How To Conduct A Tutor Observation

How to conduct a tutor observation

At OCN London we have developed a number of ways of assessing skills and knowledge in order to decide whether a learner has achieved their learning outcomes. One of these is tutor observation. This can form part of evidence for many of our qualifications and bespoke programmes.

So how does this work?  A tutor should provide a formal record of their observation of a learner’s performance against particular assessment criteria. This can be done in, for example, a group discussion, an exhibition, a project, a role play, a practical demonstration, or in the production of an artefact such as a completed garment. The record is a key form of evidence of the learner’s competence that is valid and reliable.

An observation can be specific to an individual unit or assessment criterion, such as the unit ‘Using Kitchen Equipment’ which requires a learner to show they can use different kitchen equipment for routine tasks safely and hygienically.  Alternatively, it can provide the basis for holistic assessment where aspects of the learner’s knowledge, understanding and demonstration of skills are assessed together. An example is OCN London’s Skills for Professions Level 1 Award in Construction and Engineering where a holistic assessment task could include an assessment of the learner’s knowledge and understanding of bricklaying principles as well as assessing their competence in constructing a brick wide wall using bricklaying skills.

Tutor tips for an effective observation


  • Meet with the learner.
  • Agree with the learner what will be covered so they can prepare for the observation, including the assessment criteria relevant to the activity to be observed.
  • Familiarise yourself with the relevant assessment criteria.
  • Agree with the learner when and where to carry out the observation.
  • Check whether other people are likely to be involved in the activity and, if so, whether their consent may be required.
  • Put the learner at ease.
  • Ensure that anyone else involved in the observation understands the role of the observer and the purpose of the observation.
  • Establish whether there is a need to take photographs or a video of the learner undertaking the activity.
  • Discuss with the learner the best location for you during the observation.
  • Make sure all health and safety requirements will be met,
  • Discuss with the learner the need for any supporting or additional evidence and how this should be provided.

During the observation

  • Introduce yourself to all involved in the activity including an explanation of your role and agree who will or will not be involved in the observation.
  • Be focused. It is crucial to be observant and to concentrate on the task in hand.
  • Be sensitive. Understand how people relate to each other in various situations.
  • Be objective. Do not allow personal bias to affect your ability to record what is happening.
  • Position yourself in a way that increases your ability to observe. Don’t be obtrusive. Make sure you have a surface on which to write. Keep out of the eyeline of the person being observed and if the learner’s activities include interacting with other people, avoid their eyelines as well. Try not to stand where the learner needs to move to.

As observer you should not take part in the activity; only intervene if anyone is at risk in any way. 


  • Ask questions as necessary to seek a more in-depth understanding or clarification of the activity observed.
  • Ensure your questions refer only to the activity undertaken by the learner.
  • Avoid questions that require a ‘yes’ or ’no’ answer.
  • Make sure the learner understands the questions and, if not, rephrase them or ask further questions to obtain the required information.
  • Make sure you give the learner feedback as soon as possible after the observation.
  • Begin with positive aspects of the activity before highlighting areas for development.
  • Encourage the learner to think about their own practice and to take an active role in their self-development.
  • End positively.
  • Agree with the learner the next steps, such as the need for further observation.

How should you record the observation?

  • Use OCN London’s Observation Record Template to record your observation.  This is not mandatory but is recommended to new centres and to existing centres who are reviewing their assessment practice.
  • Write in plain English, avoiding jargon or slang.
  • Be specific, factual, objective, concise and relevant.
  • Document the observation as soon as possible so that what you have observed is still fresh in your mind ensuring accuracy.
  • Record sufficient detail to enable others to judge the quality and sufficiency of the learner’s performance.

What should the record include?

  • The unit title and code.
  • The assessment criteria relevant to the activity.
  • The learner’s name.
  • The assessor or observer’s name.
  • The skills demonstrated and how they were demonstrated, with examples
  • The assessor or observer’s dated signature.

The tutor observation record should be included in the learner’s evidence for assessment.  If you are observing more than one learner, you must provide a record of each learner’s contribution in the activity, not just what the whole group has undertaken. 

Finally, it is important to note that a tutor observation does not confirm on its own an achievement of the assessment criteria, or confer a final assessment decision.


James is studying for an OCN London Level 2 Qualification in Progression.  Part of the qualification includes a unit in Critical Thinking. For this James is required to present an argument in a clear, logical coherent way (AC2.1) and recognise and identify critical analysis in a group discussion (AC2.2).  The assessment task will be carried out as a group activity.  It is important that James is able to provide evidence that he has individually met the assessment criteria.  His assessor’s records should include how and what James contributed to the presentation of the argument and to the recognition and identification of critical analysis in the group discussion.

For more information about assessment visit our dedicated Centre area.

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