July 2018
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TD Magazine

Learning Barometer

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Situation

Employees need to both see how training helps them master new skills and continue learning on the job. How can we get learners to recognize progress without making them complacent?

The Trick

Self-assessment, done properly, can accomplish both goals. One exercise that works in classroom and online settings is called Learning Barometer. Here's how to do it:

  1. At the start of your program, show participants a five-point scale. For example, you could use facial expressions, such as a growing smile—the first point shows a frowning face and the fifth shows a giant grin. In the classroom, draw this on a flipchart or slide. When working online, place these images on a slide.
  2. Ask class members to evaluate their confidence with your subject matter against the scale. For example, in a course on Excel, you could say, "Use this barometer to rate your confidence level with Excel on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being not confident at all and 5 being extremely confident."
  3. Ask learners to document their ratings. When using a flipchart, have learners mark their answers on sticky notes and place them in their participant guides. Online, have them respond through chat or indicate directly on the slide with their pointer tools.
  4. Debrief by stressing that you don't expect everyone to reach the top of the scale by the end of the course, because it would be an unrealistic leap.
  5. Ask learners to repeat the activity at the end of the program, reminding them of the expectations you set earlier. If they started at a 1 or a 2, explain that it's OK to leave the course as a 3 or 4 because they can apply learning on the job to reach the next level.

Pro tip

You don't have to use faces for your learning barometer—be creative.

One idea is to use a mountain. In this example, place the bottom of the confidence scale at the foot of the mountain and the top at its peak. Then, you can tell learners that even if they don't reach the peak during your class, they can still keep climbing.

About the Author

Nikki O’Keeffe is an internal ATD Facilitator. She is dedicated training specialist who delivers a positive, memorable, and meaningful service that repeatedly meets or exceeds the expectations of the client. She has experience creating strategies and visions to ensure training requirements and deliveries are in line with quality, probability, and client need. 

Nikki has worked in varied industries, including education, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. In her role as the global senior training and development specialist at PAREXEL International, her focus was on managing and developing courses for new and existing staff on technical systems, process changes, new products, and soft skills.  Her educational background includes a BA in psychology from Butler University and a master’s degree in exercise science, health, and wellness from Northeastern Illinois University. Her specific areas of interest include virtual training, facilitation techniques, and mentoring new trainers. 

Nikki is skilled at providing face-to-face and online learning programs for global participants of varying experience levels. In addition to delivering training, she has performed training needs analyses to identify gaps and recommend training solutions, worked with SMEs as a consultant to develop courses and curriculums, and evaluated programs for effectiveness. 

As a certified ATD Master Trainer and certified ATD Master Instructional Designer she understands the value of solid training plans and strong facilitation. Nikki looks forward to sharing her experiences and expanding her knowledge base by learning from her participants in the upcoming ATD courses that she leads.

1 Comment
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I enjoyed this article. It gave me some great ideas on how to change my course evaluations. Thanks!
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