Service user participation in the assessment of students' practice

Gemma Stacey & Julie Gosling
University of Nottingham
Patient and Public Involvement


This educational development offers the opportunity for pre-registration nursing students to receive feedback on their interpersonal and assessment skills from a person who has experienced using mental health services (community assessor). The feedback is generated following a 45-minute interaction between the student and the community assessor which is filmed and observed by a mental health clinician. Feedback is received from the lived experience assessor, the clinician and through self-evaluation. This feedback forms the basis of a reflective assignment which represents the summative element of a module. The process involved the following stages:


  • Training day for community assessors
  • Briefing session for mental health clinicians and lecturers
  • Briefing session for students


  • Assessment conducted over two days for 30 students
  • Feedback and recordings returned to students
  • One to one support offered for students to reflect on feedback


  • Immediately following the assessments
  • Analysis of assignments to identify key aspects of learning

What are the Aims?

The initiative aimed to address the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s recommendation for service users to be involved in the assessment of student nurses’ practice. The approach adopted ensured that both students and lived experience assessors were prepared and supported to exchange constructive feedback which avoided tokenistic or ethically questionable strategies which have been previously criticised in the literature.       

Who was/is involved?

Gemma Stacey (Associate Professor, University of Nottingham) and Julie Gosling (Educational lead for Making Waves a service user led organisation) led the preparation, training and implementation of the initiative. Over 30 lived experience assessors have been trained and conducted assessments over a period of two years.

What has changed/will change?

The reflective assignments have undergone content analysis to identify the impact of the educational encounter. It is evident that the depth of personal reflection initiated by the feedback is significant. Evaluation indicates that students were most challenged by the shift in power as they were the focus of the assessment as opposed to being in the assessor role. This was both a facilitator and barrier to learning as some gained highly from the understanding of how it felt to be under the scrutiny of others whilst some students adopted a defensive stance towards this scenario.

What lessons have we learnt?

The preparation and support of students to enable them to receive and reflectively engage with the constructive feedback from lived experience assessors is essential for the encounter to offer opportunity for professional and personal development. 

Contact details

Gemma Stacey (

Julie Gosling (

Links to further information and resources

The experiences of those who engaged in the assessment are presented in the short film available at