A School For Tomorrow
THE PATHWAY TO EXCELLENCE | WORK | PLANNING

EVALUATION AND ASSESSMENT SKILLS

We need to locate our success through the judicious exercise of our evaluation and assessment skills – how we use both evidence and intuition to make sound judgments about the degree of success we are having in accomplishing our plans.

Our judgment is perhaps the most important tool of our trade that we will ever need. All of us need a way to be able to work out what is the right thing to do, the right way to do it, the right time to change direction, the right time to bring something to a conclusion. We will need to learn to use both a combination of the intuitive on-the-spot or snap judgment which we can use to establish what is most likely to be the correct answer, as well as the longer-term evidence-based process by which we might test this initial answer and adjust our approach based on what we are discovering along the way. As with so much of what we learn on The Pathway to Excellence, neither the fast snap judgment nor the slow data-nuanced judgment should be used exclusively. We need to learn when  and how to use them in combination with each other.


We will need to learn to use criteria by which we will evaluate success and the stages towards it to help us with both of these approaches. Criteria are the yardsticks against which we measure progress. Does where we are look like where we should be? Are we on the right track? Are we there yet? It is too important when we are engaged in our various projects and tasks to leave it all up to chance or to adopt a process where we never lift our heads up from the workbench to assess how far we have come, where we need to go next and how well we are doing the job at hand. This means we need to set expectations for all of these things that are based on what we know is most important. We can determine this by asking and answering another set of questions. What are we supposed to be doing and why? What have we either been told or decided is the most important work to do? Have we been given guidance as to how we are to judge success in terms of outcomes? Do we know how closely we are sticking to the limitations of our budget? How closely does all of this align with the vision and mission of our team and the greater organisation to which we may belong? Does everyone know what success looks like and can they explain it?
"When we look at what has the strongest statistical relationship to overall evaluation of your life, the first one is your career well-being, or the mission, purpose and meaning of what you're doing when you wake up each day."
Tom Rath
The key to identifying success criteria will be to specify the things we might look for that indicate to us that we are successfully achieving our goal. Sometimes, it will be appropriate to specify every exact detail in advance, as the margin for error will be far too tight to allow for significant deviation from expectation. Other times, there will be more freedom for us to move, to improvise, and to create as we go along.


We will also need to work out how we are going to gather evidence that can point to the completion of these criteria. These processes should be established from the start and should involve, as best as possible under the circumstances, the involvement of an objective third party who can give you an honest and clear answer as to what you are looking for. It is too easy for us either to see everything as rosy or everything a back, depending on our mood and personality. In the same way, we need to find a way to allow ourselves to step back from the immediate everyday pressures of getting the work done and look at the whole picture of what is being done and how well it is being done. This requires both mental preparation and sometimes physical distance from the site of the work to allow the necessary distance to form a solid judgment.


In the same way, we also need to work out what our processes will be to make decision about what we are seeing. Too often, our progress on The Pathway to Excellence can be hampered by the way in which we are too casual or unintentional about the steps we will take to make a decision. What evidence will we need? Who will we involve? When will the decision be made? By whom? And why will we adopt these approaches? How and when might we review our decisions and what would we need to see to change our minds?


How we develop the habits of evaluation and assessment in our personal and professional lives is a significant measure of our growth and development, just as much as it can also lead to improvements in our growth and development. These habits go hand in hand with those of reflection and planning. We need to be very deliberate at first about how we go about this so as to form the habit and then over time we might also seek deliberately to disrupt habits that are becoming automatic. That way we can always retain a sharp focus on what are our goals and the extent to which we are really achieving them.

We can contemplate our Evaluation and Assessment Skills through considering the following questions:
    • Am I constantly reflecting on my goal-setting processes to ensure that I am on the right path and using the right tools to get there?
    • Do I bring good evaluative reasoning to decisions and actions, assessing whether conclusions and judgments are evidence-informed, soundly determined and appropriate to the circumstances?
    • Am I good at assessing my personal and interpersonal skills, finding out what I need to learn and to be better in my work and career development?
    • Do I identify and work on the transferrable skills that would enhance my position and help me expand my repertoire of competencies for my career development?
    • Do I bravely welcome feedback of various sorts in order to improve my performance?

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