Passing a Post Test Matters, But On-the-Job Performance Matters More

Passing the Test is Not the Point

“Teaching to the test.” You’ve heard that phrase before, but it’s likely been leveled at primary school teachers and students. However, it also applies to business training.

ID-10069296We’re working on a new case study about a healthcare organization that has been trained to use Business Impact 2.0. This organization uses our software to develop internal, measurable training programs for their employees. The person we interviewed for that case study said this: “For most people in education, if students pass the post test then that’s great. But if they pass the post test but can’t perform on the job then what have we really done to affect the ultimate outcome?”

That’s the crux of the problem. A student can take training and pass a test after the class. But if that training doesn’t transfer to the job, then what was accomplished? If you’re training employees but it’s not delivering results, what’s the point?

What’s the Actual Problem?

Drill down further.

  • Is the training the problem? Was the training poorly designed? Did it lack specific on-the-job objectives?
  • Is the work environment the problem? Are managers not on board with new initiatives or do they contradict what was taught in the classroom?
  • Is the student the problem? Is he or she ill-prepared for the job? Is there an underlying performance issue that needs to be addressed?

Before training design starts, you must develop specific objectives. You must know what outcome you want before training starts. Next, a training designer determines what types of learning will create the desired outcome. Then you need a way to measure the outcomes.

The way to increase knowledge and skills is to design a program that enables participants to learn and apply new content.  The main skill set and value of a trainer is the ability to know what helps adults learn and how to design a program which, when followed, results in learning.  Trainers must determine the content needed to improve performance and the best method to use for instruction. These two things are revealed in the training design. Training design dictates the effectiveness of instruction and the success of acquiring new knowledge and skills within the classroom environment.

The Training Product Is Effective Training Design

When we recognize that the training product is actually the design of an effective program, measurement becomes much easier. If programs are designed to improve a knowledge or skill then it stands to reason that we measure the acquisition of these outcomes.  The value of training is shown in the ability of the training programs to improve both the knowledge and skills of the employees on the job.  We can easily measure if the content of the program was appropriate for the job, and if the combination of the design and facilitation resulted in an improvement in performance.  Specifically, a knowledge gain can be assessed with a knowledge test, and skill gain can be assessed through a behavior change.

A student can pass a test, but without transfer to on-the-job behavior change, then the training was a waste of time. Do you agree? In your experience with business training, does it often amount to “teaching to the test”? Tell us in the comments.

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