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Evaluating training programmes.


Export training programmes should be systematically evaluated to ensure that the investment in time and money leads to the results expected.

If valuable time and resources of both training institutions and participants are being devoted to training programmes, an appraisal should be made of the effectiveness of the training. Evaluation can be carried out in a number of different ways depending on the kind of training event, the objectives of the training, the type of participants and other factors. Evaluation should be considered an integral part of each training programme and an ongoing activity of a training institution. No one evaluation model fits all situations, but some general guidelines are applicable to most training evaluation exercises.

Why evaluate

Training institutions, as well as the participants and their sponsoring organizations, have different but equally important interests in evaluating a given activity.

For the training institution, formal evaluation can provide useful information on how the programme can be improved. It can help pinpoint particular difficulties in the organization and implementation of the event, identify which training methods are most effective, assess the relevance of the programme for the participants through improved knowledge and skills, and so on. Evaluation can also have a promotional impact. Including a formal evaluation in a training schedule can demonstrate to participating enterprises the training institution's concern for meeting client needs.

Evaluation is also of concern to the employers or sponsoring organizations of the participants. The employer is interested in knowing whether the training programme has improved its staff's job performance sufficiently to justify the cost (including the loss of work output for those attending). In other words, evaluation is linked to cost-effectiveness. The sponsoring enterprise looks for a direct change in the work performance of its staff leading to positive business results, for example, better export packaging of products and, through this, an increase in export orders. Evaluation strengthens the relationship between the training institution and client organizations.

The participants themselves will of course have an interest in evaluating the programme, as it affects their job performance. They usually respond positively to the notion that they will be involved in an evaluation exercise, and their motivation for undertaking training tends to be strengthened as a result. It is often useful for the trainer to ask them, at the beginning of the programme, what criteria they would use for evaluation.

Participants' criteria can often be grouped into three categories:

1. Occupational: "Has the training programme helped me to perform my job more effectively and improve my promotion prospects?"

2. Personal: "Has the programme given me greater confidence in my abilities and skills?"

3. Emotional: "Did I enjoy the programme?"

Other parties may also be interested in evaluation, for example, national agencies that have played a part in organizing and financing a particular export training programme.

Stages of evaluation

Evaluation can take place in several stages. One is that of immediate reactions, which is often the type of evaluation that export trainers focus on. They want to know what the participants thought of the programme, whether they found it useful, if it would help their career development and so on. Such reactions can help shape enterprises' attitudes towards training and can assist the trainer in improving his programme. Evaluation at this stage is mainly concerned with the training process.

It is not sufficient to restrict evaluation to immediate reactions only. The training institution should also check back after the programme has been completed to determine from the enterprise and the participants how well the training met their needs and what the results of the training have been. If possible the trainer should visit the enterprise(s) to talk with the individuals concerned to obtain this information. Evaluation of this type some time after the event focuses on the training output as opposed to the training process.

Importance of objectives

In simple terms, evaluation consists of asking the question: "Have the objectives of the training programme been achieved?" If the objectives were discussed and agreed with the enterprises and participants before the event, and if they were defined in terms that could be measured, the evaluation process is greatly simplified.

The training objectives set should be realistic -- it should be possible to achieve them. Setting unattainable goals can lead to expectations that cannot be fulfilled and thus lead to a poor evaluation. It is often useful for an export trainer to explain to sponsoring enterprises and participants what expectations a training course cannot meet (and the reasons for this, for example, too little time).

Certain objectives may be difficult to formulate with precision. This is particularly the case with broad supervisory or management tasks associated with exporting. Equally, a trainer may know too little about the participants' job in the enterprise to be able to evaluate changes in job performance. In this case it is wise to concentrate on the participants' reactions and the skills and knowledge acquired and to set the training objectives accordingly.

The link between the objectives of a training programme and the evaluation of the programme should be kept in mind throughout the process of the programme. Evaluation is not something that takes place only after a course has been completed. Instead it is a continous process measuring the progress of the participants against the course objectives.

How to evaluate

A wide range of techniques can be used for evaluation. The selection depends on the nature of the training objectives; the design of the training programme; the relationship between the trainer, participants and sponsors; the financing available; and other elements.

Evaluation data can be either quantified (measured, or numerical) or unquantified (descriptive, verbal). The two approaches each have advantages and disadvantages. An emphasis on measurement can sometimes narrow and distort the evaluation exercise. Evaluation should in most cases go beyond numerical criteria and involve judgment as well.

Questionnaires: A questionnaire is a common evaluation tool. The questions on it should be as neutral and direct as possible, as well as clear and simple. A questionnaire that is too long or difficult to complete may not be filled in thoroughly by the participants, which will affect the validity of the responses.

One type of evaluation questionnaire contains a series of simple statements accompanied by a rating scale (of five to seven points, for example). The participants circle the number on the scale that best describes their reaction to each statement. The rating scales and the statements used will vary from one situation to another. The scales can be used to produce nonnumerical as well as numerical evaluation data. For instance average reactions for the training group as a whole can be calculated on the basis of each of the statements. An export trainer can of course obtain information on participants' reactions simply by watching them and listening to their comments. The value of the rating scale approach is, however, that a trainer can systematize these reactions and produce overall evaluations of particular training sessions.

One limitation of using a rating scale is that the participants' responses are restricted to the statements or questions included in the evaluation form. It is often useful to include a more open-ended question or statement that, for example, invites suggestions for improvement.

The usual time for evaluating participants' reactions to the training through such questionnaires is at the end of the programme. Evaluation can also take place after specific training sessions, which can help the trainer to make adjustments in the training style, methods and materials as the programme progresses. Asking participants to complete evaluation questionnaires some time after the programme has ended is another alternative.

Tests: Changes in participants' knowledge and skills can be measured through various types of tests: multiple-choice, practical exercises, project presentations, problem-solving games and so on. But testing participants in this way can be a sensitive issue in many export training programmes. Formal tests or examinations may be less advisable than self-check exercises for evaluation purposes.

Evaluation forms

No "model" evaluation questionnaires exist for use in export marketing training programmes. Each evaluation form must fit the particular circumstances of the training event. What is important to keep in mind is that evaluation should always be linked to the objectives of the training.

Three different types of evaluation forms are illustrated on pages 21, 22 and 23.

The box on this page is an example of an individual training session evaluation form. It focuses both on the training process and on training results (in terms of whether the objective has been achieved or not).

The box at left provides a sample course review form. The subject matter of this evaluation is more general than an evaluation of an individual training session. No rating scale is used on this particular form, as the evaluation is qualitative.

The box on page 21 is an example of a follow-up evaluation form, which is used several months or more after the training has ended.

All of these examples should be adapted to the specific training programmes in which they are used.


Although training evaluation is not always an easy exercise to conduct and may not produce findings that are as precise as might be desired, the general trends reflected in the assessment results should be of value in improving the programmes offered.

The time and effort that are required to carry out the evaluation are in most cases well worth the resources invested for training institutions wishing to improve the services they provide to the business community.

PHOTO : Evaluation should be considered as an ongoing activity of a training institution.

PHOTO : Participants themselves have an interest in evaluating the training programme.

PHOTO : The evaluation can take place in several stages, from immediate to longer term reactions.

PHOTO : Rating scales are used on some types of questionnaires to help systematize reactions.

Alan Roberts is an ITC training consultant. He lectures at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom and is the author of a forthcoming ITC handbook for trainers in trade promotion, upon which this article is based.
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Author:Roberts, Alan
Publication:International Trade Forum
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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