Of the different forms of assessment, observation provides the most in depth insights into a person’s occupational capacity. It allows for organic identification of what the learner is doing well and what could be improved on. The key to observational assessment is having a systematic way of collecting and interpreting data.
Observational assessment is useful in many sectors, e.g. Healthcare, process-heavy industries such as manufacturing, or sectors that require motor skills like automobile driving or crane operations. With several compliance risks, regulations and protocols applied in industries like manufacturing and healthcare, simply relying on a multiple choice test is not enough. An individual’s training in a manufacturing setting requires closer evaluation to ensure that process-oriented learning, i.e. assembly operations and safety procedures, is applied effectively.
Benefits of observational assessment
Observational assessment provides the following benefits:
- Availability and reliability of data
With the assessor monitoring and recording every move of the learner, observational assessment provides an opportunity to organically spot the things that need to be improved on and immediately register data with more accuracy and reliability.
- Practical learning
Observational assessments allow assessors to evaluate learners as they perform the activity, allowing for gap identification and analysis. Knowing exactly what is expected of them, learners are able to concentrate on perfecting their process.
- Immediate feedback
Because observational assessment happens real time, assessors can provide feedback on the spot. In stringent environments like manufacturing, this helps reduce errors in compliance and safety procedures.
As observational assessments happen in the learning environment, i.e. workplace, plant, costs are kept to a minimum. This means there’s no need for proctored exams or time away from the job site.
- Effective method for a team setting
Observational assessment allows effective evaluation of team and collaborative work as it allows managers or assessors to evaluate many employees at the same time.
Examples of observational assessment
- Coaching in a manufacturing context
- Observing teachers or trainers in the classroom
- Sales enablement training- pitching
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training
- On-the-job training and evaluation
- Driving school examination
- Heavy equipment operations e.g. Crane, bulldozers, forklift
Format and Stages of Observational Assessment
Observational assessment often happens in different formats and stages based on an employee’s needs: 
- On the job training by a mentor, side by side
- Expert observes an employee, in person or on video recording, working independently, gathering data and sharing it with the employee.
- Coaching, where a manager provides feedback and support for improvement
Observational assessment provides insights and benefits that would be difficult to gain otherwise.
- Ensures compliance with standard operating procedures
This includes measuring standard operating procedures to have quality control and safety in place, resulting in fewer accidents, improved safety and broader compliance.
- Insight into competency levels
Observational assessment allows closer monitoring, recording and assessment of skills and learning real-time. Assessors can observe competency and ability to operate machineries, conduct on-the-job training, and determine which employees need further training.
- Delivering regulatory reporting
Record data and develop reports to track progress on the floor, allowing for eventual use and compliance information for regulatory agencies.
Observational assessment is an effective method for evaluating progress in learning process-oriented and compliance-heavy skills. The key to effective application is having a systematic way of recording and interpreting data, as well as a solid plan for implementing changes to support employees and the environment.