The Power of Assessment
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The idea of assessing training participants is a bit of a hot topic right now. On one side of the conversation is the argument that assessment is not necessary. Participation is all that matters, and there should be no need to stress training participants out to the point that they don’t get as much out of their training experiences as they would if you didn’t assess them. On the other side of the conversation is the argument for the need for assessment. Without assessment, how will trainers know whether or not learning has taken place? It’s quite the conundrum. So we wanted to shed a little light on the topic and provide you with some insight into the reasons why assessment is reasonable for everyone when it’s used correctly.

Pairing Assessment with Participants

When you first encounter a group of training participants, it will be difficult to know their strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, and approaches to learning new information. When you take a few minutes to get to know your audience, you will be better able to match participants with an appropriate assessment style. Keep in mind that assessment doesn’t have to mean exam or test. It can simply mean that the participants can cogently answer when asked questions. Knowing your audience helps you determine how to perform assessments.

Confirming Learning Has Taken Place

If you need to verify that the learning has transferred to your participants, one of the easiest ways to do this is to ask participants how they plan to use this new information. Many learning theories point to the fact that we have learned something when we can apply it in our lives, so having participants go through the motions of imagining how they will use this information will get them invested in the material, and it will help you verify that they got something out of the training sessions. Another powerful way to confirm that the participants learned what they needed to learn, which is ultimately the purpose of assessment, is to have them teach information back to you, or each other. When you can accurately explain a concept to someone, it is fair to assume you have learned it in a way that you understand it and can apply it to your life.

Feedback and Future Planning

One of the main reasons that assessment is a useful training tool is that it provides people with a standard feedback system. Everyone is familiar with being tested in some way. So whether or not you administer actual tests and give actual scores, participants like to feel like they have achieved something at the end or throughout your training sessions. If you intend to use a formal assessment system, be prepared to administer your tests in a variety of ways to accommodate a variety of learning styles. If you want to take a more modern approach, try implementing assessments sprinkled throughout your training sessions in the forms of question/answer periods, presentations from participants, and peer reviews.

Whether or not you use assessments might depend on the details of your contract. If a company hired you to deliver communications training and they expect participants/employees to score at least 80% in the course to meet minimum employment standards, then you will need to devise a way to deliver an assessment tool and demonstrate learning has taken place. Every situation is different, so consider your options next time you head out to deliver a training session.

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