“Sense and non-sense of evaluating training”

Text: Dideke Ros

Does this sound familiar? A training course was finished with success, a beautiful evaluation report was made and after the closing conversation it ends up at the bottom of your desk drawer. And it’s back to work as usual.

How is evaluation done?
There are countless evaluation instruments to map out the results of a training course. Already in 1959 Kirkpatrick developed the evaluation methods on four levels whereupon numerous others followed him and developed this method even further.

What is being evaluated?
Evaluation comes from the French: évaluer = giving a value to something. In order to attribute value to a training course, or better ‘development course’, you will have to map out beforehand what could be of value for the customer.

Training activities are often promoted as a product or solution to a problem. Trainers are used to intervene fast and that is something the client also likes. But by intervening fast you stop the development process of the participants. External stimuli such as offering knowledge and skills are not taken in by the student as being something from themselves. Employees act mechanical and hold on to the change for a short moment of time, but soon after that what was learned vanishes into thin air. Only 10% of what was learned is still present after 4 weeks. Offering training as a flat one-dimensional product often doesn’t lead to the desired result. Why is that?

The customer can be caught in a symptom fight. There is a gap between the desired situation and the current situation and this gap needs to be narrowed.

Fighting symptoms leads to a repetition of moves. An organization just stays in the same old pattern. Evaluating way beyond the subjective standards, like the experience of the participant, starts with a good diagnosis. When this intake/drawing up an inventory of the training needs is not done properly, the training will be a temporary symptom fight that does not lead to a change/improvement that will sink in properly. As a trainer it is important to look beyond this dimension with the customer and to help him get further than his blind spot. This means that research is needed to determine the different layers of the organization before a development course can be advised.

What does a trainer have to see through before advising a course?
Apart from mapping the strategy, the processes and procedures it is necessary to investigate why the change/improvement is partly successful. The processes (aimed at culture, norm behaviour and attitude) that can count within an organization can be researched at meta level from a distance via a helicopter view. But it is equally important to go over it with a fine-tooth comb and get into the details. Getting a clear view of what is going on on process level, can only be done by actually going there. One is so used to getting away from where the problem is, from where the painful points are. By covering up the pain or potency and by fighting the symptoms you cannot achieve a real change.

The trick is being able to observe and dare to research the process. Whatever presents itself during the contact and the moment, whether it is resistance or not. That it can be so and can be explored; daring to research the different layers of the organization that influence the achievement of the desired results.

On the basis of the analysis of the strategy, processes and procedures, but more important the culture and norm behaviour of employees and management, a course can be advised. The course will be more than a training, it will be a development course of which training can be a part in order to achieve the desired improvement/change.

What is needed to start this process?
Man inherently wants to develop himself, to show his strength. It is all there at the basis, but one of the preconditions will have to be that the employees and the management get the possibility to let grow all that is already inherently present. By using their own strength and creativity they will take up responsibility when dealing with these processes and won’t have any trouble giving the task a personal interpretation. Man is like a blossoming rose. It already possesses the smell, colour and appearance; but it is the nourishment that makes sure the rose can blossom. This has a great impact on the trainer’s role.

What is the trainer’s role in this process?
The trainer/coach plays an important role as facilitator. As facilitator one can start the process from different dimensions; he makes sure one can develop himself on the existential (being) level. By supporting that the process can be unfolded in its entire scope, thus being able to stand still and see what is happening, there will be room to grow. This means that a temporary non-movement is necessary. Something that the customer will not expect at first.

It is like a diamond cutter who looks at the form of the rough-hewn stone before he starts polishing. Instead of adding a layer of varnish, he will let the core of the stone shine by processing area per area. The beauty of the diamond originates in every part and always shines in a different way. By regularly looking at the diamond from a distance and polishing it with care, the process will crystallize out. The grindstone gets the transparency of the stone out. Friction is necessary to get past the resistance in order to feel whether there is support. Friction shows the strength of the stone and from this strength one can feel and see whether something is really supported. On the basis of this information the form is born. The trainer takes up an intermediate position where he can work on the stone from the bottom-up (management) to the base-down (employees). Apart from being translucent and shining, the stone also shows prism. Perspective opens and broadens.
The narrowed perspective used at the start of the training will be broadened to a panoramic vision. By using room, there is room for growth. During the phase of research and intake it is thus necessary that management and employees get involved in the process in order to create a support system for change.

How do people learn?
People can only develop themselves when they get positive stimulation, can work autonomously, are trusted and taken care of when making mistakes. This safety net offers containment and generates safety. And safety is necessary to learn how to develop yourself.
By getting touched on an existential level, people start moving. Everything is already there at the basis. By using different interventions in a development course people are touched in the very core which makes them able to really learn and really remember that which they have learned.

Multiple intelligences
Intelligence is the capacity to learn. This can be done in different (multiple) ways. The following levels have been mapped out:
These intelligences are:

• Language intelligence (“word smart”):
• Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number smart”)
• Spatial intelligence (“photo/visual smart”)
• Bodily-physio intelligence (“body smart”)
• Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
• Inter-personal intelligence (“people smart”)
• Intra-personal intelligence (“self smart”)
• Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

This means that one will get touched faster by some ways than others. Mozart for instance was musical intelligent.

A couple of these multiple intelligences use that which is stored within someone before he is able to talk. That means that during this phase the senses were used to learn. By stimulating the senses, people are touched on an existential level. These experiences will last and lead to a real change. By intervening on these levels one will show itself faster and start a lasting change, that is; on the condition of a safe learning environment.

What does that mean for the devotion of a trainer?
The trainer can bring a group that far only if the trainer is there as well. The evolution of evaluation start with the evaluation of the trainer. What qualities does the trainer have and what does the organization need? Who is used for what? Every employee, every member of the organization gives his own touch, his own colour, to the organization.

The trick is to use every colour of the palette to make a beautiful painting. Pre-evaluation leads to (r)evolution within the development of organizations. And the end evaluation? That will be valuable.

Dideke Ros is Senior Trainer/coach at Tele’Train (www.teletrain.nl)