance Criteria
10.2 Day Two: Assessing and its implications in terms of competences.
10.3 Day Three: Operating NVQ in your workplace ...
It was scheduled to run from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on each day, with breaks for drinks in the morning and afternoon as well as a lunch-break.
11 The course took place at the purpose-built training centre of a large voluntary organisation, with good facilities, although the plenary sessions were conducted in a slightly over-large conference hall, with the members sitting on upright chairs in a horse-shoe formation, with the staff in a line at the front. Since the venue was in the northern reaches of the region, about half the course members were resident in local hotels: residential provision was not part of the course package.
12 The membership consisted of 26 people, all white, half male and half female. Nineteen were training officers in health and social services and seven were education staff.
13 There were five staff, two male (A. and C.) and three female (B., D. and F.) two of whom were black (A. - Asian, and F. - Afro-Caribbean).
THE COURSE ITSELF
14 On the first day, the course begins (half an hour after the published time) with introductions, in which members are asked to specify:
14.2 Ethnic origin
14.3 Work background
14.4 Experience of anti racist and anti discriminatory practice.
This exercise is carried out at some length, following the lead which is set by the first member to answer: it takes three quarters of an hour to get round the group and the staff members.
15 Members are informed that two days of the three will be focussed on anti-racist and anti-discriminatory issues in NVQ. There is a general murmur of surprise at this statement, but it is not challenged within the plenary session. B. is introduced as the person who will be leading the first two days. She explains that anti racist and anti discriminatory practice is central to the Core Performance Criteria of the NVQ scheme.
16 Members are then set an exercise in small groups (which they are left to set up for themselves) on specifying expectations and concerns about the course, and reactions to change. These are recorded on flip-chart sheets, posted up and introduced by appointed group members on return to the plenary session. The expectations and concerns expressed are not surprising, and [are] mainly technical questions about the operation of NVQ assessment. None of them mention anti discriminatory practice as an issue, which may indicate that the staff intention expressed in 15 has not been heard.
17 The comments on personal reaction to change focus on ambivalence, on circumstances under which change takes place, and on fear of not being in control of the change process. All but one of the groups comment that they were so absorbed in the expectations task that they gave little time or attention to this aspect of the brief.
18 Staff then suggest that ground rules for the group be established, and write them on a flip-chart. The issues mentioned by B., and immediately written up include honesty, freedom to make mistakes, owning own feelings, (in particular by using the pronoun "I" when expressing views and feelings), preparedness to engage with feelings, and not intellectualising. Members also make some suggestions, including confidentiality provisions in relation to personal material, no "right-onness" (meaning attempts to get one up on other members with normative sentiments), and maintenance of time boundaries. Since these are proposed by the membership, they are regarded as open to debate and are not automatically written up by B.
18.1 As part of this debate, members mention the need to create a "safe" environment within the course for discussion of sensitive issues. Staff members suggest that an entirely safe environment is not possible, because some of the material under examination may be perceived as threatening, but that generally they agree.
18.2 As part of the confidentiality discussion, the issue of misconduct is raised by the researcher, following his normal pattern on confidentiality contracts (according to which the limit of his confidentiality undertaking is that comments revealing serious unprofessional conduct will have to be passed on to the sponsoring agency). The staff indicate that they will go further: anyone guilty of such misconduct will be ejected, which causes considerable concern, and one of the black members of staff (A.) on behalf of both of them says that he and she "will not tolerate" expressions of racism within the group.
18.3 The effect of this discussion is to raise anxiety levels rather than lower them, and several members express concern about the threat of ejection.
19 Members are then asked to discuss how they feel about talking about race issues: feelings expressed include guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear of putting one's foot in it, paralysis, anger and entrenchment of position, and a general agreement that such feelings constitute a block to learning. Despite encouragement by the tutors, all the feelings expressed are negative.
20 Lunch break: informally, members spoken to are expressing disappointment about the nature of the course because this is not what they came for, but are prepared to see what happens next.
21 After lunch, tutors invite feedback on the morning session, and some of the disappointment is voiced, together with concern about the "ejection" issues and the question about whether the course is really "safe".
21.1 B. insists that the course is as "safe" as the group can make it, but having said that, many members will be "venturing into uncharted waters", and that will naturally provoke some degree of anxiety.
21.2 She, speaking apparently on behalf of the rest of the staff group, refuses to accept responsibility on their behalf for making the experience "safe": she sees it as something "which has to be owned by everyone" within the course.
21.3 At this, there is some discussion of the "ejection" declaration by A. He insists that such a move would not be one sided activity by himself and his colleague, but he would hope would command the approval of the rest of the group, and that they would join with him in enforcing the decision if it came to that.
22 B. then introduces an exercise on the definition of three terms: prejudice, discrimination and racism, carried out in plenary session. The exercise is carried out on the basis of "guess what I'm thinking" questions, which clearly have expected answers. Only the expected answers are written up on the flip chart:
22.1 Prejudice is "pre judging": one member points out that this is tautological, in that it is merely the substitution of the verb form for the noun. This objection is dismissed on the ground that it is mere intellectualising, but there is some further discussion about whether prejudice is always to be seen as a negative pre-disposition, or whether one can be prejudiced in favour of anything.
22.2 Discrimination is defined as prejudice in action, with little debate.
22.3 Racism is defined as prejudice plus power.
23 Difficulty is experienced by some members in formulating a meaning for "racism", and the female black staff member asks for a definition of "race". The researcher volunteers a definition of race as a mythic artefact consequent on racist power relationships. There is a misunderstanding of the use of the term "myth", and it appears that the researcher is being heard to declare that race does not exist.
24 A. joins in at this point and tells the group that he will have to conduct a "lesson" (his term), on origins of the term "race":
24.1 He claims that "race" as the term is currently used, is the product of a Euro centric division of the peoples of the world into a number of categories, originating from the fifteenth century and the Reformation. [According to Banton (1967:18) the categorisation was first put forward, in a different form, by Blumenbach in 1781.]
24.2 The categorisation is:
* Caucasian I (European)
* Caucasian II (Indian sub continent)
24.3 A. goes on to suggest that historically, all races other than Caucasian I have been defined as "sub human", which categorisation could be used to excuse their enslavement, murder and exploitation. He locates the hierarchy as part of a "Chain of Being" with God at the top and the animals at the bottom.
25 A. then introduces a "very powerful model", which will explore the nature of the relationship between white and black people, at all levels of analysis.
25.1 On the flip chart he draws two squares: on in the top right hand corner labelled "White", and the other in the bottom left labelled "Black".
25.2 Through classroom style questioning he fills the White square with a list of powerful institutions within British society, starting with the government and proceeding through the church and the professions. At the bottom of the square he draws a dotted line and indicates that powerless (white) people within the society fall below this line.
25.3 Similarly, he elicits answers which enable him to fill in similar groupings within the Black box.
25.4 He suggests that the difference between the boxes is that while the White box has real power, those within the Black box only have any power on sufferance from the White box. Such rights as they are allowed to have are only because the Whites have seen it to their advantage to create Race Relations legislation, for example. Naturally, whereas it is technically possible to proceed up the power ladder within either box, it is impossible to make the move from the Black box to the White box.
26 At 3.45 (45 minutes after schedule: lunch was 15 minutes late) we are released for a tea break. Group with whom researcher sits are very angry. This is not what they came for, they say: we have almost reached the end of the first day, and NVQ has hardly been mentioned. After tea the staff invite reactions: there are a number of angry responses.
26.1 The staff try to explain that they are seeking to address the core performance criteria which are the "soul" of NVQ, and that the race model is the way in to all these.
26.2 Members complain that this was not clear from the programme, and that even if it were it has now occupied almost a whole day, without getting to the point.
26.3 Staff reply that it takes as long as it takes, and are not prepared to disclose to members a particular timetable for the rest of the time.
26.4 There is some discussion as to whether the staff are becoming defensive or angry, but as opinions are voiced they become slightly mollified.
27 Without naming any individual, A. then says that some of the comments have been racist, and they have constituted a rejection of the model put forward. He then says he has not finished it, and can do so in ten minutes.
27.1 In response to a question, the position of women and of other oppressed groups is recognised within the model and it is suggested that parallel models can be built for them, although it remains that case that all oppressed groups within the White box are still more powerful than anyone within the Black box
27.2 He then draws diagonal lines to express the relationship between the White and Black boxes, and labels this relationship as one of oppression and exploitation. This, he suggests, is the fundamental and unavoidable dynamic of racism in our society, at all levels.
27.3 The model is then further elaborated in the introduction of two boxes, one for the "race relations" approach which attempts to bridge the gap between the two group by talking about it but not by doing anything, and the other an idealised "Nirvana" model which suggests that everyone is treated alike regardless of race, which ignores the fundamental power imbalance.
27.4 He finally suggests that neither presents a solution, but the only way is to get into the "crap" of the oppression/exploitation relationship and fight them from within. This is the cardinal principle which the core performance criteria of the NVQ embody.
28 There are expressions of insight by some members and they leave at 5.00 pm giving the impression that they are rather more satisfied and feeling that they have got something out of the day, although it was not what they expected.
29 At the beginning of the second day, F. is absent, but this is not commented upon by any of the staff, until asked (she is not well).
30 The session begins as a plenary group with a question from one of the women members about the position of women within the model which had been put forward. A. repeats that women are in the "top box", and that even the most disadvantaged white user of social services is potentially more powerful than the most powerful professional member of the black group since the power structures are on the white side.
31 A. invites members to suggests alternatives to the model, which no one does. He repeats that the material is copyright, and that there are no handouts since in his view it is preferable for members to have the model in their minds rather than in their (filing) drawers.
32 There follows an interlude of exploratory questions, in which a member seek to draw parallels between the model and global affairs. A. then poses the question whether the members accept the model, and if so, is that acceptance intellectual or emotional?
32.1 There is about 40 seconds of silence. A. asks members to speak.
32.2 Five members express "acceptance" one after another, with minor reservations. One says: "I don't know what is intellectual and what is emotional for me. I like to think that the model is part of my way of working, but I haven't got the experience... I accept the model (in hushed tones) I do."
32.3 B. insists that members need to work with their feelings rather than their thoughts, which directs group members to express them more fully: "There's a time lag between my feelings and my thoughts I know what I feel at once but I can't get my thoughts around it." "My feelings are a mixture of anger and sadness about the position of my black friends" "What you're saying is that we have been beneficiaries of the system, haven't we?" A."You still are!" "That's upsetting" "So there's no way in which we can opt out or deny this..." "My feelings have been skewed: I've identified with people who have been exploited and oppressed without looking at the basis of it all. I'd like to deny it, but I can't. It's going to take time really to get it inside me."
33 A. continues to press other members to speak. He says that he needs to know where everyone stands before he can move on, because otherwise some members may get left behind. He poses three positions in the model where members may take their stand:
33.1 In the "Race Relations" box, where people talk about race issues without ever really engaging with them.
33.2 In the "Nirvana" box, where people pretend that as long as they treat everyone alike they have solved the problem, and 3 3 .3 Directly in the area of Oppression and Exploitation, fighting against racism wherever they find it.
34 Members respond to this by talking about the risk, challenge, flight and flight responses and despair which they see as involved in confronting racism.
35 A. points out that white people have the luxury of retreating from the struggle and denying it: black people do not have this choice. In particular, he asserts that whenever white people emerge from the White box and venture into the arena of oppression and exploitation, but then get exhausted or de-moralised and retreat back to the White box, they do so at the cost of "squashing a black person's head".
36 He concludes that although there a number of different levels of awareness apparent within the group, we will "go for it".
36.1 He suggests that the conversation has been located in the area of "Race Relations" in his model, and indeed that he has had to compromise himself in order to describe the situation at all. If he were true to himself and his blackness, he would not be working in such a situation, and he would be speaking Gujerati rather than English.
36.2 Members are invited to divide into small groups, preferably with people with whom they are not comfortable, to discuss: What they have done within their own organisation to combat racism (including, it is conceded, things which they have tried but which have not worked).
36.3 If members were serious about their part in anti-racist practice, they would feel free to challenge each other in their groups about each others' racism.
37 After coffee the members re-convene, bringing with them evidence of the work in their groups on flip charts. In most cases the reported activity surrounds the implementation of equal opportunities policies.
38 B. asks the membership, "How did you feel?"
38.1 Members comment on their small group experience, including their discomfort in challenging one another, although one member points out that the discomfort came from the issue and the content, not from the personal relationships.
38.2 Members speak of their ownership of the issue: "It comes down to us", and their feeling of being de skilled and not even knowing what is anti racist and anti discriminatory practice any more: -"We were de skilled: we lost what we thought we knew before..."
38.3 A. challenges members who say "we" rather than "I", and enquires which part of the model they were working from.
38.4 A member responds that when she was in the "oppression and exploitation" area, she experienced a sense of despair.
38.5 Another member reports that when he tended towards the Oppression and Exploitation zone he struggled between his feelings and his fear about what the organisation would do to him.
38.6 Another comments that he had naively thought himself in Oppression and Exploitation, but the group had made him see that it was not so.
39 A. confirms that to work in Oppression and Exploitation requires emotional investment and energy. It means taking risks, which may result in a "change of career direction". A. goes on to enquire whether the current discussion is intellectual or emotional.
39.1 The member who reported despair agrees that she retreats into the intellectual area when despair strikes.
39.2 A. suggests that like an iceberg, 80% of our insecurity, originating from childhood, does not show, but limits our freedom of action.
40 At this point A. addresses the researcher about the notes he is writing. He appears to accepts the answer that the notes are in connection with research into the behaviour and feelings of learners when their ideas are turned upside down.
41 A. shares his suspicion that 90% of the discussion is at an intellectual level, and that there is a degree of disengagement at the emotional level. There is an unconscious desire to maintain the status quo.
41.1 Members contest this account, but claim that it is difficult to work at this level.
41.2 One member raises the issue of how this perspective can be communicated to NVQ assessors. There follows a discussion on the amount of power the trainers have in insisting on anti racist and anti discriminatory practice in the implementation of NVQ, with a counter argument that the general standards of practice are such that operating on that basis nothing would ever get done and no one would get trained.
41.3 A. points out, as this discussion proceeds, that the anti racist practice issue is the most emotive area of all, and that once members have come to terms with this one and its implications for NVQ, everything else will fall into place.
42 A. indicates that he has to leave, because he has to catch a plane to go on holiday. However, he agrees to stay for the first part of the afternoon session.
43 At this point the course adjourns for lunch and re convenes at 2pm.
44 Asked to give their reactions, members talk of their impatience and anxiety about the course so far, and question whether the issues could not have been addressed more effectively and more quickly.
45 B. responds that the speed with which things are done all depends on the group, thus making members feel (as their subsequent comments in breaks reveal) that it is all their fault and that they are being told that if they were better students they would have moved on to what they wish to discuss by now.
46 A. sets up a "challenging" exercise. He suggests that the group represents a continuum of response to the model, from those more fully accepting it to those less fully doing so.
46.1 He invites the group members to rank each other along the continuum and to place each other on the seats according to their perception of where people fit.
46.2 The ground rules are that members may not place themselves, and that the ranking has to be done on the basis of evidence, not of "baggage", in the sense of previous acquaintance before the course.
46.3 Half an hour is allowed for the exercise.
47 The group fails to complete the exercise.
47.1 Part of the discussion is about the logistics of it: how does one obtain the ratings of twenty five people about where to place the twenty sixth relative to everyone else?
47.2 The rest of the discussion is about lack of evidence. The staff, who chip in and comment on what is going on, suggest that the members have now been together for nine hours: they should in that time have been able to assess each other.
48 In discussion of the group's failure after the half hour is up:
48.1 The staff point out that if one is to assess one must own the standards by which one is assessing: if one really had the standard (in this case acceptance of the model), inside oneself, one would be prepared to judge in accordance with it. Ergo, members have not internalised the model.
48.2 This contention is greeted with dispute and anger. One member complains that "everything I do in here is wrong". Another accuses the staff group of being anything but enabling in their approach.
49 It is further suggested by A. that the degree of acceptance of the model represented by the group is extremely limited anyway. The amount of variation is in the region of 0% to ½%.
49.1 This is greeted with protest, with members complaining that they are being de skilled and told that they are worthless.
49.2 At this point A. says that he has stayed too long anyway, and he must go. The course breaks for tea.
50 After the tea break, the members are asked whether they wish to go on with the exercise, with assistance from the staff group, or whether they wish to drop it and go on to something else which will be small group discussion of the application of their learning so far to their work situation.
50.1 There is a spirit of not being prepared to admit to failure, and the group decide to have another go at completing the exercise.
50.2 B. suggests that one person out of the group undertakes to rank everyone according to her or his perception: this will doubtless not be acceptable to everyone, and others can then seek to modify it.
50.3 After much discussion, one member (E.) undertakes to have a go. Effectively she starts with the people she knows best, and puts them at the "greater acceptance" end, and relegates those whom she does not known or has not heard speak in the large group to the "lesser acceptance" end. When challenged by the staff to give her reasons and evidence, she refers to things which she has heard people say, which she either likes or does not like.
50.4 When her ranking is complete, members only have a few moments to express their dissatisfaction, and to say that they would not do it that way, when "time" is called and after very brief comments from a few members about their feelings the course adjourns for the day.
51 On the morning of the final day, three staff members (B. C. and D.) remain. B. opens the session with the now traditional question as to how people are feeling.
51.1 Various members express variations on hurt, anger, rejection and confusion.
51.2 A member raises the question of the group member who was put on the end of the line at the end of the exercise, and how she was left feeling. She points out that such positioning hurt her, regardless of what it did to the member on the end. Was that the intention?
51.3 B. replies that there is no deliberate intention to hurt: the staff had tried to make the event as safe as possible, but operating in the Oppression and Exploitation arena is a high risk activity, and tends to attract anger.
51.4 C. endorses B.'s view, but a member challenges by saying that course members did not have the choice as to whether to move into that (Oppression and Exploitation) arena. B. insists that the choice is now available to them.
52 The researcher tests out a hypothesis about the extent to which situational resistance, originating from the failure of the staff group to contain the feelings engendered, has compounded the ulterior resistance which members have experienced in encountering the issues.
52.1 A member builds on this suggestion by saying that it has all been a two day power game. B. insists that she has been trying to work in Oppression and Exploitation, and that it has not been a game, but an attempt to communicate the implications of the Core Performance Criteria.
52.2 Another member enquires about the misleading information about the course content which had been received from CCETSW. As far as the staff are concerned, that is CCETSW's responsibility and they should have informed potential members more accurately.
53 There follows a discussion about whether it is worth staying for the rest of the programme.
54 All members having made the decision to stay, B. offers the choice of further work on feelings, or a move on to issues of application.
54.1 A member makes a long statement which receives some endorsement from other members: he says he likes the model but he questions the way in which it has been used and put over. It has taken a long time, and it has not been put in any kind of context, so he has a confused idea about how it might be applies in assessment. He contests the validity of the "assessment" or ranking exercise of the previous day, pointing out that contrary to the staff assertions, assessment in the work place will not be of the same order, given amongst other things that assessors will operating with delegated and conceded authority from all concerned, and with defined roles. He suggests that the approach of the course has clouded rather than clarified the issues: he is no longer clear about which of his feelings are about operating in the Oppression and Exploitation arena, and which are about assessing.
54.2 B. suggests that the previous day presented members with an opportunity to operate in the Oppression and Exploitation arena by challenging and assessing each other.
54.3 C. adds that the ranking procedure was not necessary: a line could have been drawn for the assessment of competence and people put on either side of it, but would that have been easier? The issue was whether course members were prepared to judge or assess on the basis of evidence.
55 The member who undertook the assessment on the previous day joins in the discussion for the first time at this point: she endorses the earlier comment about mixed messages and the issue being clouded, and adds that there had been no opportunity to de role and reflect on the experience. The group members had spontaneously re arranged themselves after the exercise and were now sitting in their habitual positions.
56 At this point one of the group members (S.) is in tears (the researcher did not notice at what point this started).
57 A member (who had previously hardly said anything in the plenary session) placed at the "bottom" end of the continuum expresses his anger at his placing, and the arbitrariness of the criteria used to place him there, but most particularly at the fact that there was no right of appeal, and no support from the staff or encouragement to reflect on and learn from the experience. He would have been left very depressed indeed had it not been for a meal shared with other members that evening. He concludes, "If I treated my staff the way you have treated me, I wouldn't have any staff left, never mind black staff!"
58 B. indicates that the continuum was merely relative, which prompts S. (the crying member) to retort that it was a continuum from 0 ½% "that's all. I've nothing left. I feel completely wiped out. If you're saying black people feel like I feel it hurts like hell."
59 B. recommends an article on "Black Pain, White Hurt".
60 Another member says that she feels awful, depressed and hopeless and guilty. The group asks how they can help her, and a member suggests that they can only relieve that burden by taking back that part of it which belongs to them as individuals, rather than putting it all on her. (Outside the session, the member in question later confirms that she found this helpful).
61 A member complains that the entire programme has been gratuitously emotional, and that the fact that this had not been made clear in the original material could well have meant that some members, particularly anyone who had been recently bereaved, for example, could have been seriously disturbed by the whole experience.
62 C. comments that feelings are often greater triggers for change than anything else. To which a member retorts that they can also present blocks which hinder change.
63 A member asks for some hope. If, as A. had indicated, our understanding and acceptance was at the 0 ½% level, where did the staff stand?
63.1 B. replies that they might be at ¾%. The member responds that that is encouraging to know ½% is insulting, but if 1% is a long way, it is not so bad.
63.2 C. comments that he would not put himself as far along the line as ¾%, but his insistence on operating in the Oppression and Exploitation arena has already cost him some close relationships within his working team.
63.3 D. offers that her reactions have been similar to those of S., but it was that experience which took her some way along the line ... but she was constantly failing and was paralysed by what she encountered in the Oppression and Exploitation area.
64 The member who had earlier referred to the need for a context says that he is confused about the source of all the feelings which are going around. He needs to know what to attribute to:
64.1 Working on Oppression and Exploitation
64.2 Assessment in general
64.3 Learning to be an assessor.
and to sort them out. Another member identifies with these sentiments. The previous day he was helpless and paralysed, and felt, "What point is there to it all, if ½% is all that I can achieve?"
65 B. suggests small groups to look at feelings when working in Oppression and Exploitation, and then moving on to the other items on the agenda.
65.1 Before going into the groups, she checks how people are currently feeling, and the general consensus is that they are "feeling better".
66 After a brief session in the small groups and a coffee break, the course resumes examining assessment procedures in NVQ.
After the course (February 1991), the organising body (CCETSW) circulated a letter to all participants commenting on the number of formal complaints received about it, and the previous similar course run by the same agency. A meeting had been called to discuss the complaints with the tutors, and a further "briefing day" more directly addressing the NVQ issues was promised if there was sufficient demand.
This material originally appeared as appendix 1 of ATHERTON J S (1991) The Management of Traumatic Learning: Unpublished Ph.D thesis; Centre for Adult and Higher Education, University of Manchester UK