Education

Evaluating new trainers: Are they doing the job?

After you've selected and trained your new trainers, how do you know if you made the right decisions? The answers can be found through an assessment of their performance. This article includes a list of questions to help with your evaluation.

You’ve selected the best candidates for a training assignment, by making sure that they had the raw ingredients necessary for success. You’ve helped them to develop the skills needed in the classroom: knowledge of the subject matter, confidence, understanding of adult learning principles, and presentation skills. But how are they doing? Do they need more training and coaching, or are they creating a good learning environment and educating students? You’ll need to do an evaluation to know for sure.
In two earlier articles, I discussed how to pick the best person for a training job and how to help this person develop the required skills. This final installment of the series explains how to gauge how well you performed the first two parts of the hiring and training process.
Prepare to evaluate
Before you develop a list of evaluation criteria, figure out your motives. You’re still relying on your new trainers to complete the assignment for which they were recruited, so you probably don’t want to use the evaluation to justify getting rid of one of them. At this point, you should be reinforcing their development by helping them become aware of their behavior in the classroom, and the impact of their behavior on the students.

Your new trainer is not seasoned by much experience yet, so encouragement is still important for his or her self-confidence. Confirming feedback should be thorough and sincere. Constructive criticism should be delivered in a neutral tone and ought to fine-tune the understanding of the best practices you provided in your train-the-trainer program. Tie the problem to an observable impact on the students whenever possible, or use it to illustrate a possible consequence they should try to avoid.

One more piece of advice before you sit down in the back of the classroom with your red pencil and checklist of criteria: Keep it low-key and non-threatening. Let your trainer know you will be there in a supportive role, to note how well classes are going, and that (by the way) you’ll make any suggestions you think would be helpful in future classes. If this is a formal evaluation for a performance review, you should share your rating criteria with the trainer in advance. And still do your best to downplay your role as critic—you don’t want to give your trainers stage fright. You need them focused on their students, not on you.

Evaluation criteria
There are many sources where you can obtain lists of criteria against which to rate trainers in the classroom. The Complete Computer Trainer, by Paul Clothier, offers a simple and sound list, along with good advice on how to do the evaluation. One of my favorite sources has been “How to Evaluate Your Trainers—or Yourself—in the Classroom,” by Mary Kay Guinta and Beth Daniel, from The Microcomputer Trainer, November 1994, pp. 1-7, 9.

Here’s a rating checklist I put together from various sources, edited for use with beginning trainers.

Classroom appearance
  • Was the classroom neat, attractive, inviting?
  • Were student workstations ready when class started?

Use of objectives
  • Were the session’s objectives clearly stated?
  • Did students understand what they were to be doing that day?

Class management
  • Was the instructor in the room 15 minutes before class was scheduled to start?
  • Did the instructor greet the students as they came in and make them feel welcome?
  • Did class start on time?
  • Did the instructor give exact time for breaks? Did class start on time after breaks?

Delivery of instruction
  • Did the instructor use the book or lesson plan?
  • Did the instructor use good judgment in modifying the lesson plan to fit the majority of students?
  • Did the students touch the keyboard or mouse within the first 30 minutes of class?
  • Before showing students how to do a task, did the instructor relate the topic to the job or provide another practical application?
  • Were clear, step-by-step directions given for each topic?
  • Were clear instructions given prior to each exercise? Did the instructor remind students to use other materials and resources to assist them with the exercises?
  • Did the instructor integrate the major points of a session, establishing a link between the familiar and the new, thereby providing the learner with a feeling of accomplishment?

Presentation skills
  • How well did the instructor use visual aids (flip chart, white board, projector, etc.) to help students understand the topic presented? Were they legible and visible to all students in the room?
  • How well did the instructor’s voice project to the back of the room?
  • How was the pacing of the presentation? Did students appear bored because the pace was too slow, or frustrated because it was too fast?
  • Did the instructor use verbal and visual cues together to meet the needs of different input preferences among the learners?
  • Did the instructor use the reference manual or book as an integral part of the class?

Student participation
  • Did the instructor ask for questions?
  • Did the instructor give students sufficient time to formulate and ask questions before moving on?
  • Did the instructor ask pertinent review questions at appropriate times?
  • Were the questions open-ended, stimulating synthesis and checking for conceptual understanding, rather than yes/no questions checking for recall of facts?
  • Did the instructor promote participation from all students?

Responsiveness to students
  • Did the instructor create and maintain an atmosphere conducive to involvement and learning?
  • Did the instructor relate to adult learners in ways that promoted mutual respect and rapport?
  • How did the instructor balance the different skill levels and interest levels in the classroom?
  • How well did the instructor respond to questions from students, especially if he or she did not immediately know the answer?
  • How did the instructor respond to individual business needs of the students, beyond the scope of the class?

Knowledge and preparedness
  • Did the instructor know the subject?
  • Did the instructor know the lesson plan?
  • Was the instructor organized and prepared?

Strengths
  • What overall strengths does this instructor demonstrate?

  • Areas for improvement
  • What suggestions could you make to improve the instructor’s effectiveness?

  • Presenting the feedback
    When I am instructing, if a class goes poorly or extremely well, there can be a bit of a letdown after the last student leaves. Be sensitive to this, and don’t hit your trainers with an evaluation right after class unless it’s positively glowing.

    Do stay around and chat, though. Ask the trainer how he or she feels about how the class went. You may offer some very general observations as part of this conversation, but I would recommend finding out when would be a good time for a feedback discussion rather than going into any specifics at this time.

    When possible, have some personal contact when you present the feedback if it’s in writing. Attach a friendly cover note in an e-mail, or a Post-it Note if it’s a hard copy, and offer to discuss the evaluation. Reinforce your purpose for doing the evaluation, which was to help them improve their effectiveness in the classroom. In discussions, help find solutions to any issues that surfaced.

    After all your investment in selecting and developing new trainers, you need to find out whether their performance in the classroom is half-baked or done to perfection. Evaluate them appropriately and in the right spirit of encouragement, and you can help keep them from falling flat. If they get off to a sound start, you can trust that over time they will gain plenty of seasoning from experience. Otherwise, prepare to eat your mistakes.
    What if your evaluations of this certain person are all bad, and the constructive criticism isn’t sinking in? Do you transfer the person? Tell us how you solve the problem of a bad fit in the training department.
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