Assessor Insight: Alison Diamond RMARA

Alison Diamond has been a Registered Member of the ARA since 2014 and became an assessor around the same time. We asked Alison to share her thoughts on the latest improvements to the ARA Professional Development Programme and what she sees as the main benefits of being an assessor.

So, Alison, can you please tell us a bit more about your career background?

My current role is archivist for the Argyll Papers, the family and estate archive of the Campbell Family, Dukes of Argyll, which is kept at Inveraray Castle.

The Argyll Papers include family and estate papers dating from the 13th century to the present day, reflecting the political importance of the Campbell family in Scottish and British history. The archive is a rich source of information about the local history of these places, the people who lived there and the political, social and economic history through the centuries.

I held the post of Clore National Archives Institutions Fellow 2014-15 and was a curatorial officer with National Records of Scotland (NRS) until 2016, working in various roles including as Education Officer and the first Administrator of the Scottish Register of Tartans.

What do you think are the strengths of the new competency-based assessment process?

The new competency-based assessment reflects the reality of development; it is an ongoing process which provides more opportunity for planning and direction to your learning, followed by action and reflection.

The new process also promotes ongoing record keeping. Because it is an ongoing process (identification of learning needs, planning to learn, finding the learning, etc), you really need to record the ongoing thinking and planning, rather than ‘collecting’ courses and conferences. It’s not just about attending a training event but rather it’s about why I went to it and how the learning from that event fits into the overall pattern of my learning for that particular competency.

There is also a greater emphasis on reflection – we’ve talked for years as assessors about ‘reflective practitioners’ but now the competency form includes a specific space for reflection. This is a great reminder of the need to reflect on what was done, why, what worked, what didn’t and what was learned.

You’ve been an ARA assessor since 2014 when you became a Registered member of the ARA. What do you see as the main benefits of being an assessor?

Being an assessor really helps me to be more aware of my own development – I know what I look for in a submission and that helps me to plan and record my own learning. Given how hectic everyday life and work are, this is particularly valuable.

Assessing also helps to keep me abreast of new initiatives and developments in the profession by reading about what colleagues are doing and keeping up-to-date with ethics, records management and digital preservation – the bits of information management that aren’t part of my day job!

I also enjoy giving something back to the profession. I work in a remote location which can make it difficult for me to play a part in the national or regional ARA goings on, but assessments are largely done remotely and online, so little travel is required.  My fellow assessors are also a very friendly bunch and when we do meet it’s always an enjoyable and useful session.

How important do you think this is for the sector to have three different levels of professional recognition?

National recognition is important and maintaining professional standards is an essential part of promoting the sector, the profession and the value of archives. But there is still a long way to go: rarely is registered status a requirement for recruitment. Still, small first steps.

At the moment, I think the positives are mainly personal. The various levels of development allow us to monitor our development throughout our careers and having a portfolio of learning to hand makes job applications easier to complete and interviews easier to prepare for.

It’s also very positive that the process is open to everyone and allows volunteers and those without archival qualifications to participate.

If you are interested in becoming an ARA assessor, please contact Chris Sheridan by email chris.sheridan@archives.org.uk or call 07377 940696.

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