Why Evaluate Adult Learning Projects?

By: Sonia Di Maulo, Founder and Lead Feedback Enthusiast

* Proposed answer to question posed in the title below… keep reading.

Evaluation Kills Learning

I recently attended a presentation entitled, Assessment:The Silent Killer of Learning by Eric Mazur. The focus was on assessment in higher education yet the themes worked very well for organizational assessment. Below is the abstract:

Why is it that stellar students sometimes fail in the workplace while dropouts succeed? One reason is that most, if not all, of our current assessment practices are inauthentic. Just as the lecture focuses on the delivery of information to students, so does assessment often focus on having students regurgitate that same information back to the instructor. Consequently, assessment fails to focus on the skills that are relevant in life in the 21st century. Assessment has been called the “hidden curriculum” as it is an important driver of students’ study habits. Unless we rethink our approach to assessment, it will be very difficult to produce a meaningful change in education.

In corporate education, measurement fails to focus on the application of the new skills, knowledge and attitude after learning events and the expected impact for the future of the organization and it’s customers.

Improvement: The Goal of Evaluation


The talk blew my mind. And given that I was going to lead my own course in higher education the very next day, I wanted to make changes!  And change, application or improvement after learning is the ultimate goal, right?

So I assessed my own curriculum and found that I was doing some things right:

  • Mastery learning and level 3 feedback: applying learnings over multiple assignments based on peer and instructor feedback during the course as opposed to getting graded and moving on
  • Learning during assessment: students actually further their learning while they get graded

What I hadn’t considered was to include the Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IFAT) or Calibrated Peer Review (CPR)… thank you Mr. Mazur.  The purpose of assessment in higher education is to enable and grow independant thinking that lives past the final exam, right? I would like to enable learners to innovate and take these ideas to create new ideas… as new ideas can help find solutions to future challenges and change the world! Are we creating leaders for the future or for the past?

If a student asks me what I want for an assignment, I answer, “What do you want to give me?” I would like to foster a focus on learning before grades and attempt to provide structure and guidance to enable this.

Evaluating Adult Learning Projects

And I look forward to trying these new techniques during my new workshop: Evaluating Adult Learning Projects.

So, I will be demonstrating “Evaluation Techniques” while teaching “Evaluation”. It will be a double challenge for me, given this is the first time I deliver this course design… and I feel up to the challenge.

The course will mainly focus on designing and managing evaluation and measurement of non-capital expenditures in the corporate world, with an emphasis on how to do this in the educational setting.

So the answer to the question offered by this blog post, Why Evaluate Adult Learning Projects? is simple. To:

  1. Prove the investment is worth the effort, time, and expense
  2. Demonstrate impact provided by the project (both tangible and intangible)
  3. Show that people have changed their behaviours and attitudes after learning
  4. Measure the degree of learning during the project
  5. Ensure a pleasurable journey of learning

This is a chain reaction that MUST be planned in this order and measured starting with #5, as one impacts the other. And if we don’t evaluate, then:

  • How can we grow and improve?
  • How will we know what we are doing right?
  • How will we know what people need, to enable continued growth and impact?

Everything is connected. We are all responsible for impact of the projects we design. Let’s prove the value of learning beyond “smile sheets”. Together anything is possible!

Reflection During Learning

This blog post will host my students learnings over the next 6 weeks. They will post weekly learnings and have the opportunity to read each other’s learnings week after week. The goal is to post learnings and impact beyond a summary and to create a community of learning where we all help each other to learn and grow!

The goals of this reflective exercise are to:

  • Help students make their own connections on how to apply course knowledge to their current realities
  • To assimilate and link the current reality back to course work
  • Foster a deeper understanding of course material
  • Develop/refine critical thinking skills: identify issues, being receptive to new or different ideas, and building off of the learnings of their peers
  • Invite the global community to share and connect which will propel the learnings further

They will use their weekly postings to present their final assignment, which presents what they are able to do (and what they will do) with their learnings once the workshop is done!

Your INVITATION: As students post their learnings, I would like to invite you to learn right along with us (I have learned so much from students!). Please share your own thoughts and conclusions and create a learning community beyond our little (yet powerful) learning group.

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