In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Will Thalheimer addresses whether trainers evaluate too much or not enough.
I’m a talent development manager and I’m pretty lucky—I work at an organization that sees the value in training, and I don’t need to constantly defend my department’s right to exist. Given that context, I’ve been wondering how much time I should spend on evaluation. Of course, I want to know whether my team’s trainings are effective, but implementing a robust evaluation process seems like it will take a lot of time and resources. And, honestly, none of my stakeholders are asking for anything beyond smile sheets, which are almost always positive. Should I still be following a rigorous evaluation process, or is there a point where I risk spending more time and money on evaluation than I need to?
Every time we evaluate, we cost our organization resources, time, and energy. So there might be a point where you could theoretically evaluate too much.
However, what I've seen over the last couple of decades is that we don’t evaluate enough, and we do it inadequately. We tend to measure things like butts in seats, how many people completed the course, and we use low-level, poor-performing smile sheets. Occasionally we do a bit more, but often that’s about all we do.
I wouldn't want people to think that they should just ignore evaluation. If you think about evaluation, we need to get feedback to know how well we're doing so that we can make our work better. That's what a professional does, and that's what we should do.
My Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model (LTEM) is eight tiers. The real advantage to the LTEM is that it focuses more on the learning side. Instead of just measuring knowledge, it also looks at decision-making competence and task competence. By focusing on those things, we not only get better evaluation results, but we get better learning designs as well.
You also mentioned smile sheets. There’s been scientific research conducted over many years that has found that the traditional smile sheets are not correlated with learning results. You can get high marks on a smile sheet and have a good course, but it's equally likely that you’ll have high marks and a bad course. If you get low marks, you could have a bad design, but you’re equally likely to have a good design. So, we can't rely on smile sheets.
That being said, are we going to use smile sheets anyway, so can we make them better? I think we can. I’m not anti-smile sheet, but I don’t think smile sheets are the end-all and be-all. Sometimes well-designed smile sheets can be a good starting place for organizations, but they shouldn't end there. Organizations should do more than that.
Learn more about the Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model from Will Thalheimer on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. His episode will air on July 15, 2020.
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