An Essential Guide to Learner Assessment

Assessing learner progress and understanding can be tricky, but it’s an essential part of creating a training environment that is conducive to online learning. In this guide, you’ll learn how to assess learner progress accurately, choosing the right assessment techniques for your content area and the needs of your learners.

Establish Goals and Objectives.

Before starting any type of learner assessment, you must know the desired outcome for your learners. Ideally, this should line up with the goals and objectives of your program. Establishing goals and objectives is the first step to set a clear direction in terms of what you want from your learners and how you plan to measure it. 

Smart program managers like you probably understand the value of goal-setting when setting up other types of programs. But setting succinct goals of any type can be difficult. You must look inside your program and understand both how it works and how your trainees are best motivated.

It’s important to make sure that all of your goals are reachable and measurable, as this will make it easier for you to assess learner progress later on.

When you’re setting goals and objectives for training, use the SMART mnemonic to make sure you’re creating the best quality ones that you can actually track. Make sure your goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant 
  • Time-based 

Read more about SMART goals for your training program.

Structure Assessment Around Standards and Competencies.

With the end goal in mind, structure your learner assessment around training standards and job requirements. Explore competency-based training (CBT) as a way to tighten up your focus and outcomes of training.

CBT is a style of training that breaks an entire program down into separate courses or modules. Each module zeroes in on one individual skill. It’s an efficient way of tailoring a bigger program to the needs of individual learners.

For example, let’s say you’re in charge of assembling training on mental health skills to health professionals. You might first perform a training needs assessment to find out deficiencies, and then you can seek out modules that are written by subject area experts. These should align you’re your local or national mental health priorities that are attainable for learners at all learning levels. Assessments should relate directly to the skills and knowledge taught during the lesson plan and be used to show how well those concepts were learned.

Administer Formative and Summative Assessment Tools.

There are two main types of learner assessment: formative and summative.

Formative assessments help educators understand what’s going well and what needs improvement. Formative assessments are used throughout the teaching and learning process to measure learner mastery of material; they’re not meant for grading or calculating getting a final grade.

It is good practice to implement a variety of formative assessment tools including quizzes, worksheets, multimedia projects, observations and more. 

On the flip side, summative assessments provide data that can be used to make decisions about future instruction. These assessments are usually used as a benchmark at the end of a teaching unit or course to evaluate learner learning. These are more formal methods such as end-of-module tests, projects and essays which can be graded in order to give learners their final grades.

Analyze Learner Performance Data.

After assessing your learners, it’s important to review the performance data and analyze how each learner did. This can help you pinpoint what areas of the curriculum need more attention or where a learner may have struggled. 

[Related: 10 Training Metrics to Measure Online Training Success]

These training metrics also prove valuable when it comes to tracking overall progress and the success of your program.

You can also use your assessment data to better guide upcoming lessons based on individual learners or the group’s needs.

Follow Up with Individualized Learning Plans and Action Steps.

Once you review your learner assessment data and identify areas of need, it’s important to create individualized learning plans that include specific action steps. 

Meeting regularly with learners allows you to further assess their progress on these goals, review and revise their plans if necessary, and work together to ensure mastery of the content. 

An annual training plan can help. This document is your navigation system for organizing, delivering, and repeating employee instruction whenever you need it.

Following up in this way is key for tracking a learner’s growth over time as well as providing them with much needed support.

Follow the above tips as a path to a reliable strategy for getting the most out of your assessments. 

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