Evaluating Instructional Design
Evaluation is the systematic determination of merit, worth, and significance of a learning or training process by comparing criteria against a set of standards. While the evaluation phase is often listed last in the ISD process, it is actually ongoing throughout the entire process. This is what partially makes ISD or ADDIE a dynamic process rather than just a waterfall or linear process. This dynamic process of evaluation can best be shown with this model (Department of the Army, 2011):
The primary purpose is to ensure that the stated goals of the learning process will actually meet the required business need. Thus, it is performed not only at the end of the process, but also during the first four phases of the ISD process:
Analysis: Is the performance problem a training problem? How will implementing a learning platform positively impact a business need or goal? What must the learners be able to do in order to ensure the required change in performance?
Design: What must be learned by the learners that will enable them to fulfill the required business need or goal?
Development: What activities will best bring about the required performance?
Implementation: Have the learners now become performers (have the skills and knowledge to perform the required tasks)?
Evaluation: Formative evaluations are performed during the first four ADDIE phases (shown in the inner circle of the above model), while the last phase is normally used for a summative evaluation (shown in the outer circle of the above model).
The two main requirements that must be performed during the evaluation phase are, 1) ensuring the learners can actually meet the new performance standards once they have completed their training and returned to their jobs; 2) ensuring that the business need or goal is actually being met.
The most exciting place in teaching is the gap between what the teacher teaches and what the student learns. This is where the unpredictable transformation takes place, the transformation that means that we are human beings, creating and dividing our world, and not objects, passive and defined. - Alice Reich (1983).
Evaluations help to measure Reich's gap by determining the value and effectiveness of a learning program. It uses assessment and validation tools to provide data for the evaluation. Assessment is the measurement of the practical results of the training in the work environment; while validation determines if the objectives of the training goal were met.
Bramley and Newby (1984) identified five main purposes of evaluation:
Feedback - Linking learning outcomes to objectives and providing a form of quality control.
Control - Making links from training to organizational activities and to consider cost effectiveness.
Research - Determining the relationships between learning, training, and the transfer of training to the job.
Intervention - The results of the evaluation influence the context in which it is occurring.
Power games - Manipulating evaluative data for organizational politics (bad).
A literature review for the 17 year period leading up to 1986 suggested that there is a widespread under-evaluation of learning and performing processes, and that what is being done is of uneven quality (Foxon, 1989). However, with today's economy and organizations looking to cut programs that do not work, this lackadaisical attitude towards training evaluation is changing, not necessarily towards ROI (Return on Investment), but rather towards ensuring that training supports the stakeholders' needs. This is primarily because stakeholders for the most part do not view training as a profit center but rather as a strategic partner who supports their goals.
It is based on Kirkpatrick's Four Levels of Evaluation (1975); however, it starts with the last step and works backwards to achieve the desired goals. Three of the levels, Reaction (motivation), Learning, and Behavior (performance) are measured using formative evaluations, while the last step, Results, are used to judge the overall worth of the learning platform (summative evaluation).
Go to the next section: Formative and Summative Evaluations
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Bramley, P., Newby, A.C. (1984). The Evaluation Of Training Part I: Clarifying The Concept. Journal of European & Industrial Training, 8(6), 10-16.
Foxon, M. (1989). Evaluation of training and development programs: A review of the literature. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 5(2), 89-104.
Kirkpatrick, D.L. (1975). Techniques for Evaluating Training Programs. Evaluating training programs in D.L. Kirkpatrick (ed.) Alexandria, VA: ASTD.
Department of the Army (2011). Army Learning Policy and Systems. TRADOC Regulation 350-70.