Our learning objectives may be solid, our content looks beautiful but what about our assessments? In these difficult times we must measure the effectiveness of our training and prove that important ROI, how can our assessment strategies help?

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Comment by Phil Green on January 26, 2009 at 11:41
Further thoughts. Casson says, "in the fast moving retail environment our learners work in, as soon as they get back onto the shop floor they may have to use some of the knowledge gained to help out their customers." If they are not virtually certain to use it right away, why learn it now? What is the use of atrophic knowledge in the context of occupational learning?
Comment by Phil Green on January 26, 2009 at 11:36
What a promising discussion this has turned out to be. It's long in the tooth I know but if you've not ever read "Measuring Instructional Results" from the Mager and Pipe "Six Pack", I'd recommend it highly. I know that CRI (Criterion-Referenced Instruction) is not regarded as very sexy in the corridors of e-learning, and I hear echoes of the spurious old "paralysis by analysis" argument again. Nevertheless if you always ask the simple questions (e.g What do they have to do? In what circumstances? How will we know they're doing it?) you cannot go far wrong. I was struck by Casson's comments. I always like to check that I've distinguished between the process of learning and the product of learning. This links back to the notion of L&D as just one part of a cocktail of solutions to bring about the performance you require. As a training manager or training officer it is implicit that my job is to train someone to become a competent retail sales assistant. Then I might rejoice in any evidence of a trainee reflecting on their learning. As a performance consultant I could not care a hoot for this measurement of learning. In fact I might even regard the pause to measure learning as a hindrance, when what I really want is to get people serving and selling customers to an agreed standard asap. My role then is is to ensure I remove the barriers and put in place the correct combination of supports to guarantee competent performance. In other words I must measure accomplishment and not capability. This is a key distinction. I might even say that the best measure would be not of how much learning took place in order to reach mastery, but how LITTLE! What do you think?
Comment by Richard Clewer on January 26, 2009 at 9:48
Hi Casson.

Can I assume your 'test to teach' is applied after the relevant material has been taught? The reason I ask is that a colleague of mine in the past used to use 'test to teach' in a practical setting ,without having taught anything, as a way to demonstrate to the student how much they needed to know. As you can imagine the scores were always pretty low.

This was a very negative way of teaching and could severly undermine the student's confidence. How do you find this works in an e-learning setting? Do you think it might be better to allow some consolidation time on what's been taught before testing?

I am interested in your comments as I am currently working on a project with a lot of e-learning content and the designers are putting in short tests at the end of each piece of teaching.
Comment by Casson McRae on January 23, 2009 at 14:25
yes I am Barry, in the fast moving retail environment our learners work in, as soon as they get back onto the shop floor they may have to use some of the knowledge gained to help out their customers.

I also use e-assessment within the module in a test to teach, situationist approach. I am trying to get the learner to reflect and think about and to apply (in a safe environment) the immediate learning points in relation to the job they have to do when they get back out there in front of their customers.

If they score low at the end of the learning we provide feedback and direct them to revisit the training, however using rapid eLearning tools does put some limits on how personalised that feedback can be.

I would think that there is a place for assessment to form a part of a more long term meaurement strategy, we have a very competitive population of learners (they like to compete against their peers in similar sized stores especially) who in theory would take part in this type of activity. Also once the basic (underlying) knowledge has been learned then interactive e-assessments (not just MCQs) could measure what has been learned and transfered to long term memory as well as deliver another layer of knowledge on top, socratic questioning techniques and scenario based questions could work really well in this situation.

This approach would be part of other measurements going on from sales figures (if the learning is product knowledge based) through to observation carried out by the line.
Comment by Barry Sampson on January 23, 2009 at 12:12
So, you're using e-assesment to measure the immediate knowledge transfer element of your learning activity?

What is the outcome of the assessment? Is it just used for measurement, or does it provide the learner with actionable feedback (particularly if the score is low)?

Do you think e-assessment as a tool can be used to measure the longer term effectiveness of learning? I'm thinking about the behaviour change and application in the workplace elements.
Comment by Casson McRae on January 23, 2009 at 10:05
I am mainly interested in assessments within a piece of eLearning content, using them to 'test to teach' as well as a method of checking understanding at the end of a course. What I am trying to measure at this point is the effective delivery of the stated learning objectives for a course, one of the first steps toward the overall effectiveness of a learning activity.
Comment by Barry Sampson on January 23, 2009 at 9:57
What sort of assessment are we talking about? Post course e-assessment? Is it your expereince that this provides a genuine measure of the effectiveness of your learning activity?

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