Professional Performance Appraisal by Individuals Outside the Professions of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
Ad Hoc Committee on Professional Performance Appraisal
About this Document
This technical report was developed by the Ad Hoc Committee on Professional Performance Appraisal and accepted by the ASHA Legislative Council (LC 30-92) in November 1992. Members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Professional Performance Appraisal were Ron Gillam (chair), Therese Goldsmith, Cassandra Peters-Johnson (ex officio), Judith Rassi, Rebecca Reeves, and Toya Wyatt. Vice President for Governmental and Social Policy Jean H. Lovrinic was the monitoring vice president.
Performance appraisal is the practice of evaluating job-related behaviors. This aspect of the supervisory process contributes to (a) improving the quality of client care, (b) maintaining or improving performance, (c) facilitating professional growth and development, and (d) providing feedback about the potential for increased job responsibilities (Frattali, 1991; Flower, 1984; Natriello, 1990). Professional performance appraisal is an important factor in facilitating a growth process that should continue throughout an individual's professional career (Dellegrotto, 1991).
Performance appraisal focuses on at least two kinds of employee behavior, those relating to general responsibilities and those relating to professional skills. General responsibilities are universally identified with behaviors that are critical to any employee's working effectiveness. Categories of general responsibilities include, but are not limited to, attendance, dependability, initiative, adherence to employer policies and procedures, appropriate use of resources, and collegiality. Behaviors associated with these responsibilities can be effectively assessed by people outside of an employee's professional area because standards for such behaviors are applicable to all employees regardless of profession or employment setting.
Professional skills involve competencies that are specific to and determined by an employee's educational background, professional experience, job setting, and job description. In the case of speech-language pathologists and audiologists, such skills include, but are not limited to, appropriate practices relating to screening, identifying, assessing, diagnosing, preventing, habilitating, and rehabilitating either speech and language disorders or peripheral and central auditory system dysfunctions, respectively (ASHA, 1990). Unlike general responsibilities, professional skills are most appropriately assessed by evaluators with the same professional background as the employee. As noted by Latham and Wexley (1981), a performance appraiser must possess the requisite knowledge for determining whether the observed employee duties are performed in a satisfactory manner. In relation to the appraisal of clinical skills, this means that appraisers should have clinical experience as well as current knowledge of best practices in audiology or speech-language pathology.
In healthcare, education, and business settings, performance-based evaluation by supervisors, administrators, or managers involves identifying performance expectations with employees, documenting observed performance, conferring with employees about observations, jointly developing plans for improving performance, and completing evaluation reports that summarize performance ratings (Dowling, 1991; Hunter, 1988). Performance appraisers may use numerical rating scales (Jacobs, 1986), behaviorally anchored rating scales (Smith & Kendall, 1963), critical incident records (Flanagan, 1954), script tapes (Hunter, 1988), or other systems that are specifically tailored to the needs of the person being evaluated (Gillam, Roussos, & Anderson, 1990; Mawdsley, 1987).
Appraisals that are based on employee observations and analyses sometimes take the place of, or are combined with, supervisor appraisals. Self-appraisals, in which employees rate their own job performance, stimulate self-development (Bailey, 1981; Casey, Smith, & Ulrich, 1988), and are particularly useful in situations in which workers possess specialized skills that are not shared by their supervisors (Latham & Wexley, 1981). Peer appraisals, in which colleagues rate each other's job performance, have been shown to reliably predict future employee performance (Mayfield, 1970, 1972). Barber (1985), Wise and Darling-Hammond (1988), and Teal (1978) provide specific strategies for implementing both self- and peer-evaluations and traditional supervisor evaluations in the performance appraisal process. Self- and peer appraisals may be even more effective when they are incorporated into participative management strategies such as quality circles and work groups (Bittel, 1985; Dailey, 1988; Landsborough, 1985; Marguiles & Duval, 1984).
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Speech-language pathologists and audiologists are sometimes employed in work settings where they are evaluated by supervisors and/or administrators who do not hold ASHA certification in the appropriate profession or who have little or no current clinical experience. Speech-language or hearing professionals may be evaluated by special education directors, business managers, school principals, medical directors, physicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, or registered nurses. In other cases, speech-language pathologists evaluate audiologists and vice versa. Although some aspects of professional performance can be evaluated by any competent administrator, some job functions are unique to the professions of audiology and speech-language pathology.
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists spend a considerable amount of time learning and refining specialized clinical skills necessary for assessing, diagnosing, and intervening in the communicative processes of individuals demonstrating numerous kinds of disabilities. Many of these professional skills, such as the ability to select, administer, and interpret diagnostic tasks that lead to differential diagnosis of speech, language, or hearing disorders, and the ability to plan for and carry out specialized treatment programs, are skills that only speech-language pathologists and audiologists possess. Performance of these tasks should be appraised during evaluations because they are critical to the clinical enterprise (Anderson, 1988).
Additionally, appraisal of clinical performance by people outside the professions of speech-language pathology or audiology limits the extent to which either profession is able to regulate the professional practices of its members. According to Flower (1984), self-regulation guarantees the autonomy of a profession. In addition, it helps to ensure that the professional practices of an organization's membership meet the standards that have been established for the delivery of quality services. Within the overall supervisory process, participant approaches to management serve as a useful method for implementing a self-regulatory policy, especially when the organizational structure requires performance appraisal by people who are not speech-language pathologists or audiologists.
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It is recommended that performance appraisal of speech-language pathologists and audiologists should assess clinical processes and procedures that relate specifically to the practice of speech-language pathology and audiology. Such appraisal should be conducted by supervisors and/or administrators who hold ASHA certification (and licensure where appropriate) in the same professional area as the employee. In employment settings in which ASHA-certified speech-language pathologists and audiologists do not hold supervisory positions, self-evaluation and/or peer review by colleagues with the same professional background as the employee should be a necessary component of the performance appraisal process. Self-and peer reviews, conducted as part of the appraisal process, enable speech-language pathologists and audiologists to receive professionally focused feedback on critical aspects of their clinical practice from colleagues who have appropriate training and experience in the profession.
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