Assessment of Learning Outcomes

The DClinPsy's programme-level learning outcomes are prescribed by the British Psychological Society's Standards for Doctoral programmes in Clinical Psychology document (2014). These learning outcomes consist of ten over-arching outcomes and nine core competency domains. Details of these can be found in the DClinPsy's programme specification.

Assessment through practice placement experience

The Supervisor's Assessment of Trainee (SAT) report form, which supervisors complete prior to the mid-placement visit and at the end of each practice placement, comprises two sections. The first contains twelve transferable competencies which are drawn from the latest job, task and role analysis for clinical psychology arising from a research project commissioned by the Clearing House for Postgraduate Course in Clinical Psychology (Baron & O'Reilly, 2012). The second section of the form contains eighteen specific competencies which are drawn from the BPS Standards. The SAT is used to indicate whether or not the trainee has met the required learning outcomes for the practice placement and subsequently to recommend to the exam board whether the placement should be considered satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily completed. Trainees are also required to complete a log-book for each practice placement, which includes a self-assessment component where they are asked to rate themselves against a range of objectives that stem directly from the programme-level learning outcomes.

Assessment through research thesis

The doctoral thesis is a substantial piece of work (up to 56,000 words including tables, figures and appendices) trainees usually complete during their second and third year of training. As well as providing additional evidence of many of the HCPC's Standards of Proficiency, and providing evidence that trainees have developed the skills described within the BPS's 'research' core competency domain, the thesis must be completed to a to a standard which is consistent with Lancaster University's guidance on doctoral level research. It comprises conducting and reporting on primary, investigative research which is relevant to the theory and practice of clinical psychology. In terms of quality, the thesis needs to demonstrate a substantial contribution to knowledge and should afford originality by the discovery of new findings and by the exercise of independent critical power.

Assessment through academic coursework submission

Academic coursework completed as part of the programme is evaluated by rating a series of competencies that are required to perform these skill sets proficiently. The broader competencies are derived from the Baron & O'Reilly job, task and role analysis (2012), whilst the more specific, practically focused ones (such as practical research skills and those featured in the DACS assignments) are designed to address both the job analysis skills and / or the BPS standards. The competencies are designed to be transferable across the multiple activities in which clinical psychologists are expected to engage. A brief definition of each of them follows:

Knowledge and skills - this is evidence that the trainee has a broad knowledge and clear understanding of the knowledge and evidence base being referred to in the assignment. This will include, for example, knowledge and understanding of theory and clinical technique in relation to a clinical situation, of research methodology and application, and of the evidence and literature base more generally in a relevant subject area.

Analysis and critical thinking - this relates to evidence of the ability to evaluate literature critically and to adapt and apply knowledge and skills to specific situations. It can include, for example, adapting theory for use with a particular client, critical evaluation of the work of others and analysis of data collected through research.

Reflection and integration - this relates to evidence of the trainee being able to adopt a reflective stance to facilitate learning, and the application of learning to practice.

Professional behaviour - this relates to evidence of the trainee conducting themselves in a manner consistent with the professional role of clinical psychologist. This will include an awareness and use of relevant guidelines and standards regarding ethics, boundaries etc., and interacting with other professionals in an appropriate manner.

Written communication - This refers to the adequate written expression of a range of ideas, concepts and arguments, in a coherent, flowing and appropriately structured way. The style adopted should be appropriate for the intended audience.

Resilience - this reflects evidence of the trainee's ability to face challenges confidently and learn from setbacks.

Standard setting - this relates to evidence that the trainee sets high standards of personal behaviour for themselves and strives to achieve these.

Presentation skills - evidence of the ability to effectively communicate information in a live presentation environment is assessed under this competency. It includes verbal communication skills plus associated planning and performance skills in presenting.

Practical research skills - this relates to evidence of the trainee showing the technical skills required in locating and using relevant literature and other sources of knowledge and evidence.

Contextual Awareness - competency refers to an awareness of the contexts that clinical psychologists work in, and the professional role of a clinical psychologist within them.

Engagement & Rapport - evidence of good skills in using non-verbal and para-linguistic skills to adopt a compassionate, validating approach with others which encourages positive engagement

Verbal communication skills - using appropriate approach, language and questioning for the situation and person being interacted with, is able to converse in a way that develops understanding

Session management - ability to create and maintain appropriate focus, structure and boundaries around a meeting or other professional interaction.

Psychological knowledge - an ability to converse in a psychologically informed way, applying knowledge in an appropriate and collaborative manner.

Respecting and exploring difference - in professional interactions the ability to adopt a non-judgemental stance, actively but sensitively approach issues of difference, and recognise and question own assumptions within an interaction.

These competencies were originally designed to map onto specific areas of proficiency within the programme learning outcomes, and the broad relationships between the two are illustrated in the table below.

Key: -

  1. Generalisable meta-competencies
  2. Psychological assessment
  3. Psychological formulation
  4. Psychological intervention
  5. Evaluation
  6. Research
  7. Personal and professional skills and values
  8. Communication and teaching
  9. Organisational and systemic influence and leadership
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Knowledge and skills X X X X X X X
Reflection and Integration X X
Professional behaviour X X X
Analysis and critical thinking X X X X X X X X
Written Communication X X X X X X
Resilience X X
Standard setting X X
Engagement and rapport X X
Verbal communication skills X X X X X X
Session management X X X
Respecting and exploring difference X X X X
Psychological knowledge X X X X X
Practical research skills X

In terms of academic assignments, trainees must submit all of the following:

  • Systematic Literature Review (SLR): a 6,000 word systematic review of either quantitative or qualitative studies.
  • Professional issues assignment (PIA): a 2,500 essay on a topic relating to one or more professional practice issues
  • Direct assessment of clinical skills standardised roleplay (DACS-SRPS)
  • Direct assessment of clinical skills Placement Portfolio (DACS-PP) x 2
  • Service-related project (SRP): a 6,000 word report of research conducted in a service setting
The competencies used in the assessment of each assignment are detailed in the table below.

Key: -

  1. PIA
  2. SLR
  3. DACS-SRPS
  4. DACS-PP
  5. SRP
1 2 3 4 5
Knowledge and skills X X X X
Reflection and Integration X
Professional behaviour X X X X
Analysis and critical thinking X X X X
Written Communication X X X X
Resilience X X
Standard setting X X X X
Practical research skills X
Engagement and rapport X X
Verbal communication skills X X
Session management X X
Respecting and exploring difference X X
Psychological knowledge X X