Tips and Tools on Evaluating Learning


Evaluation: Appraising the value or worth of some educational undertaking such as a curriculum, a particular instructional procedure, an individual performance in some area of learning, or a conference.


Two kinds of evaluation:


Formative: Less typical, occurs at each stage of an event, used for improving instructor, learner, or program performance; examples include end-of-session evaluation forms, informal interviews with learners, participant observations, etc.


Summative: Most typical, occurs primarily at the end of an event, used for assessing learner performance, justifying a program's worth, or ensuring a learning activity has been effective; examples include final exams, term projects, supervisory ratings, instructor evaluation forms, course evaluation forms, smile sheets, post meeting reaction forms, etc.


Some evaluation concepts:

        Evaluating in relation to your philosophy

        Evaluating in context of learning goals

        Learning contracts

o   Personal evaluation

o   Instructor inputs

o   Outside validators

o   Evaluation teams, etc.

o   Grading, testing, or critiquing



o   Negotiating with learners

o   Understanding institutional policies


Some evaluation tools:

        Post meeting reaction sheets

        Various interview techniques

        Evaluation groups

        Direct observations

        Using a variety of instruments


Evaluation involves answering several questions:

        What were the objectives?

        What did the learners or participants do?

        How were the objectives implemented?

        How did the learners implement the objectives?

        Were the objectives realized?

        Did the learners have success?


Some recommended evaluation steps:

1.     Review the objectives

2.     Determine who is best qualified to do the evaluation

3.     Develop the desirable methods to achieve the desired evaluation plan

4.     Implement the evaluation procedures

5.     Summarize, analyze, and interpret the findings

6.     Write an appropriate report

7.     Reorganize present plans and activities in light of the evaluation data


Some evaluation standards:

        Utility (serving the practical information needs of audiences)

        Feasibility (ensuring the evaluation is realistic)

        Propriety (assuring that legal, ethical, and moral issues are addressed)

        Accuracy (revealing technically adequate information)

        Don't forget, too, to address various political, social, and philosophical issues that may be involved


Some suggestions for improving your evaluation efforts:

        Be critical of your own findings

        Recognize and take into account your own biases

        Don't draw a conclusion from a single or few observations

        Consider all causes for any observed human behavior

        Don't read into an analysis what you wanted or expected to find

        Use consistent judgment criteria

        Don't generalize beyond the limits of your data

        Finally, always tell the truth


Click here for additional insights on evaluating learners, the learning process, and yourself.


Created January 1, 2009

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