Assessing Performance and Demonstrations

This section provides information on how to assess performance and demonstrations—aspects which involve students providing evidence they have learned a skill.


  • playing a musical instrument
  • showing how a piece of art was created (time lapse)
  • critiquing a poem
  • performing a soliloquy
  • conducting an experiment

There are two main questions you should ask yourself when assessing performance online:

  1. Is this assessment going to be synchronous or asynchronous?
  2. Is this a formative assessment or a summative assessment?

1. Is this assessment going to be synchronous or asynchronous?

Asynchronous Assessment
Assessment can be done asynchronously by having the student record the skill they are performing/demonstrating and then uploading this video to the instructor. This provides opportunities for the student to practice to 'get it right' (i.e., multiple attempts). Video files tend to be quite large; IST recommends you and your students use Stream2 for large file uploads. Stream2 is linked to eClass. Click here for more information about Stream2 and eClass.

Synchronous Assessment
Assessment can be done synchronously with a skill being demonstrated 'live' for the instructor and/or peers. This would be best done using Zoom or Google Meet. You can also record the performance to be reviewed later by the instructor, peers or the presenter.

2. Is this a formative assessment or a summative assessment?

Formative assessment (assessment for learning) to assess performance allows students to get feedback on their skills inorder to identify what they are doing well and what needs to be a focus for improvement. Formative feedback does not involve a grade, focusing instead on feedback from:

(a) the instructor to a student or group of students;
(b) group members to each other (peer assessment); or
(c) self-assessment/self-reflection.

One particularly helpful aspect of formative assessment is "next steps" which identifies what, specifically, should be the focus for improvement. These next steps provide clear guidelines and can be used—and should be used—as evidence of improvement. At the end of the presentation/demonstration, next steps are given which provide achievable goals. In a subsequent assessment, these goals can be reviewed to see if they have been overtaken.

Summative assessment (assessment of learning) to assess performance usually comes at the end of a unit of study or at the end of the course (usually an exam). Summative assessment allows students to demonstrate the culmination of their knowledge and skills.

Using formative assessment allows students to identify strengths and areas for development which will prepare them more effectively for summative assessments.

transverse flute on music sheet


Hooi Ling has improvised a 3-minute solo on a flute from a chord progression given in advance by the instructor. Hooi Ling has recorded this and uploaded it to eClass via Stream2. During the week, the instructor and Hooi Ling's fellow students watch the video and provide formative feedback using a set of question notes written by the instructor. The instructor's own next steps for Hooi Ling are:

  • identify opportunities to include syncopation into your improvisation;
  • include rests in your improvisation—you don't have to play a note every single beat.

Hooi Ling compiles the feedback from the instructor and peers to determine which aspects she should focus on for improvement (probably giving more weight to the instructor's next steps!).

In the summative assessment two weeks later, Hooi Ling is now improvising another 3-minute solo but this time it is live to the class on Zoom. The graded exam uses a marking rubric in which one section includes "Evidence of improvement from next steps". The instructor will be looking specifically for evidence Hooi Ling has included syncopation and rests in this live improvisation.