This is part one of “Ten Tips for assessing learning.” Keep reading to grab hold of the tips.
I knew I had to meet the federal government of Canada’s program evaluation guidelines. I also knew I was working with women, all single mamas of children 0-6, who lived in poverty and who’d experienced all sorts of challenges, oppression, and trauma.
An officious evaluation survey was not going to cut it.
So I worked with the women to figure out how I could gather the information that the funder needed while making it interesting, helpful, and engaging for the women.
Since that time, when for about a decade I did program evaluation work in Vancouver’s poorest postal code, the Downtown Eastside, I’ve done my fair share of assessing learning.
I present to you below ten top tips, five in this post and five in the next post.
Let’s dig in.
Ten tips for assessing learning that prevent migraines and bring on magical motivation, part one
Assessing learning can get more complicated than a lengthy algebraic equation in the blink of an eye. What starts out as something pretty simple can turn into a nightmare of a 20-page survey and all the ugh inducing complications that brings.
Instead, right from the start, create your K.I.S.S. goals. And by that, I mean Keep it Super Simple with some superbly simple goals for the assessment.
Here are some from a recent assessment I’m designing for a client:
- Collect some good, compelling stories that are evidence-based
- Demonstrate how the training was put to use, how effective it was or wasn’t
- Make the assessment a learning moment itself; encourage participants to reflect on their application of their new skills
- Gather overall learnings and create recommendations for going forward
- Make the assessment easy/uncomplicated for the participants, and make it interesting engaging, and motivating
No questions allowed
What a weird thing to say, right? Not at all. When I’m first working with a client around designing a learning assessment, I veto questions. As in assessment questions.
The reason is, once a question is on the table, it can be really, really hard to get it off the table. And that’s how we end up with too long surveys, not to mention questions that we end up forgetting why we asked them in the first place.
No doubt well-crafted questions are critical for a good learning assessment but first, figure out what you want to know.
And remember, in the meantime, no questions!
There is an incredibly long list of things you can assess when it comes to learning. Figure out what’s important to you and yours and plan accordingly.
And remember point number one if need be.
Here are some things, or the ‘what,’ of a learning assessment:
- The learning design
- The learning delivery
- What the participants learned
- How the participants felt about the learning
- What skills the participants gained
- What the participants did with their learning, how they applied it
- The format (online, in person, hybrid / timing / length of time/ tech etc.)
Stakeholders are those individuals and/ or organizations who are impacted by and who can impact the learning. And they’re super important for assessing learning.
I often have my clients do a friendly, fun, competitive challenge to see how many stakeholders they can brainstorm.
Of course, not all stakeholders can be involved in an assessment, but it’s good to know the full list so you can make strategic decisions for who to involve.
The learning assessment is a fabulous opportunity to continue the learning. Obvious right? Not always.
I see so many assessments that are focused on the person who designed the assessment and not the learner.
Here’s a great example. I once took an evaluation workshop with Michael Quinn Patton, a world-renowned expert in program evaluation. He told the story of working with a client who ran an addiction treatment centre. They had been sending a follow-up survey to participants some time after they had left the treatment facility to look at their progress. Michael had suggested they had enough data at this point so they could stop sending the survey.
The director, however, said no way. She said that the survey data was almost beside the point. She wanted the survey to continue to be sent because it simply reminded participants of the program, of their treatment, of their hard work. The survey stayed in place.
Voila, learning AND assessment.
Assessing learning can certainly create migraines, but it doesn’t have to. If you K.I.S.S. (keep it super simple) and create some simple goals for the assessment, veto asking questions at the beginning so you can focus on what you want to find out first, brainstorm a full list of your stakeholders, and strategically decide who to involve and make the assessment learning focused, you’re ahead of the game.
Stand by for next week, where I’ll add five more top tips for magic making in learning assessments. which include how to make them fun, collaborative, and even how to gamify them.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead
- Assessing learning does NOT have to feel like carrying a heavy, precarious load, like this mama.
- Share the tips with your team and use them for your next assessment of learning
P.S. Join my free Learning and Development Roundtable on “Eight skills for communicating with confidence and clarity and without consternation.” Take action now –> Get more information on this month’s roundtable and RSVP by September 22nd for the September 24th workshop.
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