High needs Quality improvement Student support

Recording everyone’s achievement

Julia Taylor talks about the importance of recording and monitoring data on all learners achievement.

Not all learners will be using an online e-portfolio to record their achievement. Some learners particularly those studying on courses with personalised outcomes will want to find ways to record what they have learned and they may wish to use a images, video and even symbols as well as or instead of text. Mobile devices make it easy to capture evidence of practical skills and demonstrate progress and there are many ways to put the evidence together in a story or presentation that demonstrates what has been achieved. One important aspect that can be overlooked is the way achievement and progress is recorded so that it can be monitored and improved as well as celebrated.

RARPA (Recognising and Recording Progress and Achievement) is the process used to measure the progress and achievement of learners on non-accredited learning programmes. Particularly relevant in study programmes where there must be a work experience component and in specialist provision where the focus may be independent living skills or based on personal targets for learning. This is by its very nature non-accredited learning. See the Natspec Project on RARPA.

Because RARPA is about recording and using data the process should therefore make use of the benefits of technology. It is possible to ensure that every learners progress is recorded and reflected in the MIS and that the data is actively used by staff to support a learners achievement.

RARPA is essentially good practice and most colleges are doing it very well. WBL and ACL providers do a large amount of non-accredited courses and many of them are doing RARPA – but on paper. Which means they don’t have the opportunity to use the data to inform future work.  They are not using it to answer the question:  ‘how do you know if some of your students are not achieving?


The RARPA process is simple

The RARPA five step below describe the process of negotiation and agreeing steps towards achievement and the process of arriving there.

  • Aims – what the outcomes for the learner are expected to be following the programme.
  • Initial Assessment – what are their current skills.
  • Objectives – what are the steps to achievement and when are they likely to be achieved.
  • Formative assessment – ongoing process that records progress towards the outcome via the steps agreed. This is the part that needs to have a data input with a simple ‘scoring’ system.
  • End of programme – agreement that the outcomes have been achieved against the agreed success indicators by self or summative assessment. Review and reflection and negotiation of the next challenge.

There are a further three steps to implement and manage this process across a whole organisational.

  • Consistency – staff use the systems to apply the process across the whole organisation
  • The process has robust and rigorous quality assurance systems to ensure continuous improvement. This will include internal moderation, self-assessment and external moderation.
  • There is sufficient staff development and support to ensure that staff are able to implement this easily.

You can use the RARPA 5 stage process to measure anything – meetings, workshops, courses – it’s just a way of ensuring that things are: planned, reviewed and evaluated in a simple format.

Quality Assuring the RARPA process-

Useful resources – 

Guidance on the RARPA process 

The third Natspec RARPA programme included over 100 sector leaders across the country from a wide range of providers. The main issue that came to light was the ‘initial assessment’ phase being problematical as in many cases it was not done well or accurately.  So it is worth posing the question – are you assessing what you think you are?  

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