• Welcome and overview

    Welcome to the course: 'Preparing for the Apprenticeship Standards'!

    This is a course to help you develop new skills in teaching and training. In the world of Apprenticeship Standards and End Point Assessment, assessor roles are changing . Providers who have understood this are preparing their staff to undertake new roles. Individual assessors are seeking new skills.

    So, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), a national body supporting the FE and Skills sector, has developed this course to support them.

    How you use this course is up to you: you can complete the whole course if you are new to apprenticeships or want to revisit some of the basics.

    Or it's possible that you are already confident in some of the key areas.

    Just look at the main menu and decide which parts you want to know more about. This could include:

    • The basic expectations of teachers, trainers and assessors
    • How to plan for teaching on apprenticeships
    • Key teaching techniques
    • Assessment
    • Understanding your learners and their needs

    But many of you will want to understand more: what's happening with apprenticeships and why? How can I improve my teaching further? What are inspectors interested in when they come to see apprenticeship training?

    We have further materials to help you in these areas.

    Whatever your needs are, welcome to the course!

    Hello from us!

    We would like to hear more about you, and everybody else doing the course would like to get to know you too!

    On an online course, it's easy to feel on your own but in fact you are studying alongside many other apprenticeship practitioners.

    Go along to the online forum below and just say a few words about who you are and what your role is in the world of apprenticeships.

  • 2. From Asssessor to Trainer

    The first question to deal with is what you expect from this course. Most people start most courses with a little doubt. Is this the right course for me? What am I aiming to achieve?

    So, what are you going to have to do under the standards and how well are you prepared for a role that includes teaching or training. What knowledge and skills will you need? Are the skills you already have enough?

    Nearly every assessor already carries out some kind of 'training'. It's what you do when your learners haven't reached the point that you expect: you point them in the direction they need to go.

    This is a start but it is far from the whole of what will be expected of you in the future.

    So, what is it that you need to do as an apprenticeship practitioner in the new world of apprenticeship standards?
    Your main responsibility is still to support learners in the workplace. 
    But this no longer revolves around continuous assessment: your role is to get apprentices to the 'gateway' where they are ready for end-point assessment. This effectively changes your role into a teaching or training role. Many providers are changing job titles to reflect this.
    This means you have to be aware of far wider responsibilities towards the learner, which we address in this section.
    Let's begin with a simple list. Look at the Word document below. Do you recognise these responsibilities? What would you add?
  • 3. Learners, Craft and Mindset

    The focus of the trainer's work remains, as it did for assessors, helping our learners navigate a path into a specific role or industry.

    Everyone in education understands that learners have their similarities and differences: they have different prior experiences, educational and otherwise; they come from different backgrounds. Some are more motivated already, others need motivation. They respond to learning experiences in different ways.

    As an assessor, even though your focus was on competences that all had to attain, you took these differences into account, perhaps choosing different assessment methods for different learners.

    In training roles, there is also a need to take into account not only where learners are going to but where they come from. You need to plan what they need to learn but also how they will best get there.

    In this section, we use two concepts to think about how to reach our objectives: the craft they aim to become part of and the mindset that will get them there.

    First of all, however, think about your own learners: what do you think we have to teach them? Draw up a list, not too detailed, with some general categories. Hang on to this, because you will come back to it  later.

    'Craft' is partly about the set of skills that they need to learn, specifically for your industry. But most apprenticeship practitioners know that learning in the workplace is not just about practical skills, or even the broader theoretical knowledge that helps us to apply it appropriately. Employers often talk about 'attitude' and we have used professionalism to describe some of the behaviours and approaches that are expected in particular industries. 

    Firstly we need to re-visit the term apprentice is it just a set of formal arrangements for vocational education and training?

    According to Lorna Unwin and Alison Fuller, the term `apprenticeship' has been used to describe the journey a person takes from novice to expert in a specific occupational field or craft. The term is used by surgeons, carpenters, chefs, actors, musicians and teachers/trainers.

    Therefore, is the 'craft' what is learned as an apprentice?

    Lucas and Spencer certainly believe so through the research undertaken through their Centre for Real-World Learning (CRL). They argue that 'craftsmanship' is about much more than simply the practical skills apprentices learn.

    Do you agree? What else is involved? Make a few notes before you read their article below, which you can revisit afterwards.

    Of course, you can skip these ideas or come back to them later. But we do hope you'll take the trouble to look at these more challenging ideas because that's exactly what we're trying to do with our learners: challenge them to become more thoughtful and conscientious as workers, and as men and women.

  • 4. Planning for teaching

    So far we have talked in general terms about what is expected of trainers and of learners on apprenticeships.

    But how do we move to the business of training or teaching?

    At the centre of teaching is the business of making plans for teaching or training. Starting from the standards, we have to move towards the creation of specific plans for our training programme.

    Planning for Training and Assessment

    We already have the top level of planning for an apprenticeship: the apprenticeship standards that you identified right at the start of the course.

    But from this we need to break things down further: first to the separate strands of what the standard includes: if the standard includes a taught course, these will usually appear as 'units', or at higher levels they might be  called 'modules'. You may have to support learners through several of these but they will usually be taught separately.

    Within each unit, you will normally have several sessions, possibly dozens, through which you develop the learner's expertise. These will need to be put together in a learning plan for the unit.

    Below this, you need to plan for separate lessons, or taught sessions. 

    Planning the learning cycle

    So, before you plan individual lessons, you need to think about the whole process of training, learning and assessment. This is sometimes represented as a 'training cycle'. This includes all of the activities below.

  • 5. Assessment and Feedback

    'Now that we are trainers, we can forget about assessing, can't we?'

    The fact that apprenticeships are now formally assessed at the end of the programme does not mean that you can forget all about assessment! You have to get every apprentice to the 'gateway' where they are ready to complete the EPA. But in teaching and training, assessment goes on all of the time. You need to continually assess whether your learners are making the necessary progress against their learning plan.

    In this section we explore assessment and how you can check on where the craft standards have been reached, for each apprentice. For most apprenticeship practitioners this is a familiar area, since this has always been the main work of apprenticeship staff.

    We often describe what learners do at the end as 'summative' assessment and what happens all the way through as 'formative' assessment.

    But the kind of assessment you use may be similar.

    In this section, we explore a range of assessment issues and work towards one of the key assessment methods for this course, the professional discussion.

    We also address the essential complement to assessment: providing developmental feedback.

  • 6. Teaching and Learning

    In this session we explore more complex ideas behind teaching and learning, how these work in practice in vocational education and some of the pitfalls of generalising how people learn.

    Some ideas on how we learn

    How do we learn? This argument has raged for decades. Do we have one `general' intelligence and learn in just the one way, or what Gardner describes as multiple intelligences. Do people learn in particular ways or in many different ways?

    There have been plenty of theories developed over the years: Behaviourism, a theory of animal and human learning that only focuses on objectively observable behaviours and discounts mental activities (see Skinner, Pavlov, Thorndike and Watson); Cognitivism, a theory that focuses on how human brains process and store information in the process of learning (see Piaget, Gagne); Constructivism focuses on how learners construct their own meaning by asking questions, developing answers and interacting and interpreting the environment (Dewey, Bruner, Laurillard, Vygotsky).

    Each of these schools of thought have had a direct impact on the methods used to teach during the decades.

    Are these relevant to apprenticeship learning in practice?

    Traditional apprenticeship approach

    Pratt and Johnson (1998) identify a traditional apprenticeship experience, based on developing a motor or manual skill, involves learning a procedure and gradually developing mastery, during which the master and learner go through several stages:

    • observation of both the master and other learners performing the same procedure: this helps provide a conceptual model for the apprentice to follow and an ‘advanced organizer for their initial attempts at performing skills’
    • modelling: explicit demonstration by the master of what to do, followed by the learner copying/practising the task
    • scaffolding: the support and feedback provided to the learner by the master as the learner works on a task
    • coaching: an overall approach of the master in choosing appropriate tasks, evaluating work and diagnosing problems.

    Cognitive theory for apprenticeships?

    Pratt and Johnson also identify a second form of learning that is less easily observable than learning motor or manual skills. They argue that in this context, master and learner must say what they are thinking during applications of knowledge and skills, and must make explicit the context in which the knowledge is being developed, because context is so critical to the way knowledge is developed and applied.

    The question here is: can this be applied to Higher Apprenticeships?

    Teaching apprentices

    Modelling for teachers and apprenticeships can be looked at in 4 forms:

    • Showing but not explaining (implicit)
    • Showing and explaining (explicit)
    • Showing, explaining and asking an apprentice how they translate it to their own work
    • Showing, explaining and discussing the `why' of doing it?

    Apprenticeships: learning by doing?

    Leading on from the discussion of cognitive theory, apprenticeships can be argued to be a particular way of enabling students to learn by doing. It is often associated with vocational training but it should be pointed out that apprenticeship is the most common method used to train post-secondary education instructors in teaching (at least implicitly), so there is a wide range of applications for an apprenticeship approach to teaching.

    A key feature of apprenticeship is that it operates in what Schon described as ‘situations of practice that…are frequently ill-defined and problematic, and characterized by vagueness, uncertainty and disorder‘.

    Learning in an apprenticeship then, is not just about learning to do through active learning but it also requires an understanding of the contexts in which the learning will be applied. In addition there is a social and cultural element to the learning, understanding and embedding the accepted practices, customs and values of experts in the field.


    Some simple hints and tips:

    Speak clearly and make sure that all apprentices are able to understand what you are saying.

    Ensure that the apprentices' expectations are addressed early on in the training.

    Explain the structure of the training at the beginning.

    Review regularly to ensure that the material covered has been understood.

    Deal with questions as they arise but if you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say you will get back to the apprentice later.

    Give useful and constructive feedback to apprentices.

    Check your timing and have a contingency plan in case some parts of the training take longer than you expected.

    Deliver the training consistently so that all apprentices receive the same training.

    These are simple hints and tips: we are building a library of demonstrations of teaching practice on apprenticeships.

  • 7. Apprenticeships: What's new?

    In this session we provide more background about why the course is happening. What's happening to apprenticeships? What's different about the standards?

    It's important to understand why change is happening so that we can work most effectively for the best outcomes for apprentices and focus on what is important in our work. 

    Apprenticeships, in various forms, have been around since the Middle Ages. Unsurprisingly, they don't look quite the same as they did then. And apprenticeships are different across industries too. 

    In this section, we provide some useful reading material to help you think about the big picture into which your own role fits. At the end of this activity, we would like you to post to the forum about your observations.

    Richard Review

    The inquiry that gave rise to the apprenticeship standards was the Richard Review of apprenticeships, which came out over  five years ago in November 2012. Its proposals were far-reaching and these proposals, perhaps inevitably, are a little different from the changes to apprentices that have come about since. However, the report is certainly worth reading, at least in part. Doug Richards expresses himself simply and directly.

  • 8. Training Quality

    In education and training we hear all the time about 'quality'. What does it mean? What are the expectations of the organisations that are responsible for ensuring quality in the sector?

    As basic answers to these questions, we use materials from the inspection body, Ofsted.

    First of all, Ofsted reports provide interesting examples of vocational teaching and we include more of these here.

    Secondly, Ofsted provide very clear guidance about the expectations of their inspections. Well-organised training providers also tend to have quality systems that are built around what Ofsted expect, so it's useful to hear this from the horses' mouth.

  • 9. What's next?

    So, where do you go from here?
    Are you going to continue an apprenticeship practitioner? We hope so: the purpose of the course is to help develop better practitioners in this important field.
    But we also want you to think of yourself differently: as a trainer, rather than an assessor, but also as an educator with a broader responsibility for an apprentice's development.
    This is one of the things that distinguishes teachers from workplace trainers: trainers are there to enable new employees to do the job the firm needs; teachers have a broader role in developing the whole person - child, post-compulsory learner or adult.
    If you look at the Education and Training Foundation's standards for teachers, you will see that these are much broader in the way they think of teaching than the way that many trainers think of their work. So in this section, we ask you to think about what lies beyond the narrowest views of training practice.
    The first section here is all about the standards.
    Beyond this, we then ask you to think about where you are going next, whatever your ambitions are. We want you not to see this course as an end but a beginning.
    So, the final part of this section is about developing an action plan for the future.