Assessing the effectiveness of training
Recently I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague from an international development agency in Ghana. This colleague is in charge of capacity development and works with local NGOs in Northern Ghana. The conversation was centered on the frustrations he was encountering ascertaining whether the training programmes they provide for their partners were effective and add value to their partner organisations.
I responded to him by initially asking a question “What is the outcome/result you expect from the training provided?
Assessing the effectiveness of training is a familiar frustration. However, most practitioners do not recognise their responsibility to complete the training process by systematically determining the effectiveness of a particular programme trainees have undertaken and its subsequent value to their organisations.
In many instances validation of training is either ignored or approached in an unprofessional manner. Some arguments against validation are that, training cannot be valued in monetary terms and does not really prove anything. This cannot be true if you understand the training function.
Training is a planned and systematic effort to modify or develop knowledge, skill and attitude through learning experiences, to achieve effective performance in an activity or range of activities. Its purpose in the work situation is to enable an individual acquire abilities in order that he or she can perform adequately a given task or job.
Over the years, WACSI has identified the need for an integrated approach to assessing the effectiveness of its trainings. This approach involves (1) post-training responses, (2) identification of learning outcomes, (3) job behaviour and performance, (4) organisation improvement or change, and (5) return on training investment.
Post-training responses: This process involves ascertaining trainees opinions about the knowledge and skills content of the training as it is expressed in the training objectives, the training methodology used in the training and the trainers who delivered it, the general learning conditions and environment in which the training took place and degree to which the attitudinal objectives of the training programme have been achieved.
Identification of learning outcomes: This involves the process of measuring trainees’ performance in terms of their knowledge, skills and attitudes against the criteria which were set for the training period and the immediate post-training period.
Analysis of job behaviour and performance: At this level the assessment of the effectiveness of training moves from the training context into the work environment. The trainer should focus on how well the training experience has enabled the trainee to perform certain duties, tasks and responsibilities to the required standards. The trainer will have to ascertain the extent to which the knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired through training was transferred to the job.
Determination of organisation improvement or change: The effects and value of training at this level needs to be viewed from a long-term perspective. The trainer needs to determine the organisational improvements and results that training has brought about.
Return on training investment: It is possible to measure training from a financial viewpoint. This can be done through a cost benefit or return on investment analysis. Cost benefit analysis involves comparing anticipated or actual costs against the worth of anticipated or actual outcomes. The relevant outcomes should stem directly or indirectly from the training objectives and the analysis of the criteria.
Many training programmes within the civil society sector fail to deliver the expected organizational benefits. However, a well-structured measuring system can help determine where the challenges are.
At WACSI, our assessment system is designed within a framework that enables the Institute obtain appropriate information for each level:
Level 1 (Reaction)
o Completed participant feedback questionnaire
o Informal comments from participants
o Focus group sessions and interviews with trainees
Level 2 (Learning)
o Mid-term assessments
o Field reports
o Supervisor reports
Level 3 (Behavior)
o Reports from beneficiaries, peers and trainee's supervisor
Level 4 (Results)
o Project reports/annual reports
o End- of project evaluation reports
o Field Interviews
This process was adopted from the Kirkpatrick Model for evaluating effectiveness of training programmes. An evaluation at each level answers whether a fundamental requirement of the training program was met. All levels of evaluation are important.
It is imperative for a trainer to undertake evaluation and assessment of training especially at the job behaviour and organisation levels. Each level provides a diagnostic checkpoint for problems at the succeeding level. This will enable the trainer to improve the design, organisation and implementation of current and future training.
The credibility and importance of the training function will be strengthened over time, if as a result of evaluation, training content and delivery is continuously made relevant for trainees. This in turn would create more positive attitudes in an organisation towards learning, training, education and development.
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* The Author, Charles Kojo Vandyck is the Capacity Building Officer at WACSI
This blog post is provided for information purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are not in any way intended to inflame passions. The views expressed in this message are solely those of the author in his or her private capacity, except where the author specifically states them to be the views of a named organisation. WACSI and its partners are not liable for any claims which may arise as a result of the contents of this post, and do not accept responsibility for the security of information contained herein.