After each workshop, intervention, and training I lead, I have participants fill out an evaluation. This is important to me since I work in a myriad of industries, with various sized groups, and with different problems to solve. Evaluating my performance and the impact of my work on my clients is vital. The more feedback I receive on what went well or what could use improvement supports me in enhancing my work with every client interaction. That being said, as I review my latest batch of evaluations and reflect on the many other sources of feedback from previous workshops, I have a clearer understanding of the many ways I can evaluate my impact.
1. Tuning Into Participant Interactions
Regardless of the feedback, I know I am effectively facilitating a group process when I hear participants uttering phrases such as- “Ohhh!”; “No, it’s like…”; “Aha!”; and of course, “Haha!.” - these are the sounds of activated human beings. All of these sounds, and their various iterations let me know the minds of my clients are growing - a perspective is being challenged, a connection is being made and/or a missing piece of a puzzle has just fallen into place.
There is also the revealing body language. Monitoring participants’ body language is a powerful barometer to measure my success. After all, communication is 80% non-verbal, so tuning into participants’ non-verbal cues is a direct source of unfiltered feedback. When I see participants leaning towards each other, using their hands to emphasize their thoughts, and unconsciously mirroring each other I can be sure my clients are meaningfully engaged with one another and building bonds.
2. No More “Smile Sheets”
Given much of the work my colleagues and I do is difficult to measure, creating the right tools for measurement is required. When it comes to self-evaluation, there are many ways to go about evaluating a workshop, training and/or intervention. The one we are most familiar with is the “Smile Sheet.” A “Smile Sheet” is essentially a satisfaction survey that asks whether the participant enjoyed the experience.
In my experience, this type of evaluation is a waste of paper and time. Luckily, a Learning and Development (L&D) guru, Dr. Kirkpatrick, created a model to deepen the self-evaluation process. The Kirkpatrick Model is a four-level assessment system:
Level 1: Evaluates how participants respond to the workshop, intervention and/or training (e.g. smile sheet).
Level 2 - Measures if participants learned the material (e.g. post-training test).
Level 3 - Measures behavioral changes (e.g. questions like- “Given this experience, what will you do differently?”).
Level 4 - Evaluates the impact of the workshop, intervention and/or training on the organization (e.g. a safety training that results in fewer injuries).
My current evaluation forms are “Level 3.” You can review a sample here.
3. Ignore “Nice”
Recently, while reviewing evaluations, something became apparent. Many of the evaluations I reviewed were filled with extremely kind remarks, yet these don't provide the helpful, actionable feedback (which is one of the objectives of doing the evaluation). While I am confident I do excellent work, I know there is always room for improvement.
After my initial frustration, I realized the problem is that my participants are often very nice. Nice, in this case, is a four-letter word. Nice means not putting in the effort to be candid. Nice means saying what you think I want to hear, not what I need to hear. Nice placates. Nice is passive. Nice sweeps the truth under the rug. Nice inhibits my ability to improve, learn and grow. Nice does not help.
While I appreciate the nice comments, I would prefer if participants dug deep and provided me with actionable feedback that I can use to further develop, grow, and improve. This will not only help me but my other clients, and you if I am lucky to get the chance to work with you again!
The objective of any evaluation process is to critically examine the experience in focus in order to improve the future experience. There are many ways to go about evaluating a workshop, intervention, training, etc. I hope the above thoughts help you to improve your evaluations to support your continued development.