One question that keeps cropping up relates to the idea of non-assessable groups. Most of the time, it takes the form of the following statement:
‘It’s neither possible nor desirable to assess everyone! For certain groups, it’s not politically correct. For others, it can turn out to be counter-productive.’
You’ll have guessed that this refers to the fact that (a) training managers are often reluctant to assess senior management and (b) you can expect some staff members to be uncomfortable with assessment, or even refuse to be assessed.
This reflects both a paradox and a misunderstanding
The paradox is that the corporate world is founded on the idea of measurement. Goal-oriented management and annual appraisals are key performance tools nobody would dream of doing without. ‘You can only manage what you can measure’, say business leaders; refusing to assess training means being unable to provide the key indicators they demand.
The misunderstanding often lies in an over-simplistic definition of assessment.
If you look at assessment as just a ranking and scoring system (our school system is based on such principles), reluctance on the part of trainers seems justified. Assessment is a form of endorsement that opens or closes doors. It symbolizes success for some, and failure for others. But it would be naive and dangerous to do away with the selection process altogether; no one would agree to be operated on by an amateur surgeon!
On the other hand, looking at assessment as a management tool leads us to systematize its use. To support the development of a group of people, ranking everyone on a grid is just the first step. Other forms of assessment must then allow you to incentivize learners, customize their training paths, adapt courses to their needs and, ultimately, celebrate their successes.
This means that assessment must be prescriptive as well as analytical.
It means you have to go beyond the traditional definition of assessment as a scoring and ranking system and understand its potential as a management aid and a motivational and development tool. As soon as you do this, you see that the misgivings of most training professionals disappear.
There are three key assessment types that are used in addition to selective evaluation to ensure that it is prescriptive as well as analytical.
Let’s compare these three types of assessment to what a doctor does.
- Predictive assessment is like a medical examination. It‘s an exploratory process that allows you to make a diagnosis, to identify symptoms and determine their causes. In training, this corresponds to the pre-course assessment carried out to determine the level of a group with respect to a set of skills. If gives the learner a clear view of where he’s starting from and the main areas he needs to focus on. And it helps the trainer to define prerequisites, devise relevant training paths, put people into level-based groups where necessary, and determine to what extent different training modalities should be used.
- Formative assessment can be prepared to the doctor’s prescription. It’s used throughout the learning process to monitor progress. It allows the learners to measure their level, track their progress, and see the next steps they need to follow. And it gives the trainer vital information so that he can fine-tune the course and provide focused support for groups or even individual learners where needed.
- Summative assessment is like the examination that confirms that the patient is cured… or shows that the treatment must continue. It takes place at the end of the course, or at the end of each key stage of a long course, and serves to determine whether goals have been achieved. It most often takes the form of an accreditation, and constitutes the ultimate goal of the learning process.
So it’s not all about jostling for first place: the focus is on working together, raising the bar, and ultimately creating a sense of professional fulfillment for each and every staff member.
What if assessment were to become a source of motivation instead of a cause of stress?