July 2, 2014

Traditionally, the model for a training program begins with a pretest and ends with a post-test (exam). Typically, the trainee takes these tests only days (or, sometimes, only hours) apart. If effective skills training is your objective, I would maintain that comparing the two scores is an almost meaningless activity.

Rather, in addition to the typical post-test, a repeat of that test six months, or more, after the initial training will give you a far better measurement of a trainee’s retention —- your ultimate goal.

Among several objections to the pre- and post-test model is the obvious one that a trainee’s short term memory will recall answers to the pre-test he took only days (or, hours) before he takes the post-test —- and, short term memory is not what you’re trying to measure.

In addition, some courseware vendors have begun promoting their pre-tests as prescriptive tools. If a trainee passes certain sections of the pre-test, she will be automatically taken only to those learning units she did not pass. She will not be directed to the other learning units.

There is a real danger with this practice. Pre-tests provided by vendors’ courseware are incomplete testing units. They typically have only one-to-five questions pertaining to each learning objective in the program. With those few questions, it is impossible to gauge the student’s mastery of that learning objective. Forced placement will most often cheat the learner from thoroughly understanding the knowledge he is seeking.

We also know from many surveys that individuals can guess correctly and, consequently due to forced placement, be directed to skip sections of the learning that they never mastered in the first place. All in all, forced skipping of learning sections is a dangerous practice if knowledge mastery is desired.

On the other hand, the best way to test your trainees is “hands-on” —- either in a simulation-based lab or out on the plant floor. It’s skills acquisition you’re trying to measure and what better place to evaluate the trainee’s newly acquired knowledge!

Enjoy your holiday weekend! More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning (Tuesdays & Thursdays)