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Evaluation is a crucial element of two key learning models


It is amazing how little evaluation takes place when one realises that two of the best known learning models both demonstrate how important evaluation is in the whole process of learning.

The PDCA cycle is a cycle of performance and learning.

The first is the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act). This is often called a 'total quality' cycle because it fosters continuous improvement. It is iterative, it tests a hypothesis. Look at the figure below to see how the four stages of this model fit together

The Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle

It tells us whether improvements that we planned to achieve were actually achieved. Imagine that you 'Plan' to increase sales by 10 per cent by training salespeople. After we 'Do' the training this model says we must 'Check' that sales figures have improved. If we replace the 'Check' stage with 'Evaluate' it is absolutely clear how crucial evaluation is in any training or development initiative.

Regardless of whether sales have increased or not we have to 'Act' on this information (or Review where we are). If the training is not working maybe we should redesign it? Maybe we got the training needs analysis wrong? On the other hand, if it is working then maybe other people ought to go on the programme? This is called a 'feedback loop', a crucial concept in learning.

It is as important, if not more important, to know when things are not working, as it is to know when they are working. The old adage, 'we learn from our mistakes' is encapsulated in the PDCA system.

Kolb's Learning Cycle is based on evaluating our experiences

Just to emphasise how many seminal ideas are very closely linked take a look at the diagram below. This is a simplified version of Kolb's* learning cycle. It shows how we learn from the experiences we have.

Figure 3. A version of Kolb's Learning cycle

Imagine the salespeople on the sales training programme. What was their experience of the training like? Did it help them? Did they find that customers bought more from them after the training? Did they have any adverse experiences during the training such as a difficulty with being more assertive or trying to sell the customer something they did not really want? All of these experiences will influence the trainees' ability to learn. If they do not learn it is unlikely they will get results. If they do not get results our evaluation will be zero.

PDCA and Kolb are the same concept

Kolb is almost identical to the PDCA cycle with its planning, experiencing, reviewing and concluding stages. Putting these two ideas together we can see that measurement, learning and improvement are just 3 facets of the same process. They all fit together perfectly.

The Baseline Evaluation Model used by EvaluationZone adheres to these two models and together they can be applied to any learning intervention be it classroom based, elearning or one-to-one coaching.

*Note – In the original text Kolb actually refers to four stages of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. I much prefer this simpler terminology.

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