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If you want to understand how well training is being delivered – in the classroom, the workplace or online – learner feedback is essential… but it’s not sufficient.

The evaluation forms learners are asked to complete at the end of a course can be a blessing or a curse. To put it mildly, they have a chequered reputation.  ‘Happy sheets’ full of yes-no questions have come to symbolise a compliance-led, tick-box attitude to checking the quality of training, suggesting that the foremost concerns of the training provider are the number of forms returned and average ratings given.  For many learners, faced with evaluations which skew their response towards the positive, course evaluation forms are the one chance they get to complain about having to do the training or to get even with a trainer they don’t much like.

In our view, giving learners the opportunity to comment on courses they have attended is essential because:

  • it sends them the right message
  • it generates data and information that can be used to fine tune materials, develop trainers or modify processes
  • it shines a light on the skills of the trainer. But learner feedback only has value if evaluation forms are designed well
  • it provides a feedback loop from customer to provider

These benefits cannot be delivered by a set of leading questions that skews the response -learners see straight through this. In our experience, course evaluation forms work best where:

  • they cover the whole learning experience, i.e. course administration, learning materials, trainer performance and training environment
  • there is opportunity to make additional comments
  • there is a commitment and evidence that learner feedback is being listened to

As said, learner feedback is valuable but not sufficient. There are too many variables for it to produce a reliable assessment of the quality of a course so it would be a mistake to rely on it alone. To get best value from it, it should be one of an integrated set of tools for monitoring the performance of training organisations and the quality of the learning experience they offer.