Professional Issues Assignment (PIA) guidance for examiners


The Professional Issues Assignments (PIA) is submitted in the first year of training.

Professional Issues Assignment

The PIA is an evidence-based essay, which answers a question around professional practice and policy set by the trainee themselves. Each trainee is asked to write about a particular professional issue or ethical dilemma of interest to them. Trainees are asked to phrase their title as a question, which their assignment then attempts to answer.

The PIA may address any aspect of professional practice relevant to clinical psychology training. It may relate to professional issues that the trainee anticipates may arise out of future clinical work, or may relate to the professional issues that could arise from undertaking research. It could relate to issues that have arisen in the trainee's previous work experiences that they wish to explore further from the perspective of being a trainee clinical psychologist.

The PIA relates specifically to the learning outcomes of the Professional Issues Curriculum Strand that emphasise trainees developing a professional and ethical value base, and an appropriate understanding of professional and ethical issues.

Structure and Content

The PIA is a 2500 word essay relating to a question written by the trainee. There is no set structure for the essay, but in general the essay should begin with an introduction to the topic area and rationale for asking the question, and end with a conclusion which summarises the essay and the progress made in answering the question set. The essay should use the evidence base (research, policy and guidelines) to guide the essay towards answering the question, and should also contain the trainee's own critical reflections on the topic and the evidence available.

The PIA is not a 'literature review' as such, in that it is not necessary to critically appraise the strength of the evidence itself (e.g. methods, analyses, statistical power, etc.). However, some appraisal of the coverage of evidence and gaps in the evidence can be helpful to include.

Assessment Process

The detailed marking schedule for each PIA is available to examiners during examiner training and when marking the assignments. The evidence collected from each PIA is marked against a competency rating system. The competencies assessed are: written communication, knowledge and skills; analysis and critical thinking; professional behaviour; contextual awareness.

The PIA is assessed by two examiners. Examiners will collect evidence from the reports for each competency, and will give a grade for each competency based on this evidence. The grades are converted to a final mark which corresponds to the University marking procedure (i.e. distinction, good pass, pass, fail, poor fail).

The grades that examiners are asked to award for the competencies are:

WEAK (W) The evidence collected suggests that this competency is significantly below the expected standard at this stage in training.
BELOW THE EXPECTED STANDARD (BES) The evidence collected suggests that this competency is below the expected standard at this stage in training
AT THE EXPECTED STANDRARD (ES) The evidence collected suggests that the competency is of an acceptable/appropriate standard for the stage in training, but does not excel in any way.
ABOVE THE EXPECTED STANDARD (AES) There is evidence that good skills in the competency exist, which are above what is expected for a piece of work submitted at this stage of training.
EXCELLENT (E) Strong evidence has been collected that the trainee has developed this competence to a degree well beyond what would be expected at this stage of training. Use this grade only for outstanding or highly exceptional work.

Useful documents
PIA Examiner booklet