Observation of real or simulated professional practice

A form of authentic assessment, observation of practice is a way of assessing a student’s practical skills in a real or realistic work situation. This can be used as a formative assessment by observing students over a period of time and providing feedback on their performance, enabling them to learn by doing; it can also be used as summative assessment. Particularly suited to science, medicine or education subjects, the approach can nevertheless be applied creatively to any discipline.

Workload guide

Preparation time High Student workload Medium Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Carrying out instructions and following protocols
  • Being self-directed, managing time and tasks
  • Working independently
  • Identifying and defining problems


Observations are usually marked live via a rubric (tick sheet with brief notes), with more detailed reflection following the observation.


Formative feedback can be provided in the workplace where appropriate, and/or 1:1 afterwards. Feedback could also be sought from an employer or leader in the professional context. Group feedback sessions, pulling in all students who have been involved in professional practice, are useful at points during or after the activity to help students to reflect on their performance and apply it to future contexts.

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

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