How to Carry Out Observations
Observations are the most common methods of assessment when it comes to vocational training. As an Assessor, you simply sit and watch your learner whilst they carry out specific tasks or skills. Before an assessment, it is important that you take the time to run through the upcoming observation with the learner. This will put them at ease as they will understand the format.
This is where you, the Assessor, talk your learner through the practical assessment. It is important to explain the type of assessment being carried out, how long the observation will take, and the implications related to the assessment. During the pre-assessment briefing, it is likely that your learner will be nervous, so it is a good opportunity to run through any concerns your learner may have.
The pre-assessment briefing is also useful to check that nothing has been missed in the planning stage. You should have already looked into any individual requirements that your learner needs for the assessment, but now this briefing is a chance to run through these together.
Now all the prep is done in time for the actual observation. One key thing here is that when you are assessing a learner, you stay out of the way. Give them plenty of space to carry out their task and make sure you are not interfering. It also helps to simulate a more natural environment for the learner, taking some of the pressure off them.
When gathering evidence, it is good practice to video or voice record the session (if possible). Taking notes throughout the observation will also help you to see whether the learner has met the criteria. When it comes to writing up your assessment report, you will be grateful to have something to look back on to remind you of how your learner performed.
If you find your learner makes any mistakes throughout the observation, don’t stop them from carrying on. Make a note of where the learner went wrong so that you can feed this back to them later. Stopping a learner during the observation can cause them to lose their train of thought and become flustered, potentially impacting the entire assessment.
As well as carrying out an observation, a verbal Q&A session with your learner is a great way to see that they understand the theory behind their practical observation. You may gather more evidence by asking questions too, as sometimes it is hard to assess a learner just by watching them carry out a task.
Make sure that you record both the questions asked, and the answers given by your learner. Keep the questions concise and make sure they are relevant to the task. Don’t panic your learner by asking them something completely different and off-topic!
Feedback is extremely important following an observation, as it helps to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the learner. It is also an opportunity to give them guidance on areas where they need to improve, and actions or additional training they need. The assessment should always finish with constructive feedback from the Assessor – try to stick to the praise sandwich feedback model to keep you on track.
For the feedback, briefly run through the observation and explain what they did well. Point out any opportunities where they could have expanded upon their answers during the Q&A session if they didn’t cover everything. Do not tell them whether they met all the criteria or not; this is something you will need to evaluate later when you look at the observation report. There’s nothing worse than telling your learner they’ve met all the criteria, only to go back to them at a later date telling them they missed something!
Feedback should always be specific, constructive, and encourage the learner to progress further. Once feedback has been delivered you should outline the next phase of the assessment process for the learner. This can include ideas for future progression if the current course is almost finished.
If you would like any further help on how to carry out observations and assessments, please give our team a call at 01205 805 155 and we will be happy to assist.
Steve is a Chartered Manager and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.
He provides Educational Consultancy to the 19+ sector as well as being an Assessor, IQA, EPA and Digital Marketing Professional. When not doing any of these he finds time, every now and then, to write blogs and articles.