Supervisors have an ethical and legal responsibility to monitor the quality of care that is being delivered to the supervisee’s clients. In order to enhance the professional functioning of the supervisee and assure quality of care, the supervisor constantly monitors and provides feedback regarding supervisee performance.
Evaluation is the “nucleus of clinical supervision” (Bernard & Goodyear, 1998, p. 152). As important as evaluation is to supervision, both supervisors and supervisees may find it stressful. Supervisors are charged to balance an understanding of individual differences in conducting counseling sessions with the notion of competent practice as ascribed by the profession. The supervisor utilizes two general methods of evaluation: formative and summative.

Formative Evaluation

Formative evaluation is the process of facilitating professional development through direct feedback. Formative evaluation is part of the foundation of supervision. The supervisor constantly monitors and provides feedback regarding supervisee performance. Choices of supervision interventions, questions asked to facilitate discussion, comments regarding the appropriateness of a supervisee’s case conceptualization, expression of the ineffectiveness of a supervisee’s use of a skill – can all be described as formative evaluation. Because formative evaluation is consistent and tends to focus on process and progress, rather than outcome, it tends to be less stressful and threatening for both the supervisor and supervisee. Hawkins and Shohet (1989) recommend that formative evaluation be:.
Clear: Supervisor needs to be clear about the message being delivered.
Owned: The feedback that supervisors give is their rooted in their own perceptions and is not ultimate truth.
Regular: Feedback should be given regularly and in a timely fashion.
Balance: A balance of negative and positive feedback should be created over time.
Specific: Generalized feedback is difficult to learn from. Positive and negative evaluations should be accompanied by specific examples.

Summative Evaluation

Summative evaluation is a more formal expression of the counselor’s skills and abilities. The supervisor must step back, consider all that has been seen and heard, and decide if the counselor’s work with clients and potential for working with future clients “measures up” .When supervision is linked to practicum or internship experiences, summative evaluations typically occur at the mid-point and end of the experience. The summative evaluation process tends to cause more stress for the supervisor and supervisee. By definition, summative evaluation should be the culmination of the evaluation process, if formative evaluation has occurred throughout the process, there should be no real surprises for the supervisee. Rating scales are commonly used as part of summative evaluation (see Evaluation of Counselor Behaviors (LINK). In addition, more specific behavioral feedback may also be provided.

Evaluation Process Considerations

It is acknowledged that evaluation can be an anxiety provoking experience. There are steps that can be taken to facilitate a growth-producing experience.
1. Supervisees (students), instructors (if part of practicum or internship), and supervisors should discuss grading and evaluation from the outset. The rationale for evaluation, criteria, and methods should be explicit.
2. Evaluation should focus on the supervisees’ professional work, not personal issues.
3. The supervisee and supervisor should share the responsibility for evaluation. Supervisors and supervisees could each complete evaluations separately, and then bring them together to compare impressions.
4. Students in practicum and internship need to understand that clinical experience is fundamentally different from other academic work. Grades do take on a different meaning. In clinical work, a lack of knowledge or skill has consequences for clients, the supervisor, and the agency/school, as well as the student. It is important to go beyond “grade mentality” to a learning mentality and work to embrace evaluation as a process of receiving feedback about performance.
5. Supervisees should communicate with their supervisors about any concerns they may have or ideas for improving supervision.

Evaluation of the Supervisor

In addition to the flow of feedback from supervisor to supervisee, part of on-going evaluation could include feedback from the supervisee to the supervisor. Attention to the process of supervision helps to facilitate a positive growth experience for all involved. In addition to regular feedback, supervisees should have an opportunity to evaluate the supervisor. Although supervisors and supervisees may have different views on what constitutes “good” supervision, feedback provided by supervisees can reveal important information. (see Evaluation of Supervisor )