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The Trainer’s Handbook

Chapter 5 - Evaluating Your Effectiveness

Case Histories. A case history is an enlarged project session. Rather than addressing an isolated incident, it encompasses many separate events in realistic complexity. It is usually structured around a single large problem or event that must be solved by using techniques covered in your training.

Case histories can bring the subject alive for your group. They are a way of approaching real-life problems. In writing a case history for the group, remember to define the basic situation (company, division, and so forth) and then describe the problem and the events that led up to it. Also mention any complications, barriers, political drawbacks, or missing data. Provide all necessary and relevant data, then ask specific questions that will help the group solve the case.

Make the case history real. Use the same sources and approaches as for project sessions, but develop a rich context for them. People love stories. The more realistic texture you can provide, the more you’ll motivate and involve the group.

The cases should be realistically complex; they need to be challenging. Therefore, save them until trainees have mastered enough material to solve them, or use the case histories as a topic around which to structure each step or phase of your lesson. Have answers to most of the questions but leave some unanswered as would be the case in real life. Use the group’s answers whenever possible as correct or acceptable ones.

Case histories can be assigned to individuals or to groups. If given to individuals, they can challenge and motivate learners who are ahead of the others. They can also be used to involve shy participants who wouldn’t get much input in group work. On the other hand, it is more work for you to evaluate. If you are not prepared to give them individual attention, don’t assign cases to individuals. When groups handle a case history, the work simulates the real world in that it forces the members of the group to cooperate. It also builds team spirit in class and encourages sharing of knowledge–the most experienced help the least experienced. Group work also encourages division of labor, as more complex tasks are divided up. Lastly, the group activity can be evaluated in more detail because you’ll have fewer case histories to review and critique.

Practice Sessions. As with the project sessions, make these hands-on practices as real as possible. Again, material should come from real-life situations. In the case of technical training, use the actual equipment that would be in the field. If that’s not feasible, use as close to the real thing as possible. The purpose here is to simulate reality. Use real forms, real computer programs, or real job templates.

However, when they are not available, alternatives to actual situations include computer-generated simulations (such as interactive videodisc or CD-ROM); computer-generated data (which involves either writing or buying a program–see Chapters 7, 9, and 10 for more information on both of these computer options); buying or building a working model of the equipment; acquiring a similar piece of equipment; using old equipment that approximates the operation; working with real equipment that is not on-line (after hours, back-up equipment, or equipment being serviced).

But regardless of what you have to work on, create clearly defined, structured tasks that involve the skills you have taught. Make sure each objective is covered, but nothing more. Be certain your trainees know what it is they are to solve or do. If possible, have checkpoints at which everyone can stop and evaluate the work in progress. These checkpoints give you more control and give the trainees an early chance to correct errors. Lastly, have a correct method or model to refer to.

Whereas hands-on practice is most appropriate in situations involving equipment or procedures, role-playing is a good way to practice interaction skills. If there is reluctance to participate in role-playing, assign teams, with each team responsible for one role. Have the teams prepare a strategy for their side and select who will play the role. This takes each player off the hook. Individuals can blame the team’s strategy, if need be. Also, using teams allows the “hams” to go first and break the ice, but it keeps them under control too, because they don’t want to let the team down.

Team role-playing allows everyone to participate. If you don’t have enough time for everyone to role-play, the team approach lets you begin it in an organized way, yet stop when you need to without cutting anyone off. If you have time, it ensures that everyone role-plays without your having to force them. Lastly, the team activity builds the competition that makes the team a group.

As an alternative to the team approach, you can encourage greater realism by breaking the class into groups of three. Each one then takes a turn playing a role while the third critiques the other two. This frees you to wander and critique other trios. Make sure, though, that the feedback given follows a clear model, that the ones giving that feedback have carefully structured formats for providing it. Otherwise this variation of role-playing has a tendency to become a case of the blind leading the blind. It doesn’t work.

If understanding is lacking, interrupt the role-play and have participants switch roles. If the situations aren’t public and your trainees are self-conscious, consider videotaping the role-play in private. Then allow the group to view and critique the tape. If possible, videotape all role-plays in any event to let participants see themselves in action. See Chapter 10 for how to use video.

Always schedule time to discuss and analyze the performances. The evaluations are as important as the sessions themselves. Also, structure your evaluations. Don’t critique off the top of your head, but rather set objectives for yourself and the trainees, then cover all bases. Avoid information overload. If an individual is very poor, pick the most readily correctable problem, forget the rest of the performance, and concentrate on bringing that one skill up to par. Once you succeed, work on each of the other problems in turn. Lastly, praise in equal measure, but praise only what is truly good. False praise demotivates almost as fast as too much criticism.

> Examinations

Excerpts from Chapter 5, The Trainer's Handbook

  1. Evaluating Effectiveness
  2. Short-term Evaluation
  3. Project Sessions
  4. Case Histories and Practice Sessions
  5. Examinations
  6. Types of Exam Questions
  7. Assessment Sessions
  8. Self-evaluation
  9. On-the-Job Evaluation
  10. Long-term Evaluations
  11. Bottom-line Evaluation

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