Providing Feedback

Although teaching in supervision happens at every meeting between supervisor and candidate, each January and June, supervisors and their trainees meet to review their work of the past semester by discussing a formal, written supervisory assessment.

The feedback you give your trainees is one of the most important contributions to their development as analysts. And yet, for many of us, giving useful feedback is challenging.

Helpful Tips

Here are some tips to help you with this essential teaching task.

Tracking Growth

Our supervisory assessment forms are designed to help trainees adopt a growth mindset ("I am working on improving my skills") rather than a fixed one ("Am I talented or not?") in relation to their work. You can help them in this regard by emphasizing that we have three different levels of assessments (first year, intermediate and senior candidate), as we expect them to grow in their abilities over the course of their time with us. We want them to understand that we are tracking progress with these assessments rather than rendering a verdict on how talented a trainee is (or is not). 

Component Skills

The learning objectives are also meant to help with this by dividing up their learning into component skills. You can emphasize that no one meets all these goals (no matter how senior). We are using this tool to help them identify areas to focus on in their continuing work. We expect that they will find some more challenging than others.

Help Set Expectations

We are not looking for our candidates to exceed expectations. That score should be used rarely. Meeting a goal is great, but especially early in training, it is not what we expect. Approaching a goal is a good score, and we expect that it will be a common one for all but the most senior candidates.

Please Use the Open Text Boxes

How these boxes get used, more than anything else, distinguishes the more helpful from the less helpful assessments. Consider writing yours in the second rather than the third person: “You’ve grown in your ability to” rather than, “The candidate is able to…” Some supervisors will identify two areas of demonstrated growth and one area to focus on addressing in the coming semester. That’s plenty! You don’t want to overwhelm them with too many things to work on. 

Write About the Candidate's Progress, Not the Patient's

Writing about progress the patient has made is a common mistake. Keep in mind that we are using these forms to track the candidate's development, not their patients.

Talk About It

The form is meant to foster a dialogue. Encourage your supervisee to read it before you meet and to come prepared to talk about it. Make sure they know this is a first draft, that you are eager for their input and that you plan to revise it after you meet.

Ask for Advice

These conversations are also opportunities for you to get feedback from your supervisee. Many trainees are understandably shy about telling their supervisors about their strenghts and weaknesses. One way to open up the topic is to ask the candidate for "advice" regarding your work as a supervisor. 

Columbia Resources

There are some helpful guides on the Center for Teaching and Learning website. One focuses on giving feedback and another on getting feedback. They are a bit focused on responding to written work, but you may find them useful.