Tag Archives: training and development

Measuring with Assessments in Training

Tie your shoes  In our last post, we discussed the idea of giving assessments in business training.  We’ve established their necessity, that they measure how effective the training has been and how ready the trainees are to proceed with their re-defined processes.  We know that assessments are crucial, and the identification of what to measure is equally as important, otherwise the whole assessment process is simply a formality.  We are going to give an assessment, but what do we want that to measure?  And how can we format the assessment to measure it?

Let’s take an example of a new process.  I’ll take a page from my old manager and set up the example that we’re teaching a group of colleagues how to tie their shoes.  We need to test them on how well they’ve learned the task so that they can repeat it in the future, and to what quality score they can repeat the process.  How do we measure that?  Well, when it comes to tying a shoe, it ultimately needs to be secure, it needs to be comfortable, and it needs to look clean.  These would be our measurement objectives: security, comfortability, and neatness.

I realize that these categories are a little subjective… everyone ties shoes a little differently (myself included).  But in the end, all business processes have an element of subjectivity.  If you don’t have the correct technique (or process) you won’t end up with a quality result.  We can measure this process by having a trainee demonstrate their understanding of the process in a live environment.  Let’s say we have the trainee tie a shoe on the foot of the instructor (that way they can measure the security and comfortability of the shoe) If we want them to succeed, it may be beneficial to give them real-time advice as they are demonstrating their new shoe-tying skills.  The instructor should watch their demonstration and give them a score on each of the three defined categories.  If they feel that the trainee is competent in the process based on those scores, then they can say the training was successful.

What if we wanted to go deeper, and measure the process underlying the three categories?  We need to measure the process itself and how well the trainees learned it.  We could construct a written quiz to test their knowledge prior to the demonstration.  But we need to make sure the questions are written in a way that are easy to understand, but not too complicated and an easy give-away.  As a teaser, take a look at these tips to writing quiz questions, and we’ll discuss this in our next post.

Photo credit: My Shoes

Assessments and Business Training

assessment Although my education is in music, I have spent the last 3-4 years in the business world doing training and education in a business process organization.  Obviously there are a lot of differences between classroom education and business training, but much of the techniques and tools that are used by educators are also used by trainers.  It’s very important to maintain credibility, have good public speaking skills, be able to motivate your trainees, and cater to the three major learning styles.  But one thing remains, and that is the need to know how effective your training has been, and whether your trainees are ready to participate in the new materials as part of their everyday jobs.

We touched on this subject earlier, but the best way to determine whether your students understand the training is to give them an assessment.  Obviously, with public education, the need for assessments and standardized tests as a form of measurement is highly controversial.  But in a business setting, where we are driven by numbers and results, assessments are the best way to determine effectiveness of training.  We want to quiz the trainees on their retention of the materials, because ultimately, their jobs depend on how well they can execute afterwards.  If they can’t remember how a new process goes, or maybe how a process is changed, it will have a significant effect on quality, performance, and security in their operational work.

A common line in my work is “we have to fill a 90-minute training into a 60-minute slot”, and therefore don’t have any time for an assessment.  As trainers, we cannot stress the need for assessments too much.  This simple measurement tool can tell us whether we need to have additional training sessions, maybe a repeat session, or it would also indicate whether a particular individual needs additional resources to complete their job.  If an assessment is not given at the end of a training, then there is no way for the trainer and business to know whether a new process is ready for implementation.  There is no justification for the training class to even happen in the first place.

One option in the above scenario may be to send the assessment out after the training in email form.  A pre-completed form with simple questions to answer and then sent back to the trainer is a good way to let them take the assessment on their own time.  There are pros and cons to this method, though… you might lose some accuracy due to some trainees working together on it, which wouldn’t reflect a true measurement of understanding.   One benefit is that you have less paperwork and an easier time collating the results through electronic means.  This would also allow you to not have to sacrifice training time for giving an assessment.

We’ll talk about some assessment techniques in the next post.  How can we create questions that avoid confusion?  Are trick questions necessary?  How valuable s an assessment with a variety of question formats?  Stay tuned for more!

Photo credit: Magical Maths

Disruptive Students… What to do?

Disruption When we last met, we were talking about disruptive students.  Many teachers are foiled by these, and many classes become worthless due to student disruption.  I’ve been in many a class where open discussion is encouraged, even expected, but everyone in that class knows that the discussion needs to be relevant, wholesome, and adds value to the class.  There comes a point when certain scenarios need to be dealt with and class must go on.

CSU East Bay provides interesting insights on dealing with disruptive students.  Here are a few examples from their article:

Making unreasonable demands for time or attention: make a reasonable adjustment for a students’ requests, but at times it might be worth getting administrative staff involved for intervention.  I would also suggest having the student seek a tutor or additional support for their academic problems.
Continually speaking out of turn: Do your best to answer any relevant questions or respond to any comments related to your subject at hand, but be sure to make it clear (and it might take some reiteration) that the discussion should focus on the topic.  Any excess conversation should be conducted outside of class time.
Ringing cell phones, talking to other classmates, or audible distractions: Obviously there should be a policy put in place to minimize these, but my best suggestion would be to simply walk the class.  If you walk behind the person who is generating the distraction, they should get the hint and cease their interactions.  If this doesn’t work, then (in my opinion) you should address them directly and ask them to stop distracting the class.  Some teachers even ask for them to share their conversation (or text message if it’s a ringtone) with the whole class.  I’ve even seen some professors answer their students’ cell phone and ask the person on the other end not to call while the student is in class.
Threatening or abusive behavior: This enters into a whole different realm of classroom management.  If you have a threatening student, you have your own security (and that of the rest of the class) to keep in mind.  Take responsibility for the student and ask the disruptive student to leave.  If they refuse, then they should be escorted by you to the administrator.  You need to have a little more of a backbone in this scenario, but safety is key.  Don’t be a hero and try to do anything irrational.

I found a recent article from the National Education Association (NEA) on handling disruptive students,  It provides an interesting anecdote, and focuses mainly on threatening young adult students.  It names the interaction between teacher and student as a “delicate dance”.  This is true, as a teachers’ method of dealing with students can be a make-or-break situation.  It could set a bad precedent, make the students lose respect for the teacher, or even cause additional problems with other students in the class.  It’s important to deal with any scenario that way class can resume and education can continue.

What are some interesting stories that you’ve seen or heard?  Have you ever been the target of disruptive student behavior?  Let’s chat about it and share experiences!

Photo credit: Inspiring Teaching

Keeping Attention on You

training  We’ve been spending some time talking about motivation in the classroom, but that is only part of the equation.  Some students have a hard time focusing and paying attention in training.  In a business setting, it is assumed that all of your trainees are adults and will do their best to pay attention to what is going on in class.  You need to keep up their attention so that they can maximize their absorption of the materials, and be able to recount them when needed in their jobs.

From personal experience, one of the easiest and quickest ways to get your class’ attention is to say something like “you might want to write this down… it will be on the test.”  Telling the class that there will be an assessment at the end of the course has its merits as well, but this is dependent on your reputation and the precedent of giving assessments at the end of every training.  We’ll talk about assessments in a future blog post, since it’s a major talking point in business training.

Indiana University states that the normal adult attention span is 15-20 minutes.  In a training class, the teacher needs to be able to use this attention span to their advantage.  Barraging your trainees with a mountain of content can overload them, so you need to break it up into smaller, easier to digest, chunks.  I found an interesting list here to reference some tips on keeping an audience’s attention.  Some of them are pretty easy – offer refreshments, give them a quick break, and use humor to keep them interested.  I like #9 in particular: shake things up.  Maybe assign an impromptu skit or Q&A session.  Get the students up and moving around, maybe with an ice breaker or other activity.  Keep the mood light, and be open and honest with your class about how important the material is, and you are there to facilitate their learning in the easiest way possible.

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have managers in your class, who might be there as part of their job, or because they need to learn the materials just as much as their employees do.  To keep their attention, all other external stimuli should be removed.  Set some ground rules before the class begins: laptops should be closed and phones should be put away.  If you’ve got a class where hands-on exercises on a computer is planned, walk around the room while you teach.  Use your presence as an authority figure to press them into paying attention and not goof off on their computer.  Distractions should be as limited as possible, obviously except for those that you plan as part of the course.

Above all, remember that people are still people, and that they can only hold their attention for so long.  If you keep these things in mind, and make your class as interesting as possible, then you can say that you did your best to teach the materials and your class is ready for what’s coming next.

Photo credit: University of Texas

Analysis – Answering the Hard Questions

AnalysisHow do you know what your training needs to accomplish?  How do you know what needs to be done in order for your organization’s goals to be met?  Most trainers are familiar with this process… management will set goals or strategies for the organization, and then lean on training and development to make sure employees are ready for those goals to be measured.  Trainers need to be able to evaluate the goals of any class or objective and decide what needs to be done and how that can be accomplished through education.  As part of the ADDIE instructional design model, the first step is called “Analysis”.

The first stage of any training should be the analysis portion.  Using the ADDIE model, the Analysis phase is defined as “a systematic exploration of the way things are and the way things should be.  The difference is the performance gap.” (Source: ADDIE Methodology) As part of this phase of instructional design, one would need to answer a number of questions.  “What outcome do I want?” “Who is my audience?” “What does my learner already know?” “What content do I need to present?” “What instructional strategies will I use?” UTHealth has a good list of resources to help trainers break down each of the tasks during any analysis phase.

These are some (but not all) of the questions that a trainer should be asking of himself or their project sponsor / manager during the Analysis portion.  Essentially, the biggest question that should be answered is: “Is this training relevant?”  Most of the time, the answers to these questions would need to come from either investigation into the objectives of the training, management of the program or team in question, or from the sponsor of the training class. But above all, the Analysis phase of the ADDIE model is most important because this is where you decide what outcome or behavior you want at the end of your lesson.

Contrary to what you might think, the Analysis phase simply answers questions based on what is needed from the training session.  The actual development of materials and delivery come in the later phases.  Analysis can and should be done throughout the training cycle, but it is of highest importance at the beginning when the objectives must be identified, and to save everyone a good deal of time and effort in the long run.

What kinds of experiences have you had looking for answers for a training?  Have you ever had to be on the receiving end of those questions?  Let’s chat about it here!

Photo credit: Drumbeat Marketing