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Types of Training Evaluation

Date: September 3 2001

It´s no news to trainers that they have to evaluate their training program to provide evidence that it works. But what method of evaluation should you conduct? Here´s a look at formative (before) versus summative (after) training evaluation.

Formative Evaluation

What is it?
Formative evaluation occurs while a training program is forming or occurring. For example: a formative evaluation could be a pilot test, a structured walk-through, a preview or collecting continuous feedback from participants in a training program in order to modify it as needed.

How To Conduct Formative Evaluation
Here are several steps to conducting formative evaluation:

  • Review the training materials with one or two trainees.
  • Hold group discussions with the trainees to gain feedback.
  • Use the materials in a situation similar to that of an actual training program to see how the materials work.
  • Assess the materials with managers and supervisors who oversee trainees participating in training program.
  • Observe trainee behavior.
  • Give short tests to trainees.
Answer the following questions:
  • Did you identify training needs correctly?
  • Have you noticed other areas that need attention?
  • Are there indications that the training objectives will be met?
  • Do the objectives need to be revised?
  • Are the training topics being taught?
  • Have additional training topics come up which need to be taught?
Summative Evaluation

What Is It?
Summative evaluation takes place after the training program has occurred. Most articles about training evaluations, and Kirkpatrick´s famous types of evaluation are summative. For example: summative evaluation could be evaluating the attitudes and information learned after the training program has been conducted, or determining how the information provided is used back on the job.

How To Conduct Summative Evaluation
There are several methods to conducting summative evaluation:

  • Ask trainees for their opinions about the training program after it has been delivered.
  • Test trainees to learn how well they grasped the information.
  • Ask participants to demonstrate how they would use the information learned in training.
  • Conduct surveys or interviews with each participant to gain better understanding of what they learned.
  • Measure changes in production and quality of work that has been accomplished after the training program.
Answer the following questions:
  • Did you meet the training objectives?
  • Will you need to improve and modify some areas?
  • Should you conduct the training activity again?
  • How can you help the trainees attain further training?
Most trainers are familiar with formal methods of evaluation after a training program (summative). Fewer may have thought seriously about the importance of formative evaluation (although no doubt they would have used some of the core formative approaches such as a pilot test). To get the best results use both forms of evaluation: formative and summative.


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