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How Do You Know They Know? Designing in-Class Assessment

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Adult Ed Study Group

A group of adult education students studying together.

How serious are you about your adult students actually learning? Most of us would say, “VERY serious!” Yet many trainers and instructional designers actually have no idea what, and even if, participants have learned by the end of a session.

Because trainers operate in organizations and businesses, we typically don’t issue grades. Even in preparing participants for a performance test down the line, we often don’t do a good job of checking in along the way. At best, many trainers rely on “Happy Sheets,” the end-of-class evaluations that mainly determine if the training room was too warm, or the coffee not warm enough.

It’s hard to know if this lack of attention to assessment in organizational learning can be traced to lethargy, lack of knowledge about how adults learn, or the culture of corporate training itself. Whatever its root, “Warning! Warning!” as the Lost in Space robot used to say on TV. Assessment is so integral to learning that if we don’t do it, we cannot claim to be serious about our participants actually learning.

The Real Test
Jane Vella, founder of Global Learning Partners, answers the question, “How do they know they know?” with this answer: “Because they did it!”

Certainly, the ability to perform is the real assessment of learning. Can the participants do what you promised them they’d be able to do when you developed the learning objectives?

Although performance is the real test, many corporate trainers don’t have the luxury of following their participants when they return to the workplace. Once they leave our classrooms, it’s impossible for many of us to observe how well participants actually use the new skills.

Assessment AS Learning
Research shows that students learn better when they receive feedback early and often. When trainers use in-class assessments, they are able to provide this feedback. The best assessment exercises are fun and engaging (forget the dreaded pop quiz!)

Try one of these in-class assessment techniques to enrich your training.

Three Tips for In-Class Assessment
Tip #1: One-Minute Paper

When to Use: Midway or later in a training session.

After delivering important content, ask the participants to write their reflections for a solid minute. Reflections can include how they will actually apply the information, their thoughts and feelings, challenges, etc.

Collect the (anonymous) papers, read to self, and respond if appropriate.

Tip #2: Two Insights, One Area of Confusion

When to Use: Midway or later in a training session.

Have participants write two insights and one area of confusion based on the information you have provided. Either collect and address in the next module, or have participants read these to a partner, then discuss issues as a class.

Tip #3: Using Learning Objectives as Assessment Points

When to Use: Throughout the session.

Ask a variety of prepared questions based on the session’s learning objectives either to the whole group, or to subgroups.

Remember: Assessment is part of learning. It’s not an add-on, and it’s not “just for show.” Integrate in-class assessments into your training sessions, and watch the learning soar!

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