There are many benefits to having an evaluation plan. In fact, common sense says it is essential. How can one justify that a training has worked without evaluation?
Here are some ways evaluation plans help. At the most basic level, it helps evaluate the instruction. This may seem oversimplified, but there are still many trainings that give a 10 question quiz at the end that is used to measure if the instruction was effective. I recently took a safety training with many details. Being able to pass the quiz and remembering the data a week later are not really related. How do they know I can apply that knowledge? Finally, how do they know if I have a safety attitude? Not having an evaluation plan can lead to wasteful instruction with little usefulness because it is based on false assumptions.
Having an evaluation plan can also help in the design of the instruction. Take the safety training for an example. If there is a particularly hazardous environment, job aids or monthly safety facts could help reinforce the knowledge and be designed into the instruction plan. Then surprise evaluations can be used to check if this knowledge is being applied.
Another way an evaluation helps is it systemizes and organizes the collection of data. The type of data can be organized to check for satisfaction, learning, application, organizational impact, ROI or other intangibles such as attitude. Then scientific means can be used to gather the required type of data to assess the certain result. From this, we can tighten the measure of success and outcomes.
Are there any ways an evaluation plan can hinder the instruction? It can when the bones of the evaluation plan are still sticking out. I took an online class where the lecturer kept saying, “In this section the student will bla, bla, bla.” As a student it is better to be spoken to personally. Thus, the evaluation plan can be used to create a script, but then the impersonal language needs to be removed to personalize the tome for the audience.
Some other weaknesses are in the collection of data. Sometimes focus group results cannot be generalized. Other times, randomization and control groups are not possible. Also, the collection of data can be time consuming and costly.
However, to ensure effective instruction and programs, it is foolish to not have an evaluation plan, but it should be designed realistically and avoid the pitfalls of over generalizing the data.