Formative assessment vs. summative evaluation
While both formative assessment and summative evaluation involve similar skills, the intention and outputs of each are different. Doctor Coach utilizes formative assessment and feedback for the purpose of helping learners to develop their clinical and learning skills. Summative evaluation involves a decision, such as a grade, completion of a requirement, promotion from one stage of training to the next, or a report to others outside the coaching relationship (such as the director or an experience or a program. Data gathering and synthesis for summative evaluation follows the same process of data synthesis and determining strengths (i.e. what to reinforce) and areas for improvement (i.e. what to correct) as described in the Assessing Learner Performance section. Given the external audience for evaluations, it is especially important to be specific and use examples as much as possible.
Practically, in formative assessment, early assessments that may be incomplete can be helpful as long as you acknowledge with learners that you may not have the whole picture. Then through your feedback dialog, learners have the opportunity to discuss your early assessment and their own perspective. You might decide that you need more observations, but sometimes sharing your limited observations might be just what the learner needs to get to the next step and it might save time to not continue to observe just to be sure that you are right before discussing your observations with your learner. For summative evaluation, you need to have more observations to confirm your decisions; otherwise, sharing your premature assessments outside of the trusted coaching relationship can lead to misunderstandings, incongruences and disagreement.
The dual role of coach and evaluator
Ideally, coaches and evaluators should be different individuals as is the case in sports and performing art. This separation of roles helps to promote trust and safety in the Coaching Relationship. However, realistically in medical education, often coaches know their learners the best and thus we rely on their evaluations. Unfortunately, coaches are often asked to evaluate learners prior to having enough exposure to construct a valid evaluation. You should always discuss your summative evaluations with your learner prior to finalizing them. Most often your learners will probably agree with your evaluation, but when they don’t, it gives you a chance to discuss the difference in your perspectives and consider if you have enough observations to make a valid evaluation. If not, you could include a disclaimer along with your evaluation suggesting that it is an early evaluation and requires more observations to confirm it.
Because a summative evaluation often serves as the end of a cycle of coaching, discussing your evaluation with the learner is also an opportunity to share any parting thoughts you have to help your learners in the future or to talk about extending your coaching relationship to work on another topic.