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Below, we provide guidance and recommendations for the development and management of evidence in the workplace for those engaged on the Higher Specialist Scientist training programme (HSST) and their supervisors. This guidance is advisory only.

Introduction

The HSST Programme is unlike the possibly more familiar STP programme in that there is far greater flexibility in the evidence that can be submitted by trainees who will be following a bespoke pathway agreed between themselves and their Workplace Supervisor. It requires that both supervisors and trainees have an understanding and knowledge of the learning outcomes1 of the specialist curriculum and the Higher Specialist Scientist Standards of Proficiency (HSSSP) published by the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS).

A portfolio of evidence

Generally speaking, a portfolio of evidence is a collection of documents that a trainee is required to compile to show competence against a set of learning outcomes and to an appropriate standard.

Trainees need to demonstrate, through the presentation of evidence, that they can meet the requirements of the HSST programme and do so by organising evidence within an e-portfolio. The portfolio facilitates the trainee, with support from their Workplace Supervisor, to collect evidence systematically.

Whilst the e-portfolio will take effort and time to complete, it is also a means of demonstrating the trainee’s particular strengths and achievements to others.

The portfolio should be developed along with the trainee’s achievements and take on a dynamic role as:

  • a record of achievements to date
  • a proof of competence and knowledge
  • a resource bank of abilities
  • a reference tool for appraisal
  • a basis for career development
  • a record of continuing professional development.

In relation to the relevant specialist curriculum and standards of proficiency it provides:

  • a clear demonstration of competence and knowledge against learning outcomes and standards of proficiency
  • a focus for assessment
  • a means to bring together evidence for more than one learning outcome or standard of proficiency
  • a focus for the identification of training/learning needs.

The e-portfolio helps a trainee as they work towards certification as a Higher Specialist Scientist and also provides a useful reference tool for their future career.

The e-portfolio will contain:

  • the training plans agreed with the Workplace Supervisor identifying progression through the programme
  • the written evidence developed that maps to the programme requirements
  • the uploaded attachments
  • the feedback on evidence.

Evidence for assessment

At HSST the scope of evidence that can be submitted is wide-ranging and determined through the individual’s bespoke pathway and will include the specialist knowledge acquired through the professional doctorate programme as well as that which occurs in the workplace.

Workplace-based evidence submitted for assessment should demonstrate the appropriate application of specialty knowledge and skills through the quality and types of evidence in an e-portfolio which is appropriately mapped to the domains of the AHCS Standards of Proficiency for Higher Specialist Scientists and to the learning outcomes of the specialist curriculum.

Evidence that is submitted for assessment needs to be:

  • Sufficient - Covering all aspects of the assessment criteria for each of the learning outcomes (LO) and standards of proficiency (SoP) referenced. Sufficient does not mean a mass of evidence. It simply means collecting enough evidence to demonstrate competence.
  • Authentic - Evidence put forward for assessment should be explained and substantiated. It is important that the submitted evidence relates only to the trainee’s own performance and that it can be declared at programme exit as authentic.
  • Relevant - Any evidence for assessment must relate specifically to the specialist programme and bespoke pathway the trainee is pursuing. An assessor should only be interested in the evidence of performance pertinent to the LO and SoP referenced in the submission. It is not necessary to include reference documents, training materials or other evidence that does not demonstrate competence.
  • Current - ‘Current’ means evidence relating to the appropriate specialty knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours a trainee can currently demonstrate and which clearly relate to the activities and areas of work a trainee could still perform if required to do so.
  • Cross-referenced - Evidence (especially written) must be referenced to the LO and SoP of the programme being undertaken. A clear referencing system is essential.

The Workplace Supervisor should work with the HSST trainee to determine what is meant by sufficient, authentic, relevant and current and this should be reflected through an agreed training plan and through regular (monthly) recorded reflective meetings to discuss progression cross-referenced to the LO and SoP.

Evidence that is acceptable can be divided into two main categories – direct and indirect.

Direct evidence can include:

  • Performance being observed by an assessor
  • Projects or work-based assignments 
  • Personal reports
  • Minutes of meetings, action plans, progress reports
  • Internal and external correspondence
  • Prior qualifications which relate directly to the LO and SoP
  • Product evidence e.g. examples, samples, photographs
  • Responses to oral or written questions
  • Video or authenticated audio tapes
  • Supervisor observations
  • Performance appraisal and multi-source feedback with reflection.

Indirect evidence can include:

  • Witness testimonies from people within or outside the organisation
  • Achievement in related areas
  • Attendance on courses/training activities relevant to the LO and SoP
  • Membership of related committees or outside organisations
  • Previous evidence from assignments, tests and other forms of assessment that have been achieved
  • Documents produced through work-related activities such as reports and related material
  • Reports by supervisors and managers.

Such indirect evidence will likely be used mainly to support or confirm direct evidence.

Each HSST pathway will require evidence that is bespoke to the individual and negotiated with the Workplace Supervisor through the creation of a training plan designed to help determine the types of evidence required. It is expected that this will be through a diversity of evidence types to support the achievement of progression. When submitting evidence, trainees must highlight their role in the work; for example, identifying whether the work has been carried out through group work activities. The list above is not exhaustive and other appropriate forms of evidence may be identified depending on the bespoke pathway being undertaken.

Training planning

Training planning sits at the heart of successfully negotiating the five-year HSST programme. It is driven and informed by the content of the particular LOs of the discipline-specific curriculum and its content must meet the Academy’s SoP.

The training plan will produce evidence from work undertaken in the workplace, from the academic content of the HEI programme and, for Life Science trainees, from the requirements of the Royal College of Pathologists examinations. Each piece of evidence submitted for assessment should reference the LOs of the curriculum and formally map to the SoP.

Training planning should grow by design over the period of the programme, being more detailed in earlier years and referencing an outline for future years, which should be updated and modified in detail year on year. Effective training planning will:

  • Establish training goals
    • Against the specialist curriculum content
    • Against what is possible with the job plan
    • Against what is required for the programme components (DClinSci, FRCPath etc)
    • Against the required programme outcomes
  • Develop the content
    • Planning progression over the five years
    • Designing the outputs and evidence
    • Outlining the structure over the five years
    • Establishing a timeline for progression
    • Making time for preparing for training
  • Specifically define
    • Items for assessment
    • Tools for recording evidence
    • Support from colleagues
    • Gap analysis

Each training plan is a bespoke programme particular to the individual trainee and the environment they work in, discussed and agreed with the Workplace Supervisor. It needs to take account of the job plan and any assigned roles and routine clinical responsibilities and needs to strike the right balance between the requirements of routine service and of progression through the HSST programme.

A training plan should include:

  • Objectives set to facilitate personal development and with time set aside for training
  • Assessments designed and mapped to match progression through the programme against both the LOs of the curriculum and to meet the Academy’s SoP
  • Provision of supervision and monitoring of a trainee’s educational experience
  • Regular training planning reviews.

The e-portfolio provides a means whereby training plans can be recorded and updates also submitted and signed off.

Workplace-based assessment

The evidence submitted for assessment may draw on the traditional tools of assessment such as DOPS, OCEs and CBDs but at this level of study these methods may not be sufficient in themselves and evidence is more likely to fall outside these traditional boundaries and more extensively reflect achievements through progression against the SoP and LO. It is important to note that it is the quality of evidence that matters more than the number of pieces of evidence submitted for assessment.

The School suggests evidence should be submitted monthly, accumulating 60 pieces of evidence over the course of the five-year programme. However, this frequency would be influenced by the scope and nature of each piece of evidence. There is no requirement to complete a minimum number of workplace-based assessments or any requirement to complete certain assessments at a particular stage of the programme.

It is suggested that a four to six weekly recorded reflection meeting could be held with the workplace supervisor during which progression against the training plan and the endorsement of a piece of evidence may be undertaken.

It is essential, however, that an appropriate number and blend of evidence is submitted for assessment, bearing in mind that the evidence will be reviewed by an expert panel and must demonstrate that both the LOs and SoP are being met to a level expected of a consultant clinical scientist.

The e-Portfolio: OneFile

The School has recently adopted the e-portfolio service OneFile as a repository for evidence:

OneFile® provides a place:

  • To store and manage evidence prior to its collation and submission for assessment 
  • To evidence, record, review and renew training plans
  • To record professional development and experience
  • To record specific work practices
  • To record reflective and evaluative content
  • To assesses and sign off evidence
  • That is confidential.

HSST trainees and their supervisors are required to use OneFile to record evidence and assessment of training planning and progression.

The School provides a number of resources for trainees and supervisors to facilitate its use.

Referencing evidence on OneFile

Evidence of workplace activity and learning must be mapped against the SoP and linked to the LO of the specialist curricula.

Referencing The Academy Standards of Proficiency

All evidence submitted for assessment on OneFile is required to link to at least one of the Academy’s SoP.

Referencing the Specialty Curriculum

Specialty curricula are available through the School’s curriculum library at: https://curriculum.nshcs.org.uk/programmes/hsst

Each piece of evidence submitted for assessment must reference the LO of the specialist curriculum.

The recommended way to achieve this is to include in the narrative section of an evidence submission on OneFile a link to the particular objective outcome(s) in the specialist curriculum.

It is possible that evidence submitted for assessment may link to the specialist curriculum and the Academy SoP in a variety of ways:

  • One to One - Where the evidence links exclusively to a single Academy SoP and to a single point within the specialty curriculum.
  • One to Many - Where the evidence links to either a single Academy SoP and many points within the specialty curriculum or to many of the Academy SoP and a single point within the specialty curriculum.
  • Many to Many - Where the evidence links to many of the Academy SoP and many points within the specialty curriculum.

Trainees and their supervisors may find it helpful to develop a template in line with those found in the downloads below. These documents suggest ways in which trainees might map evidence created across the five-year programme both to the Academy’s SoP and to their specialty curriculum.

Assessing and endorsing evidence on OneFile

The assessment of evidence should always take into account the appropriate alignment to the Academy SoP and the relevant link to the curriculum and should satisfy the assessor with regard to its content.

The assessor has the opportunity to offer the trainee general feedback on the content of the submission or to annotate particular parts of the submission.

It is recommended that the following rubric is used by assessors for the purposes of general feedback to trainees when reviewing evidence on OneFile as a final statement in any feedback given.

  • Insufficient evidence submitted - The information is sparse/incorrect. It is lacking in important detail. The evidence bears little relation to either the LO nor the SoP.
  • Evidence submitted is fairly sufficient improvement is possible - Meets some of the criteria set out. Evidence is somewhat included/covered but not to the required level of the programme.
  • Good, sufficient evidence provided - Meets most of the criteria set with good evidence provided which successfully maps to the LO and SoP.
  • Excellent evidence submitted – highly sufficientMeets all of the criteria set through substantial evidence provided which commendably maps to the LO and SoP.

The endorsement of evidence following assessment on OneFile can be undertaken in one of two ways and will be determined by the nominated assessor as appropriate.

Option one

If the assessor is content that the evidence submitted maps appropriately and fully meets the requirements of the LO and SoP referenced by the trainee it is possible to sign the evidence as completed. View a short video about how to respond to a submission on OneFile.

This indicates that the referenced SoP is met and that the trainee’s competence has reached the level expected at this temporal stage of the programme and/or that of a consultant clinical scientist.

The dashboard then accepts this piece of evidence as final and the evidence submission becomes ‘green’ in the OneFile progress views.

Cautionary note: If this option is triggered and the assessor is of the opinion that the evidence only meets the temporal stage requirements then it is important that further discussion with the trainee takes place to identify that additional evidence is required against this SoP and should be mapped into the Training Plan.

Option two

If the assessor is NOT content that the evidence submitted:

  • maps appropriately to the LO and SoP referenced by the trainee, or
  • has achieved the level expected at this temporal stage of the programme, or
  • has achieved the level expected of a consultant clinical scientist.

The assessor can return the submission to the trainee by using the resubmit option in OneFile, with the evidence annotated with further general and specific feedback for the trainee to address.

If this option is triggered further discussion with the trainee should take place to identify that additional evidence is required within this piece of evidence and that it should be updated and resubmitted for assessment.

The progress views in OneFile retain this submission as ‘amber’ and the trainee and supervisor can pursue a facilitated discussion in a cyclical manner until such time as the assessor determines that the referenced SoP is achieved as met and that the trainee’s competence has reached the level expected at this temporal stage of the programme and/or that of a consultant clinical scientist.

The dashboard then accepts this evidence as final and the evidence submission becomes ‘green’ in the OneFile progress views.

It should be noted that the OneFile progress views should not be reviewed in isolation but also in relation to the training plans and the development of temporal evidence across the five years of the programme.

Multi-source feedback

Multisource feedback (MSF), also known as 360 degree or multi-rater feedback, refers to appraisals of an individual that are derived from two or more distinct categories of individuals, such as supervisors, peers, subordinates, patients from either within or outside the organisation. In many instances, the participants are also encouraged to evaluate their own behaviour and performance.

Many maintain that multisource feedback offers a variety of benefits such as:

  • Providing a more reliable and valid assessment of behaviour and performance
  • Facilitating candid and honest discussions about how individuals can develop
  • Shifting the focus from merely attempting to impress to broader goals and objectives
  • Facilitates management learning, skill development, and goal setting
  • Ultimately improves the culture of organisations and the performance of managers.

Multi-source feedback is also commonly employed across educational programmes and is widely endorsed by the medical Royal Colleges for specialty training and to inform the decisions made at the annual review of competence progression. The School has also previously employed the use of multi-source feedback as an essential component of its training programmes and for HSST this is no exception, to maintain the comparability with specialist medical training programmes.

Currently, OneFile does not contain MSF-type functionality and the School therefore advises that HSST trainees should undertake a form of 360 degree appraisal as a part of their local appraisal, wherever possible, and report it as a discrete piece of evidence that can be mapped to the SoP within the e-portfolio.

Concluding remarks

It is unlikely that all aspects of the creation and assessment of workplace evidence have been covered in this guidance. Further questions and greater clarity can be sought by emailing the School at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. where it will be passed on to the appropriate person.


1 The use of the term learning outcomes is adopted in its widest sense and may not be explicit as such in all versions of the HSST curricula. Learning outcomes describe significant and essential learning that will have been achieved, and can reliably be demonstrated at the end of the program. 

This animation outlines the role that the e-portfolio plays within the HSST programme:

  • to capture and store evidence, and
  • to record and receive feedback on training plans and workplace activity and learning.

How to respond to a submission in OneFile

Download a one page summary of how to respond to a submission.

View the series of OneFile 'How to...' videos for HSST supervisors here

View the series of OneFile 'How to...' videos for HSST trainees here

Key 'How to...' videos for HSST trainees

The videos below give a good overview of how HSST trainees will use OneFile to submit evidence of activity against the Higher Specialist Scientist Standards of Proficiency and to submit evidence of training planning.

How to submit evidence of activity in OneFile

How to manage training planning in OneFile

Need further support?

Submit a request to our help desk at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To help trainees to get going with OneFile we have created this guidance identifying 8 steps to getting started with OneFile and the short video below. The first two steps in each of these resources are vital for HSST supervisors to take.

One of the most important things that supervisors will do in OneFile is respond to submissions from HSST trainees, assessing whether they provide evidence of having reached particular standards. The animation below provides a quick summary of how to respond to submissions in OneFile.

Download a one page summary of how to respond to a submission.

We also recommend that you take a look at the series of OneFile 'How to...' videos for HSST supervisors.

Need further support?

Submit a request to our help desk at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Direct Entry

Applications Shortlisting Interviews Outcomes Training
Applications open -
Monday 19 March 2018 at 13:00
Shortlisting occurs between Monday 23 April 2018 to Friday 4 May 2018

Interviews held:

  • w/c 4 June 2018
Initial offers sent out no later than 3 July 2018 Start date: September 2018
Applications close -
Monday 16 April 2018 at 17:00
    Employers informed of offer outcomes July 2018   
      Local employment processes during July - August 2018  

 

In Service

Applications Interviews Outcomes Training
Applications open -
Monday 19 March 2018 at 13:00

Interviews held:

  • w/c 4 June 2018
Initial offers sent out no later than 3 July 2018 Start date: September 2018
Applications close -
Friday 4 May 2018 at 17:00
  Employers informed of offer outcomes July 2018   
    Local employment processes during July - August 2018   

 

To support your Higher Specialist Scientist Training, a training allowance will be provided for each of the 5 years of the HSST programme. This training allowance is in addition to tuition fees for the DClinSci academic programme and will apply to both “direct” posts and to ‘in-service’ posts.  

The available funding and its expected use    

The training allowance is £13,000 per commissioned trainee per year, for each of the 5 years of training and for a maximum of 5 years.  The training allowance will be paid to the relevant training centre via the Health Education England (HEE) Local Office and may be monitored and/or audited via the Learning and Development Agreement (LDA), which is in place between HEE and each placement provider.

Funding for academic fees will be held centrally by Health Education England’s West Midlands Local Office (HEE WM), to commission the Doctoral Level Award from the commissioned education provider (Manchester Academy of Health Science Education – MAHSE).  

The HSST is a bespoke programme of Doctoral Level learning that will vary depending on the individual and their previous learning and experience.  The training allowance is provided on the understanding that it be used flexibly within the employing department to cover the costs of accessing the programme, or address the opportunity costs of training that would include as a minimum:

  • Expenses, including travel and accommodation costs associated with required HEI attendance as part of the DClinSci;
  • Costs of any additional learning that may be needed out with the DClinSci including travel and accommodation;
  • Research project costs;
  • Costs of cover to enable release of the individual undertaking HSST.

In agreeing to support an individual to undertake the HSST programme, the employing or host department is committed to releasing the individual to access the formal academic learning that underpins the programme and to support them with time to undertake the required workplace research and learning.

It is expected that an agreement would be reached between the employee/direct entry hosted HSST and their workplace on the level of support that will be available to them to complete their programme of study, prior to an individual commencing the programme. This agreement would be expected to recognise the changing requirements of the programme as it progresses.

Health Education England reserves the right to audit the use of the training allowance, in addition to any local LDA monitoring, to ensure that it is being used solely to support the education and development of the individual undertaking the HSST programme and has been of benefit to that individual. 

 

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