The Science and Art of Training Assessments

This is the final installment in our Back-to-Basics series where we looked at the fundamentals of developing effective training programs.  

“Alex, I will take Processes and Procedures for $800.” I am no Ken Jennings with 74 Jeopardy Wins, and I might not even be great at answering trivia questions (just ask my sister). However, I have learned that it takes both science and art to craft training assessments that reinforce the learner’s experience and give the organization insights into a training program’s effectiveness. So where do you start?

Know What You Are Going To Measure

While it might seem like you are getting ahead of yourself, you should begin the assessment development process as part of your design phase. During this phase, you need to identify what you are going to measure because as Peter Drucker said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t change it.” 

Where Science and Art Meet

Developing assessments takes a little science and a little art. The science is based on proven educational concepts. The art is putting the right content together in a creative and effective way.

In the science element, we need to determine the WHAT, WHY, and HOW: 

  • WHAT? The first question is: “What specifically are we trying to measure?” This should always tie back to the learning objectives.
  • WHY? The second question is: “Why are we measuring it?” or, alternatively, “What is the purpose of the quiz, or assessment?” Is it to test basic knowledge or see actual work being done correctly?
  • HOW? The third question is, “How do we best measure what we’re trying to measure?” Which quiz format is the most effective? Let’s review some different formats.

The art of crafting an assessment begins with determining the right format of questions. In training, we typically use three primary types of response questions:

  • True-False Questions: True-False (T/F) items assess the learner’s basic understanding. T/F items do not discriminate between good and poor learners because there is a 50/50 chance that they will get the answer right. If you use an assessment with all T/F items, be sure to include enough questions to differentiate between knowledge, and lucky guessing.
  • Matching Questions: Matching-type questions are used to assess the learners’ ability to make associations between two sets of information. In most cases, writing matching items is relatively quick and easy because you don’t have to create several incorrect responses for each question.
  • Multiple Choice Questions: The Multiple Choice (M/C) format is the most frequently used because it is the most reliable and is the best at discriminating between good and poor examinees. The typical M/C item consists of a problem, question, or statement, followed by three to five alternative choices.

Not Always the Ending

Often, quizzes and assessments are done at the end of a training program to measure what the trainee has learned. It is important to note that assessments can bring value if done before, or at certain times, during a training program. Assessments done early on can:

  • Create awareness of behavior or attitudes towards a training program
  • Personalize the training by exposing strengths and weaknesses of the participant’s knowledge base
  • Determine additional training and development needs
  • Establish a readiness to experience more fully and personally the benefits of a training program
  • Familiarize the participant with the expectations of the training
  • Provide the participant with a personalized and objective report of their learning
  • And provide a starting point for additional coaching between participant and associates, or instructor and participant.

Orgwide’s Back-to-Basics series explored the fundamentals of developing training programs.  Refer to the series for all of the important basics.

Back-to-Basics Blogs 

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