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Learning & Development Blog

How To Evaluate Informal Learning

How to Evaluate Informal Learning

 

The Kirkpatrick Model doesn’t work for informal learning.

As a reminder, here's the model:

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And here's why it doesn't work for informal learning:

1. Reaction

By nature, there no objectives against which to test. Much learning occurs unintentionally.

2. Learning

Much learning occurs either accidentally or from events intended for other purposes.

3. Behavior

By nature, no objectives against which to assess. Informal learning processes are the ones used for transfer.

4. Results

Because most informal learning is individually driven, no business objectives against which to evaluate it.

See a pattern?

Instead, Learning and Development departments need to find out what resources are being used by employees to learn.

Individual Learning

  • Identify what workers learned
  • Identify how workers learned it
  • Recognize acquired competencies

Learning Across Groups of Workers

  • Determine the extent of use of resources for informal learning
  • Assess satisfaction with individual resources
  • Identify the impact of individual resources

The tools to evaluate informal learning include:

  • Self-assessments
  • Process portfolios in which individuals reflect on each item to identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Coaching/inventory sessions

Learning and Development Departments need to know how employees are learning. This will ensure that employees can gain recognition and a place on the company advancement track, based on skills they have developed informally. This can be accomplished by administering skill assessments and entering in employee education records completed training, results from certification exams, and documentation of learning badges.

Comparing these methods for assessing informal learning with the Kirkpatrick model, however, is like comparing apples to oranges. Finding out what resources individual employees are using to learn and documenting it for purposes of recognition and advancement seems to be a human resource function, and it is perfectly appropriate in that realm.

Other Methods

Other methods have been put forward for measuring informal learning. Starting with an end goal helps understand overall return on performance and engagement (RPE). Building social learning metrics, a perpetual 360 degree, and an open feedback mechanism.

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When learning is integrated with work, nurtured by conversations and collaboration in social media environments, evaluation should simply be based on standard business measurements for the achievement of (team) performance goals. He says that improved performance is the best evidence of team learning.

Learning is a process, not an event. The Backwards Planning model does not imply strictly formal learning methods, but rather any combination of the four learning processes (social, informal, non-formal, and formal). He points out how closely Kirkpatrick's evolved model fits in with other models, such as Cathy Moore's.

 

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