A workshop, training or any kind of course that we organize will eventually come to an end. At that point we should be able to tell if the process was successful, what needs to be or can be improved, or if the participants were satisfied. In order to be able to draw such conclusions we need to start setting up the right framework, that can offer us the information we need from the very beginning of the organizational process of the training.
1. We need to set up goals and objectives. As a start, we need to know where we want to get by the end of the learning process. When I mean define, I mean identify certain (as many as possible) characteristics that can serve as (2.) indicators for the monitoring process. Once we know what we want from our participants to achieve (→objectives), we can figure out those things (→indicators) that can be (3.) observed closely to know if the process is working the right way lining up with our goals.
Academics and scientist say we should have at least one indicator for each desired outcome, and they also list a few things we have to pay specific attention to when deciding on our indicators. They need to be valid, meaning they need to be able to accurately measure the desired behavior; they need to be reliable, that refers to their consistency in time; and of course they need to be quantifiable.
Another very important step is to perform some kind of prior assessment on the participants, that will give us an idea where we start. That will serve as an anchor point, which we can compare our outcomes to. When collecting data about a learning process we definitely want to look for the progress of every individual, and in many cases for the progress of the group as a whole.
Because it’s always more difficult to monitor and evaluate a learning process that includes soft skill training I’m going to give you an example on that. During a communication training the desired outcomes and set goals can be the following:
a, more confident while speaking in front of a large group of people
b, understand body language better
c, become a better active listener
The indicators in this case that would be assigned to these objectives could be:
a, the consistency and balance of speech (no aaa-s and huh-s, no quiet mumbling, no getting lost in thought etc), keeping eye-contact with audience, no nervous movements, owning the space by moving around on stage while speaking,
b, being able to guess a speaker’s interior motives, being able to express certain things on nonverbal communication channels, using body language to intimidate or win over someone
c, being able to recall details of conversations despite distractions, being able to have multiple focuses while talking with several people
In order to reach these goals we need to know where the participants stand in those areas, therefore we need to have them give a presentation in front of a group, do some kind of test or task on understanding body language, and have them answer some questions after listening to someone speak in a specific setting. While we conduct this procedure we have to evaluate their performance observing the same characteristics we earlier defined. That will allow us to compare their performance to their original level of their skills.
Depending on the time frame of the training session we can implement knowledge-checks at the beginning or end of every session, once a week, at the end of every module, or just at the end as a final test. The more information we collect during the course, the better chance we have discovering any errors that would compromise our goals.
One more thing that can come in handy is the definitions of the different levels of skills: what we thing the basic, intermediate and master level mean when it comes to - for instance - public speaking. It might seem silly at first, but we need to decide how many sudden interruptions one can afford when wanting to be a high level public speaker. Or what test scores we accept as pass or fail when we evaluate a body language related quiz or Q&A. The more precise we can be, the more detailed our charts and graphs will be at the end that will summarize and illustrate our results.
To finish up with our example, our goal could be to get everybody to a certain level, or to help every single individual improve their level of their communication skills. Based on that intention, we have to design the appropriate activities, implement mile stones or knowledge checks that give us feedback on their progress, and repeat things, slow down or detail some parts of our content if needed in order to achieve those goals.
While getting completely lost in the scientific world of monitoring and evaluating, there is one very important thing we cannot forget: The satisfaction of the participants! Even if they were obligated by their firms to attend, we should always care about their feelings, opinions and feedback on the learning process. Training is an atypical learning-teaching method. It is a tool that strongly includes the activity and self-guided development of the individual. Without considering the trainees, this equation cannot be complete. As to how, we can simply encourage the attendees to share their opinions freely at the end of the training (in-class or virtually), and we can always include some kind of anonymous questionnaire for those who might not feel comfortable speaking up.