Real evaluation transforms organisations

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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Paul Kearns outlines how real evaluation can make a significant contribution to the evaluation of training effectiveness.

Real evaluation is not about ‘happy sheets’, questionnaires or surveys. Arguments about return-on-investment (ROI) or different evaluation models completely miss the point too.

No one knows whether learning is effective unless real evaluation takes place. Real evaluation ensures that all training has a clear purpose. In other words, you cannot divide learning and evaluation.

A lesson from the NHS

Lets’s look at a case study from the NHS’s Modernisation Agency Leadership Centre. In 2004, the Leadership Centre declared that: “Improved leadership will improve patient’s care, treatment and experience – improve the health of the population.”

This was quite a bold assumption! Furthermore, they had no evidence to back this up. Statements like these also reveal ignorance of real evaluation. You can’t claim success before real evaluation. You don’t put the cart before the horse! In fact, the NHS evaluated the Leadership Centre well after the creation of this expensive edifice.

The Leadership Centre did not convince anyone of its value. It disbanded during publication of the evaluation guide. The NHS did not even follow its own good medical practice. There was no post mortem, and they buried the body without ceremony!

What is real evaluation?

  • Real evaluation is about evidence-based learning.
  • It has a crystal clear purpose from the outset
  • It checks commitment to learning from the most senior levels of management. In addition, it exposes those only willing to pay lip service.
  • Real evaluation is about accountability as well as engaging the hearts and minds of the learner: the wellspring of all effective learning.

Any training organisation that does not want to know what works in practice, through real evaluation, is in stasis or deteriorating. Real evaluation, by definition, produces real learning. Furthermore, real learning sets up the next iterative cycle of evaluation.

Anne Sexton

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