As trainer I am always curious to learn what participants think of the workshop: was it useful? Will they do something with what they learned and planned? Am I the new role model in their lives because I was so darn inspiring?????
It has become custom to hand out so-called happy sheets at the end of a training, to collect participants’ feedback. Well, they don’t always make you happy, I can say!
Not because participants are negative, but because you so seldom get something useful out of them.
By the end of the workshop, participants want to get away as soon as they can. The happy sheet is a hindrance for their haste – a few more precious minutes down the drain! In order to leave as quickly as possible, most participants will use as little time and energy as feasible to score items on the happy sheet. Rarely do they take time to write something down for the open questions.
Even the scoring can sometimes be misleading. A colleague of mine once inquired what the rates 6 and 7 on a scale of 10 (perfect) meant for the participants. One of them replied: “The training was useless, but the trainer was friendly.”
And this is only natural. After all, this happy sheet doesn’t have any purpose for the participants. They hand it in, and that’s that. It is no use for them afterwards, at their work place. What do they care to remember how good I was as trainer, or how good the accommodation was, or how much they exchanged. However good the workshop was, it is history by then.
So if you want to have useful feedback on your training you should make the evaluation meaningful or fun for the participants.
One of the things you can do is to connect the evaluation moment to the future: let participants think about how and when and with whom they will use what they learned and planned. If you then ask them to visualise this you ‘force’ them to spend just a little bit more of their time on this question. After all, they will have to develop an idea and will have to come up with a visual representation of this idea. They need to make or look for a photo, draw something, shoot a video, make a cartoon…. All this will make them think more deeply about to what extent the training was useful to them and how they will actually apply their new knowledge, skills or insights.
In addition, they will have their own visual idea with them, physically – it will be in their own camera, phone, tablet or computer. It is not that happy sheet that disappears in a big black box.
If you want to remind them of their ideas and plans you can collect all the visuals and present them in a booklet form (easily made online and downloaded as PDF) one month after the end of the training.
And that could be a great time to also ask them about their thoughts of the training: what was the best working method used? What was the most significant moment, and why? What was the most novel insight they got? Which remark do they remember still? Etc.
Of course a lot more can be said about evaluations: what are the best type of questions, the best tools to use and the best moments in or after your training to ask for feedback.
I will certainly write more on this topic and am also going to organise workshops about evaluating trainings and learning processes together with my colleague Gerdi Keeler. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me!