Friday, June 17, 2011

Real Returns

“Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight.”       
            -    Bill Gates
What is the real measuring stick in learning?  Of course, it is a change in behavior that improves a learner's work life.  So why do we insist on collecting "smile sheets" - those evaluation forms - at the end of each class?

I'm going to say something controversial - don't do it.  They are useless for measuring learning performance. 

In fact, in my opinion they are harmful.  They hurt our effort to be better learning designers because they give us a false sense of success.  If you look at results and comments, almost everyone rates a course excellent or good.  And in most cases they are grading on their subjective entertainment experience in class.  They aren't telling you if they actually learned and applied new skills - they're telling you how they liked the cookies and coffee.

So I say ditch the forms and put in place some sort of survey at least a week after the session but no longer than three weeks.  Ask people important questions, like: 
  • Did you use your skills?
  • What skills did you find most helpful?
  • What skills did you just not get?

Now that's a real measure.

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