There are many methods to assess performance, and none of them is perfect. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. You can choose one or a combination of methods to assess trainees.
Because many THPs have lower levels of education and literacy it is very important to choose assessment methods that are practical and non-threatening. Written examinations should be avoided unless trainees can read and write at the appropriate levels. Some THP training projects have developed pictorial record cards which require very little, if any, reading and only check marks are needed to indicate the progress of a patient. See Appendices 3 and 6.
1. Formal testing
Formal tests or examinations can be given at certain stages or at the end of training. These tests should focus on measuring significant knowledge and practices learned. This can be done through practical or oral tests.
(a) Practical tests
Have the trainees demonstrate their ability to perform certain practical tasks. These tasks must be relevant to the learning objectives. Students should be given enough time to complete the test. The trainees should have been shown how to do the task and should have practised it before being tested.
For example, ask a trainee how to demonstrate weighing a child accurately and how to record the result on a growth chart.
(b) Oral tests
Probe the trainee's knowledge of a subject by verbal questions and answers. Be aware that the ability of the trainee to give satisfactory answers may be affected by his or her ability to communicate, or self-confidence.
2. Informal testing
You can do this inside or outside the class. Inside the class, you can assess any difficulties trainees are experiencing as a group. Outside of class, you can ask questions to individual trainees or small groups of them.
Whenever you ask questions for the purpose of testing keep the following points in mind:
• questions should be related to the objectives;
• questions should be clear and precise;
• questions should require fairly short answers;
• everyone should have an equal chance to answer questions;
• students should be encouraged; you should not ask any question in a way that might embarrass a student.
3. Observe the trainees' activities
Watch them while they demonstrate activities they are learning. Make checklists on which you can record progress, such as their participation in class discussions, and their ability to practise skills.
It is important to discuss your observations and evaluations with trainees. This feedback helps them to see their progress and how they can improve. Acknowledge and give support for good results, and give suggestions for improvement in a positive way.
4. Peer assessment
Peer assessment is a method where students assess each other. This is not suitable for deciding whether students pass or fail at the end of a course, but it is a very good technique for helping students to learn.
Have each student ask a friend to test him or her when studying for an examination. This practice can be encouraged and guided by the teacher. For example, give the students instructions for doing a task or assignment. Then have one of the students perform the assignment, while the other student watches and comments. The students can then switch places and the second student will do the job while being watched by the first one. You must, of course, provide instructions for the given task.
Peer assessment can help to make field experience more meaningful and relevant for students. Instead of blindly trying to do a job as well as possible, each student can be supervised by a fellow student who is there to watch and advise.
5. Evaluate how THPs perform when they are in the community
You can do this during the training as well as when they are on the job. This will help you to know which parts of the training were most useful. It will also help you identify things that should be reviewed during later in-service or on-the-job training.