Training programme evaluation

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Training programme evaluationtraining programme evaluation

training and learning evaluation, feedback forms, action plans and follow-up


A vital aspect of any sort of evaluation is its effect on the person being evaluated.

Feedback is essential for people to know how they are progressing, and also, evaluation is crucial to the learner's confidence too.

And since people's commitment to learning relies so heavily on confidence and a belief that the learning is achievable, the way that tests and assessments are designed and managed, and results presented back to the learners, is a very important part of the learning and development process.

People can be switched off the whole idea of learning and development very quickly if they receive only negative critical test results and feedback. Always look for positives in negative results. Encourage and support - don't criticize without adding some positives, and certainly never focus on failure, or that's just what you'll produce.

This is a much overlooked factor in all sorts of evaluation and testing, and since this element is not typically included within evaluation and assessment tools the point is emphasised point loud and clear here.

So always remember - evaluation is not just for the trainer or teacher or organisation or policy-makers - evaluation is absolutely vital for the learner too . which is perhaps the most important reason of all for evaluating people properly, fairly, and with as much encouragement as the situation allows.

Most of the specific content and tools below for workplace training evaluation is based on the work of Leslie Rae, an expert and author on the evaluation of learning and training programmes, and this contribution is greatly appreciated. W Leslie Rae has written over 30 books on training and the evaluation of learning - he is an expert in his field. His guide to the effective evaluation of training and learning, training courses and learning programmes, is a useful set of rules and techniques for all trainers and HR professionals.

This training evaluation guide is augmented by an excellent set of free learning evaluation and follow-up tools. created by Leslie Rae.

It is recommended that you read this article before using the free evaluation and training follow-up tools.

Particularly see the notes on this page about using self-assessment in measuring abilities before and after training (i. e. skills improvement and training effectiveness) which specifically relate to the 3-Test tool (explained and provided below).

See also the section on Donald Kirkpatrick's training evaluation model. which represents fundamental theory and principles for evaluating learning and training.

Also see Bloom's Taxonomy of learning domains. which establishes fundamental principles for training design and evaluation of learning, and thereby, training effectiveness.

Erik Erikson's Psychosocial (Life Stages) Theory is very helpful in understanding how people's training and development needs change according to age and stage of life. These generational aspects are increasingly important in meeting people's needs (now firmly a legal requirement within age discrimination law) and also in making the most of what different age groups can offer work and organisations. Erikson's theory is helpful particularly when considering broader personal development needs and possibilities outside of the obvious job-related skills and knowledge.

Multiple Intelligence theory (section includes free self-tests) is extremely relevant to training and learning. This model helps address natural abilities and individual potential which can be hidden or suppressed in many people (often by employers).

Learning Styles theory is extremely relevant to training and teaching, and features in Kolb's model. and in the VAK learning styles model (also including a free self-test tool). Learning Styles theory also relates to methods of assessment and evaluation, in which inappropriate testing can severely skew results. Testing, as well as delivery, must take account of people's learning styles, for example some people find it very difficult to prove their competence in a written test, but can show remarkable competence when asked to give a physical demonstration. Text-based evaluation tools are not the best way to assess everybody.

The Conscious Competence learning stages theory is also a helpful perspective for learners and teachers. The model helps explain the process of learning to trainers and to learners, and is also helps to refine judgements about competence, since competence is rarely a simple question of 'can or cannot'. The Conscious Competence model particularly provides encouragement to teachers and learners when feelings of frustration arise due to apparent lack of progress. Progress is not always easy to see, but can often be happening nevertheless.

lessons from (and perhaps also for) children's education

While these various theories and models are chiefly presented here for adult work-oriented training, the principles also apply to children's and young people's education, which provides some useful fundamental lessons for workplace training and development.

Notably, while evaluation and assessment are vital of course (because if you can't measure it you can't manage it) the most important thing of all is to be training and developing the right things in the right ways. Assessment and evaluation (and children's testing) will not ensure effective learning and development if the training and development has not been properly designed in the first place.

Lessons for the workplace are everywhere you look within children's education, so please forgive this diversion.

If children's education in the UK ever actually worked well, successive governments managed to wreck it by the 1980s, and have made it worse since then. This was achieved by the imposition of a ridiculously narrow range of skills and delivery methods, plus similarly narrowly-based testing criteria and targets, and a self-defeating administrative burden. All of this perfectly characterises arrogance and delusion found in X-Theory management structures, in this case of high and mighty civil servants and politicians, who are not in the real world, and who never went to normal school and whose kids didn't either. A big lesson from this for organisations and workplace training is that X-Theory directives and narrow-mindedness are a disastrous combination. Incidentally, according to some of these same people, society is broken and our schools and parents are to blame and are responsible for sorting out the mess. Blaming the victims is another classic behaviour of inept governance. Society is not broken; it just lacks some proper responsible leadership, which is another interesting point:

The quality of any leadership (government or organisation) is defined by how it develops its people. Good leaders have a responsibility to help people understand, develop and fulfil their own individual potential. This is very different to just training them to do a job, or teaching them to pass an exam and get into university, which ignores far more important human and societal needs and opportunities.

Thankfully modern educational thinking (and let's hope policy too) now seems to be addressing the wider development needs of the individual child, rather than aiming merely to transfer knowledge in order to pass tests and exams. Knowledge transfer for the purpose of passing tests and exams, especially when based on such an arbitrary and extremely narrow idea of what should be taught and how, has little meaning or relevance to the development potential and needs of most young people, and even less relevance to the demands and opportunities of the real modern world, let alone the life skills required to become a fulfilled confident adult able to make a positive contribution to society.

The desperately flawed UK children's education system of the past thirty years, and its negative impacts on society, offer many useful lessons for organisations. Perhaps most significantly, if you fail to develop people as individuals, and only aim to transfer knowledge and skills to meet the organisational priorities of the day, then you will seriously hamper your chances of fostering a happy productive society within your workforce, assuming you want to, which I guess is another subject altogether.

Assuming you do want to develop a happy and productive workforce, it's useful to consider and learn from the mistakes that have been made in children's education:

the range of learning is far too narrowly defined and ignores individual potential, which is then devalued or blocked

the range of learning focuses on arbitrary criteria set from the policy-makers' own perspectives (classic arrogant X-Theory management - it's stifling and suppressive)

policy-makers give greatest or exclusive priority to the obvious 'academic' intelligences (reading, writing, arithmetic, etc), when other of the multiple intelligences (notably interpersonal and intrapersonal capabilities, helpfully encompassed by emotional intelligence ) arguably have a far bigger value in work and society (and certainly cause more problems in work and society if under-developed)

testing and assessment of learners and teachers is measuring the wrong things, too narrowly, in the wrong way - like measuring the weather with a thermometer

testing (the wrong sort, although none would be appropriate for this) is used to assess and pronounce people's fundamental worth - which quite obviously directly affects self-esteem, confidence, ambition, dreams, life purpose, etc (nothing too serious then..)

wider individual development needs - especially life needs - are ignored (many organisations and educational policy-makers seem to think that people are robots and that their work and personal lives are not connected; and that work is unaffected by feelings of well-being or depression, etc)

individual learning styles are ignored (learning is delivered mainly through reading and writing when many people are far better at learning through experience, observation, etc - again see Kolb and VAK )

testing and assessment focuses on proof of knowledge in a distinctly unfair situation only helpful to certain types of people, rather than assessing people's application, interpretation and development of capabilities, which is what real life requires (see Kirkpatrick's model - and consider the significance of assessing what people do with their improved capability, beyond simply assessing whether they've retained the theory, which means relatively very little)

children's education has traditionally ignored the fact that developing confident happy productive people is much easier if primarily you help people to discover what they are good at - whatever it is - and then building on that.

Teaching, training and learning must be aligned with individual potential, individual learning styles, and wider life development needs . and this wide flexible individual approach to human development is vital for the workplace, just as it is for schools.

Returning to consider workplace training itself, and the work of Leslie Rae:

evaluation of workplace learning and training

There have been many surveys on the use of evaluation in training and development (see the research findings extract example below). While surveys might initially appear heartening, suggesting that many trainers/organisations use training evaluation extensively, when more specific and penetrating questions are asked, it if often the case that many professional trainers and training departments are found to use only 'reactionnaires' (general vague feedback forms), including the invidious 'Happy Sheet' relying on questions such as 'How good did you feel the trainer was?', and 'How enjoyable was the training course?'. As Kirkpatrick, among others, teaches us, even well-produced reactionnaires do not constitute proper validation or evaluation of training.

For effective training and learning evaluation, the principal questions should be:

To what extent were the identified training needs objectives achieved by the programme?

To what extent were the learners' objectives achieved?

What specifically did the learners learn or be usefully reminded of?

What commitment have the learners made about the learning they are going to implement on their return to work?

And back at work,

How successful were the trainees in implementing their action plans?

To what extent were they supported in this by their line managers?

To what extent has the action listed above achieved a Return on Investment (ROI ) for the organization, either in terms of identified objectives satisfaction or, where possible, a monetary assessment.

Organizations commonly fail to perform these evaluation processes, especially where:

The HR department and trainers, do not have sufficient time to do so, and/or

The HR department does not have sufficient resources - people and money - to do so.

Obviously the evaluation cloth must be cut according to available resources (and the culture atmosphere), which tend to vary substantially from one organization to another. The fact remains that good methodical evaluation produces a good reliable data; conversely, where little evaluation is performed, little is ever known about the effectiveness of the training.

evaluation of training

There are the two principal factors which need to be resolved:

Who is responsible for the validation and evaluation processes?

What resources of time, people and money are available for validation/evaluation purposes? (Within this, consider the effect of variation to these, for instance an unexpected cut in budget or manpower. In other words anticipate and plan contingency to deal with variation.)

responsibility for the evaluation of training

Traditionally, in the main, any evaluation or other assessment has been left to the trainers "because that is their job. " My (Rae's) contention is that a 'Training Evaluation Quintet' should exist, each member of the Quintet having roles and responsibilities in the process (see 'Assessing the Value of Your Training', Leslie Rae, Gower, 2002). Considerable lip service appears to be paid to this, but the actual practice tends to be a lot less.

senior management

the trainer

line management

the training manager

the trainee

Each has their own responsibilities, which are detailed next.