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Evaluating Training the Right Way

Evaluation is one of the most important and least liked aspects of training.  Almost no participants and very few trainers actually like doing an evaluation.  It provides more stress than most people want in their lives.

However, evaluation of training (not the participants or trainers) is essential for quality training.  Training EvaluationIf used correctly it can highlight areas in both curriculum and delivery that need improvement.  To achieve this end, evaluations should be both targeted and used correctly.

To be targeted correctly, evaluators should know exactly what they are trying to assess and how to ask the questions to get good data.  Many of us remember tests in school that were written as “gotcha” tests.  (Tests that were written to see if you were listening or had a photographic memory for things you were supposed to read.)  Training evaluation shouldn’t be this kind of activity.  Training evaluations should be used to see if curriculum was correctly written, if the method of presentation was effective, and if students will be able to use the information or skills on the job.  So how do you write a good evaluation?

The first step is to go back to the goals and objectives.  You should use these to determine what participants should know or be able to do after the training.  Those goals and objectives will lead you to what the question should be.  They may also give you the exact wording for those questions.  You may need to ask the same question in several different ways to insure good data about the training.


Then next step is to decide how you’re going to structure the evaluation.  Are you going to have a written assessment?  Will it be a practicum where participants show they can do the task before they go back to their real job?  Will you do an observation while they are working as the assessment?

If it is to be a written assessment, the following list gives you some options of how you could ask questions:

  • True-false questions
  • Multiple choice
  • Fill in the blank
  • Short answer

These questions are just like what you had on tests when you were in school.  The difference is these questions should be written more toward finding out if the training was successful, than to give a final score on report card.  Some of types of questions work better for certain types of learning while other types work better for activities.  True/false and multiple choice often work better for skill based learning while fill in the blank and short answer will be more like what will be required for knowledge type learning.  (Note: one type of question you had in school was an essay question.  Training evaluations generally do not use essay questions, unless there are some higher thinking skills that are being checked.)

The other type of an assessment for training is called a behavioral or observational evaluation.  This type of evaluation involves observing people while they’re working and assessing learning from their actions.  There may be a checklist, there may be a summary written by the evaluator, or there may be some other type of instrument used to watch people while they work.  But the purpose of a behavioral evaluation is to see if the participant can actually use the knowledge gained in the training on their job.

The second reason for an evaluation of training is to see if the delivery method was the best possible way to teach the skills or knowledge required.  Skills will require the employees to do a certain task, but best taught with the participant practicing that skilled during a training.  For example, if an employee is to put together several parts to make a unit it would be best if the training had them actually working with those parts to create the final unit.  If the employee is supposed to be use knowledge that they gained through the training, it is best that they learn that the same fashion that are better going to recall it.  An example of this would be if employees needs to know the specifications for product to respond to customer questions, the participant should probably work through a memorization process in the same manner they will need to recall that knowledge – for memory or by looking it up.

One of the ways that can help participants.  The reduce the stress or fear of an evaluation.  Just to give them a feedback form.  The feedback form is a scale from 1 to 3, 1 to 5, or 1 to 10. Whatever works for that particular type of training and gives the required information.  Once a scale is set, the participants could use it to self-evaluate, that participants and the trainers could evaluate, or the trainer could evaluate participants.  A three-step scale may include Needs Work, Acceptable and Competent.  They five step scale may start with the Unacceptable, Needs Work, Competent, Excellent, finally Superior.  The number of steps is less important that the how useful the knowledge is that is gained from the evaluation.

Using Data Correctly

At this level evaluation data should not be used for hiring or firing personnel.  Its purpose is to here is to adjust training and delivery.  This can be facilitated by running an A/B test – have two different versions of the curriculum or the delivery method used during training and then run the evaluation.  It would be best if the training was conducted by the same person but rarely do you get that option.  For and A/B test to be successful what needs to happen is for all variables to be eliminated.  As much as possible, have trainers teach the exact content as written with no embellishments or personal adaptations.  This will give the truest representation of the curriculum and delivery method.


  • You are going to have to evaluate training if you want to keep your job and a training department.
  • Evaluation may be scary but it does have value to a training program.
  • Use the data for improving training, not for hiring and firing.

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