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A day in the life of an MMI assessor

December 2020

In this blog, one of our Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) assessors describes her experience. These MMIs were the central element of the selection process for a large teacher training programme that was implementing MMIs for the first time. For the MMIs, a room was set up with three stations. At each station there was a task for the candidate to complete, and an assessor ready to mark their efforts. After a set time, the candidate moved on to the next station and the assessor welcomed their next candidate.

Happy and exhausted I reached for the large takeaway cup of tea—a cup so large, in fact, that it necessitated two tea bags. Yes exhausted, as evidenced by the fact that I accidentally poured the first precious mouthfuls of tea down my front, but the sort of exhausted that comes with the satisfaction of an exhilarating day. As I finally managed to successfully navigate swallowing, I reflected on the frenetic, energetic and thoroughly rewarding day I had had.

From the outset, this had been a day of nervous faces, enthusiastic candidates, stimulating and thought-provoking activities; a consistent high energy that is a natural consequence of the efficiency with which the MMI process runs. Taking my seat at my allocated station, I took a moment to read through the task I was set to assess. This task consisted of an overview of three primary school teachers. These teachers had different approaches to teaching, varied classroom arrangements and different foci. I smiled quietly, thinking of practitioners I knew who had fitted each description and the one I felt I identified with most. Shaking my head I reminded myself that today wasn’t about my nostalgia but about candidates being able to identify the strengths of these approaches, show their understanding that the profession benefits from a richness of approaches, and perhaps even communicate a sense of their own emerging ethos and belief about teaching that was ready to be shaped, honed and nurtured through their training experience.

An image visualising a day in the life of an MMI assessor.

Example station stimulus candidates view along with a description of the station task

Aware of a bubble of excitement outside the room, I looked up to see that the first groups of candidates had been escorted from their induction meeting and were ready to be allocated their first station with the smooth efficiency of a process that looked practised and did not give away any of the newness of this system. The trusting candidates had put their future in the hands of this assessment day and again I was reminded of the huge responsibility my role in assessing was. A huge advantage of the MMI process is that each candidate is met by a number of independent assessors and that I was only one contributor to their overall score.

The first three candidates entered the room, each moving to their first station. I could see the relief on their faces as they saw how well-labelled the stations were and how clear their route was marked around the interview room. After a friendly welcome from the room host, a bell rang to signal the beginning of the candidates’ preparation time and a nervous silence fell over the room. I cautiously watched the person I was set to interview first as they read through the task, hoping to pick up some clues about what to expect. I could see them pause every few moments to look into the middle distance as they considered each of the teacher profiles in front of them. And then, cutting through the silence, came the ring of the bell, its slightly disquieting tone neutralised by the friendly voice that followed, asking candidates to move to face their assessor. My day as an MMI assessor had begun, but I think it’s fair to say that the best was yet to come.

Keen to make my candidate feel at ease, but mindful that the time allocation needed to be given in full to the candidate I briefly but warmly introduced myself, confirmed the candidates identity – of course they were exactly who I had on my list in front of me; the attention to the organisational detail had been expertly executed. The candidate spoke fluently, thoughtfully and reflectively, drawing on his own experiences and concluding his points well. Occasionally I glanced at my scripted prompts, prepared during the piloting phases of the station design in case of candidates freezing or running out of steam, but this candidate was well prepared and confident, needing very little input from me.

The bell rang again and with a big smile my candidate excused himself to move on to prepare for his next station. In this two minute gap I had the opportunity to consult my scoring prompt sheet, mentally ticking off the skills he had shown from the list and translating this to a numerical score. With ease and efficiency I recorded this on the online program on my tablet, and I was ready to greet my next candidate.

The day hurtled on, with me greeting candidates and listening with interest to their thoughts and ideas about teaching. Some of the 5-minute interactions were full of stimulating conversation that seemed over in seconds and certainly had the potential to last an hour….and some did feel as though they lasted an hour as less reflective candidates struggled to articulate their ideas. For candidates, the MMI format is really supportive for those who suffer from ‘nerves’ – each station is a clean slate, they can regroup, gather their thoughts and ‘start again’; their new independent assessor having no knowledge of any mistakes they may have made previously. The feedback from candidates always mentions this chance to ‘bounce back’ as a great benefit of this interview approach.

The last group of candidates left the room, and the stillness provided a stark contrast to the energy that had only moments ago filled the room. After a collective breath the members of staff, other station assessors, and the room host, began to  look round at each other, exchanging nods and mutual congratulations for contributing to the success of the day. Then the unofficial debrief began and the pent-up energy returned after its hiatus as we all exchanged stories of surprising responses. Once we shared all we were bursting to say to each other there was general acknowledgement of the exceptional calibre of the candidates we had interviewed: their insightful reflections and knowledgeable answers.

So as I drank my large cup of tea on my train journey home, I reflected on how being part of this experience left me feeling proud of the teaching profession and excited to welcome fresh cohorts of students through the doors. Even though the day was tiring, I felt reassured that the MMI process really gave the candidates a ‘fair shake’ and provided a valid way of making decisions about selecting the best possible candidates.

Please get in touch if you would like to know more about using Multiple Mini Interviews for Teacher Selection.