With the current explosion in e-Learning and mobile learning, it has become popular for companies to institute massive teaching programs to engage their learners and up their understanding of the industry. While this in itself is a wonderful thing, it can have the unfortunate side effect of wasting company time and money by teaching people who already know enough about a particular subject.
That’s where pre-assessment comes in. Pre-assessment can preempt any waste of time and money by determining who will and will not benefit from a certain course, and keep employees who don’t need the knowledge at their desks or stations working (where most would rather be anyway!). In addition, pre-assessment can offer other valuable insights about employees’ learning preferences, style and needs.
What Is Pre-Assessment?
Let’s start with the basics. Pre-assessment as a concept is used all the time in elementary classrooms to determine, say, how much kids know about organic farming, or what reading level they’re at. It is termed pre-assessment because it is administered before the teaching begins, to better help the teacher cater to the individual needs of each student.
Although it isn’t yet used as frequently in the corporate world, it ought to be. Pre-assessments perform the same service for managers and trainers that they do for schoolteachers: informing them of what their pupils already know and still need to learn, with the added benefit of offering insight on how an individual best acquires information.
(Keep in mind that you can use pre-assessments to other ends as well, such as to determine whether an employee is a good fit for a job when you’re considering hiring them, but that is the subject of another article.)
Why Is It Necessary?
Pre-assessment is only necessary if you care about the bottom line of your company, the effectiveness of your employees, and the purposes to which company time is put. In other words — it’s totally necessary.
We’ve covered some of the reasons above, including the fact that pre-assessment can help you figure out who actually needs a given training program, and who can do without it. Some trainings are mandatory, and in that case, a blanket administration of a certain e-course stands to reason. But other courses are not. Often a company provides learning materials in order to educate their employees and help them do their jobs better. In this case, it benefits the company to figure out who already knows material, and who still needs to learn it (or could use a refresher).
Other reasons to administer a pre-assessment include figuring out what material in a given subject area an employee needs to learn. Let’s say you’re a construction company, for instance. Equipment safety is a crucial aspect of management, and ensuring your workers know how to use all the equipment they routinely work with could save lives. But teaching is expensive, so you might instead administer a short written or practical test to see how proficient workers are with certain pieces of equipment, then only train in necessary areas.
Who Benefits from It?
Everyone benefits from pre-assessments. Human resources can spend less time worrying about who needs to learn what and where they can fit it in the bottom line. Managers can feel more confident their workers are prepared for the jobs they do, and will do them to the best of their abilities. And workers, properly trained, feel less stress and more mastery at their jobs, which contributes to workplace satisfaction and employee retention.
How Should You Administer It?
Professional development can only be as successful as the goals that are set for it, so first set the goals for the course and determine what the assessment itself will be. Once you know what you want employees to know at the end of the course, you can effectively identify people who need to take that course – they’re the ones who don’t yet know the material. Conversely, those who display proficiency or mastery of those end goals won’t benefit from the course, and can instead learn material of a higher order or instead use that time for work.
Although the method of administering the test will differ depending on its format and nature (i.e. written knowledge versus heavy machinery use), you should give assessments in a safe, calm environment that is as close to real life as possible.
Beyond determining whether or not an employee needs a certain e-course or training program, Emergenetics International recommends employing pre-assessments to these additional ends:
- Determining how your employees learn best, so you know which types of material will most advance their understanding of a particular subject.
- Combining people of different learning and thinking styles together so they can augment one another’s understanding of the workplace and the field, bounce ideas off of one another, and learn from differing areas of expertise.
- Associating workers’ innate thinking and behavior to different aspects of their jobs. Or, to quote Emergenetics, “tie thinking and behavior to competencies.”
On a final note, it is important that you know what you want to get out of your courses and learning modules. Once you do, you can effectively test your employees’ knowledge and target what you want to teach.
Do you have any other tips for pre-assessing employees or students before investing in large-scale training? Be sure to share them in the comments below!