One of many methods of organizational learning is a “communityof practice”. This is a term coined by Etienne Wenger to describe “…groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” TorranceLearning has created a kind of community of practice that they call the Torrance Download. The Download is a time and place for people to come together to share experiences and ideas, with the intention of everyone learning something new. 

I had the pleasure recently of attending another session of the Torrance Download. Once again the TorranceLearning team created a “…casual, fast-paced and friendly exchange of ideas with our friends, colleagues and clients in learning.” Between noon and 3:00 on a Friday, five concurrent, 30-minute discussions were held for a total of 20 topics. All of the topics were about learning and development and ranged from video production to elearning design to mobile learning to onboarding new employees. The tone, set by Megan Torrance, was one of fun, high energy, and engagement. This is a terrific model for a community of practice, either for people from different organizations or for people internal to one organization.

One type of Download discussion is called “Flash Project”. This is a leaderless conversation for the IMAG0262 (3) purpose of creating a list of answers to a specific question. I participated in one of these in which the
question was, “What is learning evaluation?” In 30 minutes, our group came up with an excellent list of ideas and questions that we shared with everyone in attendance at the end of the day.

We said that evaluation of learning is:

  • Measuring business outcomes
  • Establishing metrics for behavioral change
  • Deciding how we want a learner to behave differently
  • Thinking about individual, team, whole organization, and community learning
  • Asking the learner, “What do you want to be known for?”

We also said that evaluation of learning is answering these questions:

  • Did you like it?
  • Did you learn it?
  • Did you use it?
  • Did it make a difference?
  • Did you retain it?

And that evaluation of learning is measuring:

  • How well organizational communications are aligned with pre, during, and post learning
  • What managers are doing to facilitate and reinforce learning
  • What resources (people, technology, money) are available to facilitate learning
  • Where the gaps are between resources and learning
  • Where people are starting from pre-learning
  • What we know about learners' situations pre-learning
  • What the organizational constraints are to learning and applying learning
  • Why learning isn’t happening
  • How to provide more opportunities for applying learning on the job
  • What learning is still being applied months and years later
  • Agile learning - Are learners able to extract useful information in any environment? What can be done to help learners become agile?
  • What is being done to facilitate learning before, during, and after training

The striking thing about our Flash Project definition of “learning evaluation” is that we said that evaluation is much more than finding out what learners have in their heads at the end of a training program. We came to the conclusion that evaluation of learning should empasize achievement of business goals and it should measure the learner and learner’s situation before training, during training, and after training. And we agreed that the culture of the organization should also be evaluated because it is a critical factor in learning and application of learning.

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