How to pick the right skills assessment method for your learnersby
Do you know the best assessment method for your learners? Are your current tools best serving your evaluation needs? Here are some options that might be more suitable for your skills assessments.
The rapid evolution of new technologies and changing workforce demographics create constant pressure to attract and retain people with the right skills to achieve business objectives. This has become particularly important in the digital economy, where roles and skillsets are increasingly fluid, and employers must remain focused on their overall strengths and weaknesses to succeed.
However, this requires an effective approach to assessing skills along the way. As a result, the training industry has devised various methods to measure the effectiveness of training on learners to see how they apply newly gained proficiencies to advance their careers.
In professional scenarios, it makes sense to evaluate the knowledge and skills of the most valuable corporate assets — the employees — by using criterion-based testing
The challenge is, how can organisations ensure they are using an approach best-suited to their needs, and how can learning and development (L&D) teams can best evaluate a learner’s current comprehension of the topic? There are a variety of options available, including:
The normative assessment model
The normative model of assessments compares test results between individuals who have completed the same testing process. Educational institutions most commonly use it to shape results around a class and provide more detail than pass or fail to those who need to have grades for their graduation requirements.
However, the challenge with this approach is that the resulting average ‘score’ may not reach the level of proficiency that business organisations set as a threshold for success. For instance, is it fair or valuable to compare individuals who may well have completely different backgrounds, experiences, capabilities, knowledge and skills? As a result, many see this as an inadequate and limiting assessment process for the contemporary workplace.
In this scenario, submitting correct assessment answers results in a positive score, with enough leading to a pass without any AI comparison to ‘unknown’ sources. In contrast to comparing scores to anyone else that took the assessment, results are assessed against a predetermined standard score set by subject matter experts. This ensures employees are measured based on what is needed. For corporate learners, this helps demonstrate proficiency in knowledge obtained and the ability to put it into practice in a proper context.
Looking at the assessments above side-by-side — someone who compares their IQ score in relation to a job or skill may rank in the top tier, but this doesn’t mean they will pass a different test specifically focused on their role. This can create a challenge for employers who must balance the capabilities of someone who ranks high on a recognised scale and struggles to successfully execute the job or role they were hired to do.
This underlines a shortcoming of normative testing, where learners can perform poorly and pass as long as they are not the lowest performer. Therefore, in professional scenarios, it makes sense to evaluate the knowledge and skills of the most valuable corporate assets — the employees — by using criterion-based testing.
A further helpful option can be found in Bloom's taxonomy, which offers a practical guide to designing assessments that actively support talent development. Originally developed over half a century ago by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues, it is based on a hierarchical framework that helps organisations and individuals focus on the evolution of skill acquisition.
As such, it comprises six levels, each of which maps to a stage of the typical learning process:
- Level one: Remember — Recall facts and concepts
- Level two: Understand — Explain concepts
- Level three: Apply — Use the information in new situations
- Level four: Analyse — Connect disparate ideas
- Level five: Evaluate — Justify an opinion or interpretation of a subject
- Level six: Create — Generate new work using acquired skills and knowledge
These are organised around learning objectives, which are required to effectively acquire any skill while providing structure to learning paths no matter the subject. Moreover, they offer a practical framework for guiding and assessing learning progress. At each stage, learners have a clear, concrete goal to focus on — and an objective way to measure whether they've reached that goal.
In today’s competitive commercial and talent environments, employers who don’t focus on effective assessment risk missing out on employees with mission-critical capabilities
As a result, Bloom’s Taxonomy makes assessments more effective. By describing what people should achieve at each stage of skill development, the learning objectives at each level of the taxonomy determine how the level of skill mastery is assessed. Furthermore, by designing assessments tied to those objectives, they measure the right things while supporting new skill acquisition.
Why assessment impacts the bottom line
On a practical level, every assessment question can be connected to a specific learning objective. When an employee answers an assessment question correctly, they confirm that they've met the relevant learning objective. When they answer incorrectly, it’s immediately clear which areas they need to focus on as they work toward mastering a new skill.
In today’s competitive commercial and talent environments, employers who don’t focus on effective assessment risk missing out on employees with mission-critical capabilities. What’s more, failing to embrace the learning potential of each team member can ultimately lead to higher staff turnover or a broader impact on bottom-line performance.
Interested in this topic? Read What does a modern-day skills assessment strategy look like?