When you plan a learning experience, how do you plan to assess the outcomes of that experience? How do you know if it was effective?
- Participants' ratings at the end of the experience: This is one common means of assessment. It's good for capturing what participants think while the experience is fresh in their minds, but doesn't give a sense of what they go on to do with the learning they gained.
- Follow-up survey of participants sometime in the future: This allows time for the learning participants to apply what they've learned. Their specific memory of the learning experience may be more fuzzy, but will also more likely focus on the few most important items they gained from the training experience.
- Measurement of change in a characteristic of participants' performance: For example, if you're trying to assess the effectiveness of a sales training, you might look at the changes in sales numbers over the next quarter or two (give or take massive changes in the market). This is excellent quantitative feedback, though correlation here can't prove causation.
- Measurement of whether participants can do something new: This is one of the reasons so many good learning objectives focus on the ability to do something (rather than the knowledge of particular facts). For example, you might not care if your software users know the 3 main classes of objects; you'd care if they can use those objects in coding their own projects.