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Evaluation is where the participants and trainers are required to judge the quality and success of the training.

It is essential that the trainer receives feedback from participants on the effectiveness of the course. It is also important for participants to have the possibility to raise concerns, make suggestions and reflect on what they have learnt. Evaluation helps the trainer to refine and improve the design, content and delivery on a regular basis.

General impressions in the training room

As you gain experience as a trainer you will be able to tell from the behaviour of your participants and the group dynamics whether or not the training is effective. For example, if the group is asking a lot of relevant questions, offering their own experiences and problems and/or participating actively in the exercises and set tasks, this indicates that they are enjoying the training — and therefore are probably finding it useful and relevant. Often participants who feel they have benefited from the training will say something to the trainers as they leave the room — even a mere thank you implies that the participant has appreciated the experience!

Planning written participant evaluations

It is however important to collect more concrete and objective evidence about the training which can be used to improve and plan future training events. You will want to gain information on:

Timing and length of evaluation

In developing your evaluation form you need to take into consideration the fact that most participants will not wish to spend a long time filling it out. You should also decide whether a shorter evaluation completed by most participants before they leave the room is of more value over all than a more detailed one which participants take away and which a proportion never return to you. For short courses it is best to give the evaluation out at the end of the day so that it can be completed before participants leave. If the training course is spread over several days it can be a good idea to ensure that the participants have the evaluation form at the beginning of the course — and you could even give them time each day to complete a relevant portion. Evaluations work better for longer courses than short ones; it is as if the participants are prepared to spend a proportional amount of time on it.

What to include in the participant evaluation

Here is a checklist of the various aspects of the training to be included in the evaluation:

It is up to you whether you decide the evaluation should be anonymous or not. Anonymity will give your participants the freedom to be frank in their comments and judgements and in any case usually the most positive evaluations are marked by the fact the participant has chosen to sign their comments.

How to phrase questions to give qualitative responses

It is possible to develop evaluation forms which ask for more subjective and free-form responses from participants, for example using open questions such as “What did you think of the session on archival description?”. However, twenty responses to this question, each potentially giving a unique variation, can be hard to render into a useful overall judgement on the success of the session and what might be done to improve it. It is better to ask a clear question and request a judgement based on a scale of one to five or six. An example of this approach is given below:

Session Was the content useful and adequate? Was the content delivered in an interesting way?
 Circle number which reflects your assessment
Introduction and First Principles 1   2   3   4   5 1   2   3   4   5
 KEY: 1. excellent; 2. good; 3. OK; 4. poor; 5. disappointing

Follow-up for participant evaluations

Whilst it is good practice to evaluate training, there is no point in wasting time collecting this sort of evidence if you are not going to act on the results. If the evaluations are mainly positive, there may not be much that you wish to change — although participant evaluations can be positive yet include good ideas for changes in content or amplification of material either in the sessions or handouts. You will need to exercise your own judgement about minority negative evaluations. Perhaps the minority have valid criticisms which you can address whilst maintaining the things that the majority have obviously appreciated. This is where a combination of participant written evaluation and your own assessment of the training experience is useful.

Trainer evaluation

It is also good practice for the trainer to evaluate the training. Even if you only take five minutes to reflect on the participant evaluations and your own assessment of the way the course has worked this can be used to adjust any future repeat of the training. If you have been commissioned to deliver the training, or of you need to report on your training activity you will want to put together a more structured breakdown of the course.

Here is a checklist of the various elements you might want to include in a report on a training course:

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Last updated: 20 December 2005