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Eileen Vard's design narrative bathing a baby

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Eileen Vard
13 April 2013


A design for a practical skills test of bathing a baby drawn up for use with Childcare students studying at NFQ level 5 (in Ireland).


I was required to design the delivery of a practical skills test to distance learning childcare students.  This required the students to travel to the venue.  The college uses a basic Moodle website where students access all their notes, assessments and guidance in relation to the course.  What were the conditions and constraints in which your design experiment was situated?


The setting is an older building with steep stairs leading to the landing where there are 3 rooms, one of which would be made available for the skills test.  The particular room to be used depends on the schedule of other classes in the college that day.  One room is large and bright and has storage for equipment that would be required for the test.  The two other rooms are each smaller one is significantly smaller.  The design had to allow for use of any of the rooms. 

Concentrating on a specific skill test of ‘bathing a baby’ the materials required are a baby bath, changing mat, cleansing wipes, bath towel, face cloth, emollient cream, clean diapers, soap, refuse bin, nappy bags and antiseptic wipes for cleaning surfaces.   A minimum of two hip-high tables on which to place the bath and materials associated need to be available also.



Most of the students would have some experience in a childcare setting.  They are studying in order to achieve a level of education that will be acknowledged by the certification body, which provides a benchmark for employers when hiring childcare workers.  They are generally motivated and keen.   Generally, they will not have met each other previously face to face as they are distance learners, they are nervous frequently as they may not have taken exams for many years, also these students may not have been very successful academically when at school so exams are a challenge.  They do not have information about what the skills test may involve.



The students are focussed on getting through their test as efficiently and effectively as they can.  They tend not to be demanding about the space in which the exam is being held, but want to be informed about how long it will take and the format on the day.  They all want to do the best they can and are motivated by the implications for their current or future employment possibilities.

Force Map

AForce Map is a graphical representation of the context of a design challenge. It includes iconic representations of the key elements in this context (social, material and intentional factors), and lines noting the relationships between them. These relationships are marked "+" when supportive, and "-" when indicating a tension. The des







The aim was to identify the steps required to bathe a baby; to allot marks to each of these steps  and to acknowledge the minimum number of steps to achieve a pass mark and the number of steps required to achieve full marks. 

Up to this time there was no protocol for this skills test and the marking was subjective to the assessor.  The goal was to establish a format and quality control for this skills test, to remove as much as possible the element of subjective bias relating to the assessor’s personal experience and expertise in order that all students would be judged as impartially as possible.


Theoretical / Pedagogical Framework

Ethically motivated in order to provide an equal skills testing platform for all students.


The process of bathing a baby as described in the student’s notes was worked through and broken down into steps.  Some steps were essential, such as:

  1. Checking the area where bathing was to take place that the changing mat was in place, the bath towel was to hand, the face cloth and soap were beside the bath, the clean nappy was available to be changed into after the bath.
  2. Towel is laid out on the changing mat for after the bath
  3. Filling the bath with water that was neither too hot nor too cold, this involved steps in filling the bath and testing the water for temperature
  4. Washing the baby’s hair over the bath before putting her in the bath
  5. Removing the baby’s clothes and nappy – disposing of the nappy in the bin if soiled or wet - and placing her in the bath
  6. Holding her securely across her back with the carer’s hand under the baby’s arm
  7. Washing her eyes, face and ears using a face towel
  8. Washing her body top-down
  9. Rinsing soap off her body
  10. Lifting the baby from the bath using two hands, one under her back one under her legs
  11. Laying the baby down on a bath towel on the changing mat and drying and redressing her
  12. Talking to the baby throughout the process
  13. Gentle treatment of the baby throughout



The number of steps into which the process could be broken proved to be greater than anticipated and had to be reviewed a number of times.  Deciding on the essential and less important steps that would merit more or fewer marks also took a deal of thought.  How many marks would be allotted to empathic treatment of and talking to the baby was also difficult to decide.


Carrying out the skills test showed up some of the shortcomings noted above about number of steps involved and how marks were being allotted.  The advantages for the assessor were that there was an objective scheme of marking rather than one that was made up on the fly.  For the students there was a series of objectives to meet that they could be aware of before taking the skills test.



It showed me in practice how important it is to have a clear benchmark for a test that can be used by all assessors; the need to have the correct materials planned well in advance and laid out to be used by the students; the benefit of having a process to follow that is consistent, rather than relying on a variety of interpretations dependent on the assessor for the day. 


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