Evaluating learning – challenges and opportunities

Stuart Haden, Founder of Storm Beach Ltd explains how we can better evaluate our learning, and the challenges and opportunities that come with this. 

The evaluation of learning often divides opinion. Should we spend the time and energy doing so? Can we accurately evaluate intangible results? If you can overcome some of the following challenges then yes it’s probably a worthwhile pursuit. If not you can be confident that evaluation may not be the answer you are looking for.

First up you don’t fatten pigs by weighing them. Evaluation therefore needs to confirm or change your approach. ROI often gets banded about, but what’s behind this. Return on Investment or Return on Intentions? Many training interventions have proof of concept so you can piggy back on this instead. Likewise if there is an existing evidence base then jump on the bandwagon. McKinsey & Co did a 10-year study on flow with top executives. I quote the results of this because the development of optimal performance and flow states is often the goal of the programmes that I run. It far outweighs anything I can put a number to.

Now that you have challenged your thinking you might not need to seek out the following opportunities. But for those of you who recognise a greater need then your first port of call might be analytics. Can you gather data, better still can someone do it for you, allowing you to be a customer of analytics. A very straightforward way to measure change (albeit quite subjective) is to run a self-assessment questionnaire at the start and end of a programme. This has the double whammy effect of providing feedback to participants. Kirtpatrick or Hamblin can remind you what to measure – reaction, learning, behaviour, effect and organization. If you do need to put some numbers on the scorecard then ‘the Sherpa method’ offers a neat way of calculating ROI – this is a simple five step process that helps you to assess the benefits and associated costs of learning.

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