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Assessing and Evaluating: What’s the Difference?

By Sep Barkhodaee
Published on August 28, 2013

Chances are you think you know how to test your employees’ performance in a course, using an online testing software. After all, you know what you need your staff to do and how to do it, especially if you’re using a blended approach through offline training and an online training software. But this is only one small part of assessment – the last part, in fact. Increasingly, experts in training and learning are using the term assessment of learning to highlight the different ways that employee assessments can be used to help trainers build better learning modules. This is a different way of thinking about how we assess employee performance in training programs. Evaluation implies that you are simply sorting trainees into categories of varying levels of success and failure. Sorting does a poor job of highlighting their learning and development needs. It offers employees little in the way of advice on improvement. If your organization is evaluating, it isn’t training anymore. It’s gate keeping.


So what does it actually mean to conduct an assessment of learning? It’s the final step in the whole process of assessment designed to see how well employees have mastered the training course content and what they have learned. In order to get to assessment of learning, you first need to know your departure point, where you want to go and be able to help your trainees get there in order to maximize the impact of your training exercises.


This begins with being explicit about your expectations and the learning outcomes. You need to be clear about how the things you do in a specific training module fit specific duties, skills or job objectives. These questions should be answered before you decide on what kinds of training you are planning to give your employees, or how you are going to introduce material. In order to put these plans into action though, you need to know where your employees are at and how they can get to where they need to be. You need to assess them.


Employers are always assessing their employees. They monitor their progress in and give them regular feedback. In the context of training session, it means recording the quality and frequency of their engagement. Encourage a dialogue to be sure they understand what is being presented.


So what do you do with all this information and data? You can use this for two kinds of assessment other than assessment of learning: assessment for learning and assessment as learning. The first of these, assessment categories is an instance when you use your information to figure out where a trainee is at and where they need to go. Assessment for learning is to help you plan your training program and figure out the best way to approach the material and reach your learning objectives. This can take the form of asking employees to explain what they know about a particular topic, or what they hope to gain from the training. By assessing for learning, you ensure that your assumptions are valid. It provides a baseline, or point of departure for your training program.


Next is assessment as learning. This is about assessing your employees in order to help them reach learning goals. This can take the form of reflective small groups discussions or activities, or feedback on their training modules. Building multiple steps into your training programs with numerous chances for feedback can help you use assessment as learning. This can be a powerful tool to help employees reach their potential.


By the time you get to assessment of learning, you should have a considerable amount of information on your trainees. You should understand how they learn and what motivates them. You should know exactly how the activities they complete demonstrate their ability to master the training program. In all likelihood, your employees will reward you for your efforts through increased engagement and takeaway from your staff development programs.

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