Performance Assessment, aka “How are we doing with these skills, anyway?”
It’s not uncommon to hear the words “performance assessment” and to feel stressed in some way. These words can remind us of being tested in school, or of comparing ourselves to others, or they can make us think about all the work we feel need to do to “measure up” with seemingly not enough time in the day to do it.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to set the stage for all involved to feel less stressed about skill assessments like direct live observation or tape recordings, and maybe, dare we say, even look forward to it. How, you say? Below we address why performance assessment is such a powerful tool, and also share two key things you can do to make performance assessments more palatable to those involved…
The power of data
When framed dryly, performance assessment is all about data. Upon taking a closer look though, we see that performance assessment paints a rich storyboard to show us where we’ve been, how we are doing and where we can go. There are some simple, straightforward guidelines from implementation science that we can follow to get the most benefit. First, don’t measure anything you aren’t going to use, and second, make sure to use your data twice, not once. Recognize performance assessment as part of a profoundly helpful information flow to assess, coach and then support individuals in skill competency, plus to also make decisions about next steps in the overall skill development program. When you do so, you use the rich storyboard of information once to support individuals in their best forward movement, and then once again to watch for important trends and course corrections over time and/or by unit.
Key #1: Make it friendly
Next is the art of framing performance assessment to those involved, or the art of positively experiencing performance assessment if you are one of those involved. You can choose words and frame feedback in ways that are supportive, rather than critical, such as calling feedback information “reports” rather than “critiques”. You can introduce the assessment process in such a way that is personalized by working with trained observers who see and present themselves as “in service” to the participant’s skill development, rather than as critiquers of skills. Lastly, participants can be shown examples of how the storyboard of data gives them a wealth of information to experiment with and refine skills that feel relevant, e.g. give examples in which the storyboard of data gave insight to skill practitioners in ways that profoundly affected their job performance and perhaps even their job enjoyment. When performance assessment is seen as a useful tool rather than a form of judgment, the door opens to true deepening of learning and skill.
Key # 2: Make it Timely
Presenting the performance measures in a timely way can also make a big difference. Nobody’s going to get very engaged over yesterday’s news. So it’s important to share the storyboard of data with those who can benefit from seeing it at certain key points in the learning process. For example, it might seem most beneficial to provide aggregate data and/or individual data pertaining to MI, CBT or practice model skills once a month or quarterly. However, if it feels more timely and helpful to participants to have that information sooner (or later), that is something to check in about. Providing the storyboard of information at the best time for participants, and getting their input about this timing, will give the overall project an even more collaborative feel.
Key # 3: Make it supportive, not controlling
To make performance assessment truly interactive and therefore much more interesting and powerful, see if you can view it as a tool for development rather than a marker to reach. For instance, scoring or competency markers can quickly become the “mountaintop” to reach, and once reached, the story is over. However, performance data comes alive when used as a tool for ongoing development – information that helps us refine skills, and then not just sit pretty, but refine even more!
At J-SAT we’re big on the art of performance assessment and generate hundreds of MI and Assessment skill development reports every year. Please contact us at [email protected] if you’d like more information.