POP Pickers

  • Building Design Expert
  • 7 years ago

If I remember anything at all from my school days, it harks back to exam time when we were constantly told to make sure we read the question paper in full, not once but twice, to make sure we knew precisely what the examiner was after by way of an answer. Having done that it was then a case make sure you formulate your written response to do just that – “Answer the Question”. If it was a desease it would appear that scientists are still working on a vaccine. Trials up to now have failed miserably. Students, of all ages, are intent on telling the examiners what They know, rather than what the examiner wants to know. A massive difference that often points to a fail rather the more desirable pass.

I am one of a number of chartered professionals who sit on the assessment panel at the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists, for applicants trying attain their professional status as an Architectural Technologist. CIAT has evolved and morphed into a stand alone and industry respected profession, a far cry from it’s humble beginnings in 1965 as a general society of technicians at the behest of the RIBA. Consequently one might expect that to become a professional practitioner in AT is going to be far from a casual walk in the park, and you would be right.

The Professional and Occupational Performance (POP) record is a rigorous examination of professional knowledge and competency to execute that knowledge in the public domain. There are a number of routes to goal for those who aspire, and even as I write these are under working group review, in an attempt to improve perceived flexibility within the system and attract a greater take-up.

The POP record asks applicants to present evidence of knowledge gained from involvement, for the most part, in live construction projects. Each applicant must complete, in full, the requirements laid down in up to seventeen modules based upon differing areas of the processes. From which five are randomly requested to be submitted for formal assessment by the panel.

The POP record is certainly prescriptive in the level of knowledge required, but reasonably flexible in what form the supporting evidence may take.

I have not been an assessor for long, maybe around a year or so. The experience of a long return journey to attend CIAT central office in Islington to spend a day in a semi-basement office pouring over endless paper submissions can be incredibly rewarding, or phenomenally frustrating. The reward is passing a candidate who has communicated a well compiled , well thought out, and what is absolutely key – a considered response to every part of every module undertaken. The frustration is in not knowing quite where to start to look in a submission that has used so much paper that it should have been subject to an environmental impact assessment, and after considerable analysis is found to comprise of everything except the information required. In other words the candidate has chosen to tell us everything they know, in stark contrast to specifically what was asked for.

The mindset of an assessor is to begin any assessment wanting to bend over backwards to pass the candidate onto the final professional stage. It will usually be apparent quite early whether the standard of information submitted is going to make the grade, and if holes begin to appear they often get larger and larger, and there is a realisation that the level of understanding required is just not there.

The process of assessment involves each candidate’s submitted documentation being assessed, independently, by two assessors. Both are required to agree that all criteria have been met. If they cannot agree, then the submission is passed to a senior assessor who acts as a moderator with what will amount to a casting vote.

To this end I therefore offer the following pointers to prospective applicants who are considering a POP record submission:

Assessors are human beings – subject to all the vagaries and pressures of life. If you as an applicant can make the process of discovering the information that has been requested as painless as possible, because your submission has been well constructed, superbly indexed and cross referenced back to the module titles and prefixes. This tells the assessor that you can communicate.

Less is more – The most common mistake made by candidates is the belief that if they submit four or five lever arch files packed full with paper, this will ensure that the assessor is so overwhelmed by the shear quantity of knowledge that there is no other option but to issue a pass. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • DON’T – believe that as long as you have included what you believe to be the correct page of information in there somewhere, that the assessors will find it. It is not the assessors role to search endlessly for something that might prove your worth. It is up to you as the candidate to present it blatantly and factually, or lead the assessor to it through a succinct natural process.
  • DON’T – think that because your POP supervisor has signed off your application as complete, that the assessment procedure is just a rubber stamping formality. It’s not, the panel will look at every relevant document and drawing you submit very thoroughly.
  • DON’T – think that because you have included a drawing or documentary piece of evidence as part of one module it will be held to apply as evidence to another. It will not. Each module submission must stand alone in terms of content and relevance. If part of your evidence is applicable to multiple modules, make sure there is a copy in each one. A cross reference from one module to another is not acceptable.
  • DON’T – include drawings and documents that are just not applicable, or relevant. This ‘scatter gun’ approach to your submission may communicate to the panel that you do not understand what is required and lead to a fail.
  • DO – keep your provision of evidence as relevant and concise as possible. Pages and pages of irrelevant information will not help you gain a pass, and may ultimately count against you.
  • DO – demonstrate an understanding of what is required by the assessment panel to any given module or section. Guessing or just submitting what you think might be the answer probably won’t get you anywhere.
  • DO – Put an ordered index at the beginning of your responses to each module and identify the titles or references of documents and, or drawings that you are putting forward as your evidence.
  • DO – Use a coloured, or several coloured highlighter pens to indicate what you consider to be relevant information.
  • DO – believe that as little as one sheet of A4 can provide sufficient evidence to meet part of a module requirement (it must just be the right sheet of A4). You just need to understand what the requirement is, then believe you have met it head on.

You may have your application returned citing insufficient evidence on one, or multiple module parts. The assessment panel will not tell you what is missing, simply that it is incomplete. It is up to you to demonstrate understanding of the requirements by determining what may be additionally required.

This is an important and top level professional qualification and is not awarded without a clear demonstration of understanding and competency. By gaining full membership you will have been given the ultimate licence to practise under your own name. You will live or die professionally on your performance in that arena. Mistakes are made by everyone, but a mistake made due to not understanding what is required of you, will not only make you look bad, but it may also reflect poorly on the profession as a whole, affecting your fellow professionals standing and profile. This, of course must be avoided, and this is why your application is scrutinised so thoroughly.

As long as you remember that at the heart of this profession is the ability to communicate. Design drawings, construction details, specifications and schedules, amongst others, are just a means of communication, the greater the clarity, the greater the chance of comprehension by the recipient, which just might be the contractor who’s construction your building – POP pickers.