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I’ve been thinking about evaluations lately. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the utility that evaluations hold for those of us involved in training. Training is one of the few professions that a person gets multiple written evaluations of their performance on a weekly basis. Most organizations solicit feedback from course participants after every training event that is held. It’s an interesting situation. What does all this information mean, and how do we best utilize it?

At it’s best, the information gleaned from evaluations gives us insight into the emotional state of our course participants during a training session that they have attended. Did participants feel safe? Were they comfortable? Do they feel that they accomplished their purpose for attending the course? This information can help trainers to provide a better environment the next time that they facilitate a course. However, evaluations are essentially reactionary. They are filled out at the end of course, when it is often too late to improve the conditions for the participant. This is a bit of a conundrum.

I once heard a co-worker describe using evaluations more proactively by applying one of Steven Covey’s habits of highly successful people. With evaluations, it is best to have participants “begin with the ending in mind”. The evaluation process can be explained at the beginning of a course. Participants can, and should, make the trainer aware of anything that would diminish their experience in the course, while still attending the actual course. This is good conflict management, and allows the trainer to address the issue in real time, ideally resulting in a better experience for all.

At their worst, evaluations can be a source of anxiety for new trainers. For the most part, evaluations are likely to be positive. However, when there are a few negative evaluations, it can be easy to focus on just those evaluations, forgetting about all the positives. Rita Pearson, an educational reformer, has stated that this type of negative thinking “sucks all the life out of you”. It’s far better to focus on the positive evaluations. After all, principles of PBIS apply to our interactions with ourselves, as well.

When I first became faculty with the Mandt System, a more seasoned faculty member told me that it was best to look for overall patterns. If a theme keeps popping up in evaluations, it’s best to notice it, and create a plan to address it. Keep context, and don’t negate the positives. Learn and grow.

John Windsor – Mandt Faculty

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