Evaluating a WIL student during their WIL experience is important for three main reasons:
- It provides clear feedback and sets expectations for improvement, helping improve student (and manager) performance, and allows students to reflect on their WIL experience.
- It helps students understand and prepare for the performance review process that comes with most jobs after graduation.
- When working with a college or university, sharing feedback about student performance helps schools understand how their students are doing in the workplace - and which skills they are potentially lacking.
Universities and colleges often have frameworks for assessing their students. If your student’s school doesn’t provide a form themselves, there are examples available online that can be customized for your organization. Another option would be to modify whichever system your organization uses for regular employees for WIL student(s). Generally, evaluations should focus on:
- Communication skills
- Interpersonal / team skills
- Technical skills (per job description, e.g. data analysis, writing skills, coding skills, research skills)
- Ability to adapt to new situations
- Initiative and creativity
The recommendation for most WIL placements is to evaluate students at least twice: once at about the midpoint of their experience to help provide feedback and room for improvement, and once at the end of the experience for an overall assessment. For very short WIL experiences, such as field experiences, the midpoint evaluation could be less formal.
This final evaluation is critically important for students who are being evaluated by their institution for course credit.
Our strong recommendation is that in addition to regular check-ins with students, employers conduct exit interviews at the end of the WIL placement. Employers can get feedback from:
- Students participating in the program
- Customers or clients who have worked with the student
- Employees who have supervised and/or worked laterally with students
These can be in the form of anonymous surveys, focusing on if the WIL program was “worth it” from their perspective,if they would recommend the program to a friend as well as an open comment box about suggestions for improvement.
In terms of quantitative metrics, a program could evaluate the year-over-year changes in retention (how many students join the company after graduation), workload (if teams are able to complete additional projects with the help of students); innovation (if students brought new ideas or processes forward); and the impact of hiring students on the organization’s ability to achieve its strategic goals.