Assessment Design: types of assessment task

Assessment of Practice

What is it?

Assessment of practice is a way of judging what students can do in realistic work situations. There is a distinction between examinations in a practice situation and assessing practice over a period of time. Practice assessment is an essential component of many courses leading to professional accreditation and is sometimes used in other vocational courses as well. It can be very difficult to set up a suitable situation which allows for reliable and comprehensive assessment, so it is usually a small part of the assessment strategy. See also Objective Structured (Clinical) Examination (OS(C)E).

Recommended levels:

5 – 7

Suitable for groups?


Things to think about

Unsurprisingly, practice assessments are usually carried out in real or very realistic situations and these can take some planning.

Examinations would test the student’s ability to perform under certain constrained conditions, which may be realistic for certain courses where working under pressure and coping with a selection of variables is required. Actual practice situations may be difficult to control for examination purposes so such assessments are usually set up in the university rather than in practice. Actors may be used to role play for the examinations (See also OS(C)Es). The disadvantages of this are that the examination is not precisely the same for all candidates, and care needs to be taken to set parameters which are the same for everyone even if the fine detail of the assessment is varied. As for all event_based marking, consider whether you need to have two assessors present who should complete the mark sheet independently before conferring to agree a final grade after the assessment, or whether you can sample the marking with random checks from a moderator. An alternative to observation of performance in an examination is to get the student to write up notes in the way that would be done in a real situation and then to complete the assessment by writing an analysis of the situation and the decision-making process selected, perhaps with a critique of the approach added on for students at higher levels. This approach can also be used for reporting on real-life practice situations.

Assessing practice over a period of time is usually done via a portfolio which might contain descriptions of various situations encountered, contemporaneous notes taken by the students, reports or notes taken by practice colleagues and evidence of outcomes. It can also be done by a practice tutor subject to the regulations and checks applied for on-campus assessments.

Assignment length

Examinations are likely to be 10-20 minutes in duration depending on the subject. Portfolio length would depend on the length of period being reviewed – an analysis of a selection of 3 situations over a period of 6 weeks might be reasonable, for instance. Assessments by clinical educators are often based on tick-sheets completed at, say, the half-way and the final stages of a placement. Custom and practice in your discipline is a strong guide.

Group work

This type of assessment is rarely suitable for groups. It may occasionally be useful to assess the performance of a group in a situation. If this is done then the roles of individuals will need to be considered. If group performance is to be assessed, it will usually be more appropriate to do this via self or peer assessment or to assess the outcomes of the group work rather than an actual practice assessment.

Plagiarism issues

If practice is observed directly then there are no plagiarism considerations.


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