Putting Professionalism Back Into Learning

casual portrait of a business woman in her forties using technology in a bright and sunny room with her team in the background

casual portrait of a business woman in her forties using technology in a bright and sunny room with her team in the backgroundI often wonder why measuring learning has not always been required in our professional practice. Honestly, how do you know if your programs are any good if you do not measure them? Measuring learning is not that difficult. You simply determine the outcomes you expect from your learning program and measure against those outcomes. This should be a basic standard of professionalism in our field.

In fact, measuring learning is only difficult if: 1) you cannot determine what your outcomes should look like or, 2) you do not know what you did to make learning happen.

In my experience, both challenges are linked and addressed in learning design. It is in learning design that you clarify the outcomes you are looking for. It is in design that you create a plan to achieve the outcomes. Therefore, our professional practice of measurement is all about verifying design decisions.

How Do You Address Measurement Through Design?

Learning programs create new knowledge, skills, or attitudes. Therefore, the outcomes from learning programs should be one of these three things. To determine what the outcomes of a learning program are, you essentially break the program down into three distinct outcomes:

  1. Behavior skills – physically doing something
  2. Critical thinking skills – problem solving, decision making
  3. Basic knowledge – knowing content

When your learning objectives can be clarified as one of these three outcomes, the means to measure them is obvious.

To achieve professionalism in our practice requires expertise in a process/method and a means to validate and improve that practice. You can verify achievement of learning outcomes (objectives) in these ways:

  • Behavior skills are measured through observation
  • Critical thinking skills are measured through evaluations of written scenarios questions or observation
  • Basic knowledge is verified through test questions

We verify application of these objectives (their use on the job) in the same way.

The Link Between Objectives, Methods, and Measurement

Once we clearly identify the outcomes that our programs are targeting, then we can assess if students have learned them and check if they retained/applied them. If students apply their new learning, we then easily evaluate the organizational metrics that changed due to the new behaviors.

If we clearly identify the objectives (by their expected outcomes), all that is left in measurement is to determine the approach we used to achieve them.

Since professional training has been around for a long time, you would think it easy to connect outcomes to methods. Yet, in practice, this is something people struggle to address. Most learning professionals do not understand that it is the relationship between the objectives, the learning methods/strategies, and the means of measuring the objective, that create the outcome. When learning professionals understand this, they see the different drivers of outcomes to diagnose and repair their programs.

When they do not understand how they made learning happen, they lack the professionalism and understanding that allows them to improve their practice.

Measuring Learning Is Simple. Removing The Fear Of Measurement Is Difficult!

A few months ago, we spoke to a company that expressed an interest in developing a measurement strategy. After we explained that measurement would require them to identify their expected outcomes from their programs and test against them, we saw a familiar change in the room. Everyone wanted to use measurement, but without accountability for reaching specific targets.

Seriously people, we cannot have it both ways. If we want our business stakeholders to respect our expertise and professionalism, then we must be willing to hold ourselves accountable.

What does that mean? It means we identify what we are targeting, we create transparency on our methods to reach our targets, and we embrace any information that helps us improve our results.

A Litany of Excuses To Reject Professionalism

I have probably heard every excuse in the book on why trainers do not measure. One of my recent favorites came from the same company that I mentioned above. One of the managers oversaw delivering an important program to the organization. His reason for not wanting to measure was “the program is too complex already, so adding an assessment would only add to that.” In other words, I am spending a lot of the company’s money and time to deliver this content, so I do not want to spend any more time or money to figure out if I am reaching the goal.

For me, it’s hard to believe any PROFESSIONAL would take this approach. I don’t know about you, but I want to know if my design decisions and training methods are effective. I want my learners to know the skill targets of the program, know if they reached those targets, and feel confident in their jobs.

Business success depends on doing the right things in the right way. The professionalism of employees drives business success. Learning professionals say they want to fill knowledge and skill gaps to improve employee performance. If the learning department cannot verify that they are doing things the right way, it trickles down to the employee’s ability to do things the right way. How can we claim success at improving employees’ jobs if we refuse to verify that we are doing our jobs well?

Why Professionalism Is Necessary

When you look for synonyms for professional you will find words like competent, qualified, skillful. To be a learning professional we need to show that we are competent, qualified, and skillful. The only way we can do this is to verify our success though measurement. Without it, our competency will always be questioned.

Does your learning team need a professionalism boost? Contact us here at eParamus and we’ll teach you instructional design methods that ensure your create measurable learning.

Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD to discuss the learning challenges you face.

Photo copyright: julief514 / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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