Feedback or Evaluation?

Most of the time when we see the words feedback or evaluation we think of survey. Because most of the time after we complete a class or some type of training we are giving a “Lickert-type survey” to fill out for the instructor.  I for one do not support this type of feedback because all they are a small picture of the overall learning experience that occurred throughout a week long class. How can I be expected to provide positive feedback about a week long class that contains more than one component for it to be successful?  What most training programs want are feel good numbers to meet an ends to a mean. We from human nature want to do what is honest but what we are doing after providing this feedback is avoiding the true measure of the instructor/courses objectives. The following context was pulled from the blog site written by Richard Cullata.

Feedback and reinforcement are two of the most pivotal concepts in learning. Feedback involves providing learners with information about their responses whereas reinforcement affects the tendency to make a specific response again. Feedback can be positive, negative or neutral; reinforcement is either positive (increases the response) or negative (decreases the response). Feedback is almost always considered external while        reinforcement can be external or instrinsic (i.e., generated by the individual).

Information processing theories tend to emphasize the importance of feedback to learning since knowledge of results is necessary to correct mistakes and develop new plans. On the other hand, behavioral theories such as Hull, Guthrie, Thorndike, and Skinner focus on the role of reinforcement in motivating the individual to behave in certain ways. One of the critical variables in both cases is the length of time between the response and the feedback or reinforcement. In general, the more immediate the feedback or reinforcement, the more learning is facilitated.

The nature of the feedback or reinforcement provided was the basis for many early instructional principles, especially in the context of programmed instruction (e.g., Deterline, 1962; Markle, 1964). For example, the use of “prompting” (i.e., providing hints) was recommended in order to “shape” (i.e., selectively reinforce) the correct responses. Other principles concerned the choice of an appropriate  “step size” (i.e., how much information to present at once) and how often feedback or reinforcement should be provided.

I believe that this is true for classroom instructors and individuals that teach, train, or assess learning.


Deterline, W.A. (1962). An Introduction to Programmed Instruction. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Markle, S.R. (1964). Good Frames and Bad. New York: Wiley.

Cognitive Recognition-Multimedia Learning

I recently started attending a large community church (Sagebrush Community Church) close to my neighborhood and the last couple of weeks the design folks have astounded me with their presentations. As the pastor gives his teaching he refers the congregation to the big screens and this is what is shown. As a narrator reads some content the same content pops up on the big screen in animation, different font size and color, and a large grumbling like thunder is played in the background. The noise is a great attention getter but the repeat of flashing text while it is being read does not transfer any type of learning. I know that church communities don’t study adult learning but if a graphic designer is going to be responsible for creating some type of learning presentation at least use the basic rules of Multimedia Learning.

The principle known as the “multimedia principle” states that “people learn more deeply from words and pictures than from words alone” (Mayer).  However, simply adding words to pictures is not an effective way to achieve multimedia learning.  The goal is to  instructional media in the light of how human mind works.  This is the basis for Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning.

Humans can only process a finite amount of information in a channel at a time, and they make sense of incoming information by actively creating mental representations.   Mayer also discusses the role of three memory stores: sensory (which receives stimuli and stores it for a very short time), working (where we actively process information to create mental constructs (or ‘schema’), and long-term (the repository of all things learned).  Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning presents the idea that the brain does not interpret a multimedia presentation of words, pictures, and auditory information in a mutually exclusive fashion; rather, these elements are selected and organized dynamically to produce logical mental constructs. Futhermore, Mayer underscores the importance of learning (based upon the testing of content and demonstrating the successful transfer of knowledge) when new information is integrated with prior knowledge.

Design principles including providing coherent verbal, pictorial information, guiding the learners to select relevant words and images, and reducing the load for a single processing channel etc. can be entailed from this theory.


In 1982, after I dropped out of college I started working for an oilfield company in West Texas. I had no previous knowledge of what type of work I would be doing but I was young, dumb, and strong. What I want to share about this story is that it was the first real-job that I would have full-time and it would take a considerable amount of training required for me to become productive. One particular job skill that I was to master was to maintain water-injection pumps.


The person that I was assigned to work with was an old oilfield fixture from the late 1930’s. The town where I spent my teenage years growing up had been an oil-boom town in the 1920’s and James Hensley, my trainer, had spent most of his life in the oil fields. James as you can imagine had leathery skin texture, missing teeth, rugged hands, weathered clothes, and a great sense of humor. I will always remember the first day I worked with James because of what he told me on that day. He said, “Dilbert, I am going to learn you boy.” Now, he didn’t say it in a condescending way but in a mighty rightful way. His objective for the day was to train me on how to correctly maintain this behemoth of a system. James didn’t have a training plan, training manual, checklist, and a final examination. What James had was tacit knowledge, psycho-motor skills, and cognitive detail regarding every aspect of the pump system. I managed to learn from James everything I needed to learn to maintain those pumps on a regular basis and the satisfaction of doing it correctly gave me confidence to perform the task successfully without any assistance.

The reason I like telling this story is because even before I knew the psychology behind adult learning I had already experienced most of it before. Even before I would learn what a design document, learning outcomes, target audience, instructional strategies, and all those other elements that we use to develop learning I had already experienced. Now, I can recall and reflect on the types of training I received in my previous jobs and compare notes as to how my trainers did.

Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and to instill moral values. Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters, and narrative point of view. I have always been in favor of trainers, instructors, and even teachers use storytelling as an alternative teaching method to deliver learning. Some topics or concepts are hard to convey to students and sometimes a good story can jump start the delivery. I use the oil field story about James not to mention the training but the humor in which he delivered his training on me. That was his teaching method to make me feel comfortable during the training. He engaged me into listening to him by using short-stories about the process, equipment, tasks, and outcome upon completion. And I bet James was never certified to be a trainer or teacher. 400px-Millais_Boyhood_of_Raleigh

The benefits of using stories include:

  •        providing a realistic context for content
  •        conveying action versus static information
  •        providing motivation for participants to connect with content
  •        adding interest to learning programs.



If we all had a crystal ball we would all be able to forecast treacherous planning like this. Or could we? Does the US government actually look at cost for training budgets for all of these departments being impacted by it. How does the government measure its return on investment within departments with budgets in excess of millions or even billions of dollars? Because if the government is spending money on the professional development of these individuals then wouldn’t it equate to loss of productivity.

I don’t mean to sound so negative but I have always questioned training and have always looked at the end result. While, working for a large manufacturing company in the southwest I always made sure that the development of my teams were well balanced and that the progression of competency was well documented. Plus, the competency of my teams was aligned towards industry standards that met certification and kept their performance tracked on a regular basis. If my team was performing below standards then a performance support system could flag my gap or even identify where my weaknesses were. This evaluative feedback system would assist with our forecasted development plans which would help us get back on track.

20130304-220647.jpg This is where Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model can help you objectively analyze the effectiveness and impact of your training, so that you can improve it in the future. This is where Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model can help you objectively analyze the effectiveness and impact of your training, so that you can improve it in the future.

Of all the levels, measuring the final results of the training is likely to be the most costly and time consuming. The biggest challenges are identifying which outcomes, benefits, or final results are most closely linked to the training, and coming up with an effective way to measure these outcomes over the long term.
Here are some outcomes to consider, depending on the objectives of your training:
Increased employee retention.
Increased production.
Higher morale.
Reduced waste.
Increased sales.
Higher quality ratings.
Increased customer satisfaction.
Fewer staff complaints.

How much of evaluation do organizations ignore or neglect until the burden and cost are too much to recover from. The impact is like the domino effect and once it starts falling it is hard to predict when it will stop falling .