Training Design Informed by Assessment Strategies

A few weeks ago I visited a large UK national training deliverer to look at how they were reducing the amount of time spent by employees in residential training. The visit confirmed my view that training evaluation has an influential part to play in training design. It also reinforced my perspective that the training department can not act in isolation – it should engage across the business or service to understand the key training requirements – this will help enable effective training design.

To achieve this alignment the first stage in training design is obviously to determining what the objectives are for the training, perhaps through a process such as job analysis.

The next step is where I think training evaluation is relevant. I believe that in order to inform your training design you should ask the following question:

How do I test that the training has achieved its objectives?

Using assessment to determine learning has occurred

In my opinion, testing is the essence of what Kirkpatrick Level 2 (?)Donald Kirkpatrick developed his 4 Levels of Evaluation model in 1959 and it is still very much in use today. evaluation is all about. Kirpatrick uses the word ‘Learning’ to summarise this level. I prefer the word assessment. Either way, the key is to determine that some actual learning has occurred. Or in other words, conduct some method of assessment to test that the training has achieved its objectives. This all needs to be considered at the design stage. Check out this post for an overview of the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation or here for a more detailed look at Kirkpatrick Level 2 Evaluation.

Incorporating assessment into training design

The method of assessment that you use to test what learning has occurred should be consistent with the way that you have delivered the training. This is why it should be determined as part of the training design process. For example, if your training is all about plumbing, you will need to ask yourself, at the end of the training, how will I test that I have achieved the objectives?

How you answer this question should impact your training design. If your answer is that all those who have received training will sit a 2 hour theory examination that explores their ability to name and explain all the equipment and parts used in plumbing then your training design will need to reflect this. Alternatively, you may decide that you want to test that learning has occurred through a practical exercise where individuals have to plumb in a toilet and sink unaided. This type of assessment will drive a different approach to training design.

Is the assessment type valid? Who decides?

I don’t believe that it should necessarily be left only to those who design the training to decide what type of assessment is valid. I believe that this responsibility should be shared with the end user of the trained output. This type of engagement by training designers with the operational side of the business or service is critical in developing an effective business partnership approach. Once some operational focus has been provided the detail of the specific assessment design can then be conducted by the training specialists.

Training design in 3 key stages…

In summary, in my opinion you should be thinking about training evaluation (ie assessment) as part of the training design process. Training design can be simplified into 3 key stages:

  1. Determine clear training objectives.
  2. Decide how you will test that those objectives have been achieved (through engagement).
  3. Conduct the actual training design.
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