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Training: How do you assess what your trainees know?

Updated: Mar 8

Teaching or training is an art form. One of the biggest challenges facing teachers and instructors is discovering how well information being taught is understood. After all, if what has been taught has not been effectively understood and absorbed, what is the point of continuing with more advanced information? How can you assess what they know? Obviously, you need to obtain feedback from the trainee or student. This can be done by asking verbal questions relating to the topic or using some form of written test. For either approach, the instructor must give considerable thought to what is truly important for the learners to know - and must then craft verbal or written questions designed to fairly evaluate their comprehension of those key pieces of information. For example, let's say a group of trainees is taking a course on motor grader operation; specifically, on its blade pitch design and application. The instructor may ask, "Should the blade be pitched forward, set perpendicular or pitched back when spreading loose material?" The responses from the trainees will indicate comprehension or will point to a need for further explanation of this subject. A follow-up question can then be used to elicit more specific information, such as blade pitch settings when cutting clay or gravel or soft sandy loam. This type of progressive evaluation of the learner's comprehension helps to ensure improved competence and performance. It also gives the instructor a chance to re-visit the subject if it is not fairly understood. This is not as easy as it sounds. It requires a lot of knowledge and thought by the instructor before even beginning to teach the information. Then it requires practice to see how well trainees can be drawn into revealing what they have learned without fear of embarrassment in a group of peers. All of this reveals the instructional skills of the teacher - that is the art of training. It has been said "If you really want to understand a subject; teach it." Think about that for minute. No instructor is anxious to look foolish in front of a class due to a lack of knowledge. This commitment to securing the proper domain expertise leads to superior instructional design. But that's what it takes to create top-notch training programs. And it's what guides our instructional designers. We're very proud of that fact. - Ray Peterson

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