Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The A word

In a recent blogpost Paul Phrampus argued that we should not shy away from the word “assessment” in simulation. He states: “...every simulation is an assessment!”

Words shape our world. We communicate through the words we use, to relay information and influence people. The words we use also tell listeners about us, think of “economic migrants”, “illegal aliens” and “hostile environment”. Lastly, our vocabulary has a direct effect on our thinking; if we don’t know the words and their definitions it is difficult to think rationally about a subject.


The word evokes feelings of stress. It is synonymous with judgment, passing and failing, a dispassionate observer providing an objective grade based on performance.
Some try to soften the word (formative assessment) or its synonyms (good judgment). Yet the people being assessed are unlikely to be reassured.

I would like to offer an alternative: “Analysis” Why not stop assessing people’s performance and start analysing it? The word evokes less stress and does not suggest judgment, but rather a review of what happened. For those who like modifiers perhaps “gap analysis” would work. The observer’s role is to look for the gaps in performance.

If we are analysing we are not assessing. We can be open and clear about what the goals of the scenario and debrief are. And we can remind ourselves that, in the end, it does not matter what we think the performance gaps were. What matters is that we have, through analysis and conversation, facilitated the realisation of these gaps in our learners. Moving from assessment to analysis may also help with another common problem that Paul has identified: