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Military submarines use active sonar, or pinging, to emit pulses and create echoes that identify nearby objects and potential threats. Workplace learning and performance professionals (WLPs) can do the same to check reaction and learning during training, as well as on-the-job application and results after training.

Unlike the passive sonar that continually monitors for nearby threats, active sonar is employed to proactively obtain needed information. WLPs can ping training participants during class using a variety of methods to check engagement and learning levels.

Levels 1 and 2

Pulse check: facilitator checks participant level of engagement or knowledge by pausing during training and asking for feedback.

One technique is “pull up a chair,” in which the instructor addresses a concern that he or she senses, or sits down and asks participants a question such as, “How might you use this new information on the job?” Click here to learn how to use this technique during online training programs as well.

Activities: planned application and knowledge check activities during training

Surveys: post-program tools that ask for participant input

These pings can be planned or can occur in reaction to what passive sonar detects. In many instances, passive sonar detects that something is going on. The sonar users, however, are not sure what it is. Thus, they may choose to employ active sonar to determine the exact nature and location of what was sensed passively. Employing active training evaluation sonar is particularly powerful after training to check on-the-job application levels and movement of leading indicators. To learn more about identifying leading indicators in the planning stages of the event so that you know what to look for later, click here.

Levels 3 and 4

Observation checklist or report: a document that the WLP, supervisor or peer completes to report the level of on-the-job application of training graduates and the preliminary movement of leading indicators

Interviews: session during which training graduates are asked questions by an interviewer to gather data about how the training is being applied and subsequent results

Surveys: the most common Level 3 evaluation tool; surveys are written documents in which training graduates are asked open and closed-ended questions about their experiences since training

Self-monitoring: a system in which training graduates monitor their own on-the-job application of new knowledge and/or skill, as well as any results. WLPs can provide a self-monitoring tool or prompts to remind training graduates to check their own performance.

Dashboard: a graphic depiction of key metrics in an initiative that communicates progress towards business outcomes. A good dashboard contains items from Levels 2-4.

While the stakes for all training are not as high as they are in military operations, using both passive and active training evaluation sonar will maximize learning, on-the-job application and business results.

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