Effective Training Delivery and Evaluation: Professional Approaches and Tools

Group of clinical research professionals

Anatoly Gorkun, MD, PhD, Assoc CIPD
Senior Manager
Scientific and Compliance Training, MedImmune

Abstract: Different professional training techniques can be used to achieve training goals. This article describes how to deliver efficient training sessions that benefit learners, evaluate training sessions, and use the evaluation results to make necessary improvements. Topics covered include learning styles, planning the training, different training styles, monitoring learning progress and adjusting the training, and bringing the training session to a close. Examples of training evaluation tools and their role in continual improvement of training for clinical research professionals are highlighted.

Despite the increase in the use of eLearning, distance learning, and self-learning, face-to-face training remains the most popular method of delivering training. Quality training requires the right content to achieve the training objectives and efficient delivery of the content by a knowledgeable and experienced trainer.

Learning Styles

There are three basic learning styles; visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (Table 1). Some people prefer visual learning, while other people prefer listening or learning-by-doing activities. Each person has his/her preferable learning style or combination of those. So, when we train a group of people, there definitely will be a mix of different learning styles. Thus, when planning and delivering the training session, we have to consider how to accommodate all of the learning styles.

Planning Training Sessions

A successful training session should be properly planned before the training can be scheduled. In determining how to deliver a training session, the first thing to consider is the objectives of the training. Sufficient time should be allowed to develop the training materials.

Once the training objectives have been identified, the trainer should determine how they are going to be achieved. Considerations include training content and the level of complexity. The training session may, for example, cover fundamentals or be at an advanced level. The methods to be used, the training style, and the training duration should also be considered. The trainer decides which training materials and handouts are going to be used as well as the training evaluation collection form.

The training session starts with opening activities and includes actual information, learning activities such as small group tasks, role games, quizzes, etc. The session also has closing activities with training evaluation at the end. Table 2 outlines a sample training session plan.

Pre-Training Communications

The purpose ofpre-training communication is toovercome possible barriers to training and create the proper environment for the training. Achieving the proper environment requires promoting the learning, instructions for signing up for the training, and possibly, some pre-course work. Promoting the learning by explaining “what’s in it for me” is very important. The instructions for signing up for the training should describe the details of the training program, including how to register, and ask the audience to complete the pre-training session questionnaire. The pre-training session questionnaire provides the trainer with the information about the experience level of the learners with the training topic, enabling the trainer to customize the training to their experience and needs.

Why is considering the audience important? The following is a real life example. Once, a subject matter expert was delivering a scientific training course. The trainer was knowledgeable about the subject and provided good training materials and hand-outs. However, the trainer had not collected any information about the audience as a part of the pre-course preparation. As a result, the delivered training appeared to be too basic for that particular audience and didn’t receive positive feedback.

The trainer should consider the physical environment, which may affect the training. The room must be accessible and safe. The lighting and the temperature should be appropriate. The best layout of the room — either theater style, classroom style, boardroom style, or cabaret style — should be considered. Certain layouts are best for certain types of training. For example, theater style is best for lectures, and classroom style is best for training with activities. For training with a great deal of discussion, cabaret style may be best.

The trainer should pay attention to body language, use of space, eye contact, voice, and habits. For example, the trainer’s voice must be loud enough to clearly be heard but not too loud. The trainer should remain confident in front of the audience. Once, a trainer was sitting behind the computer’s monitor while talking, and the audience could barely see the trainer, who did not make eye contact. All of this displayed a lack of confidence, which was reflected by learners in the session’s feedback form.

Beginning a Training Session

The training session begins with arrivals and welcome. When the learners come into the training environment, the trainer should try to greet each person individually, if possible. The training session should start on time. The introduction covers rules for the training session such as health and safety requirements and not using mobile phones, as well as arrangements such as refreshments (Table 3). The trainer must cover the goal and overall structure of the training session, including the planned learning outcome and timing.

Making introductions is an important part of the training session. This includes ice-breakers, which are very useful in breaking down people’s reserve and help the learners get to know each other. The ice-breaker can be a simple, interesting story related to the training, a small group introduction, or individual introductions.

Training Styles

There are different training styles: lecturer/presenter, trainer, or facilitator. Lecturer style is good in many cases; however, it provides one-way learning, being a passive way that does not enhance practical skills. Facilitator and trainer styles ensure two-way active learning. The facilitator style enables self-learning and is best for training where the learners already have some knowledge of the training topic. Trainer style is best for developing knowledge and skills.

Table 4 provides an overview of different training techniques. Winston Churchill is reported to have said that his technique for speech making (like a presentation) was the following:

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them.
  • Tell them.
  • Tell them what you have told them.

This is a simple but effective technique. Telling the audience what the presentation will cover is the introduction with the objectives, and so forth. After delivering the presentation, telling the audience what the presentation covered is to recap the objectives.

The 4 MAT Model by Bernice McCarthy is focused around four questions: “Why?,” “What?,” “How?,” and “What if?” In this model, “why” covers giving the learners reasons to listen to the training session. “What” provides the right amount of background and description about the training topic. “How” considers practical examples and describes how to apply the topic. “What if” covers anticipating and answering questions.

The VAK concept is based on auditory, visual, and kinesthetic senses. It combines voice, sounds, and words (e.g., a lecture) and visual images (e.g., slides). Kinesthetic refers to activity or emotion.

A demonstration is an essential and useful method. But what is the best way to demonstrate? You may want to try the following approach: in the beginning, the trainers demonstrate the entire process. Then, they break it down into manageable chunks, explaining each portion of the whole process. This is followed by a repeat step-by-step demonstration.

The trainer usually manages learning activities introducing games, discussions, case studies, and work-based activities. Learners can be divided into small groups to do the learning activities. The trainer provides content for the activity, clear instructions, along with monitoring the progress of the groups. At the end of the exercise, the small groups report back to the whole group and the trainer provides a debriefing about the activity with the right answers.

For visual aids, PowerPoint slides, interactive whiteboards, and flip charts are usually used. PowerPoint slides are easy to prepare and can be re-used many times. Web chat may also be used. Interactive whiteboards can be used for multiple purposes: to show video, PowerPoint slides, and can be used as a flipchart. However, the trainer should learn how to use interactive whiteboards first.

Asking questions, Listening, Monitoring Progress, and Providing Feedback

Asking questions and listening are essential skills for trainers. Asking questions helps the trainer gain or keep the attention of learners. Questions can serve as a signal of moving to the next topic of discussion, but they also help to assess the attendees’ understanding of the training program. Probing questions encourage learners to find answers to questions themselves, and they enable the trainer to monitor the learning progress.

Listening could be expressed through eye contact and nods, reflecting back on what has been said to check understanding, and acknowledging or responding to what was said. If a course participant is trying to make a point, the trainer has to encourage them.

The learning progress has to be monitored in order to know how well the training is being received by the learners and to make adjustments, if necessary, to ensure that the learning objectives are met. The trainer can monitor individuals by asking questions about details to assess understanding and by looking at the audience members work. Group review and discussion is another way to assess understanding.

Providing constructive feedback to the learners is important. The feedback should be delivered in a positive way. The best approach to providing feedback is “BOOST:”

  • Balanced: Strength and development points
  • Observed: Based on what the trainer observed
  • Objective: Avoid any bias
  • Specific: Provide specific examples
  • Timely: Provide feedback as soon as possible after the event.

Training Evaluation

The purpose of evaluating training is to prove, learn, control, and improve. There are a few training evaluation methods in the industry. Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model is the most frequently used method:

  • Level 1: Reaction
  • Level 2: Learning
  • Level 3: Behavior
  • Level 4: Results

Levels 1 and 2 of Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model are covered in this article (Table 5). Level 1 assesses the learners’ reaction to the training session. This can be done through an online or paper questionnaire or voting devices. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to collect learners’ feedback through online questionnaires; in some cases, the response rate can be less than 20%. A paper questionnaire can be a good way to assess the learners’ reaction to the training; however, the trainer should plan the completion of questionnaire giving the attendees enough time to complete this task at the end of the session, as well as to explain why that’s important to collect the feedback.

A Level 1 questionnaire can ask questions about the session content, training materials, and how the instructor delivered the training, the environment, and so forth. For most questions, the learners can be asked to circle an option (e.g., strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree). It would also be useful to ask a few open-ended questions.

A Level 2 questionnaire covers what the class participants have learned at the training session. This could be done as pre- and post-testing, which measures the change in learning from before to after the training session. Sometimes, however, the learners evaluate their knowledge as substantial before the training session, and then they find out during the training session that they really did not know much about the topic. During the training session, knowledge could be tested through a quiz or exam, or it could be tested through case studies, discussion, and scenario exercises.

Ending a Training Session

The training session is brought to a close with a review of the objectives of the session. If the trainer used a flip chart in the beginning of the session to outline the course objectives or attendees’ expectations from the training session, they need to be reviewed. Then, the trainer asks if the audience had any questions and answers their questions. Finally, the trainer asks the audience to complete the training evaluation, remembering to explain the importance of collecting the feedback.

Conclusion

While planning, developing, and delivering training sessions, we keep in mind that the learners in the classroom represent different learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. To fit everyone’s learning style, we use a variety of training methods for those who prefer learning by listening, or watching, or learning by doing. So, the important thing is to make sure that we accommodate all the learning styles in our classroom.

Training sessions start well before the actual delivery. The session preparation includes proper planning, considering the audience, session objectives, and the level of complexity that fits the audience’s needs. Other things to consider are the training methods to be used, the training style, and the duration of the training. The trainer decides which handouts are going to be used as well as the training evaluation form to collect the participants’ feedback.

Pre-training communications serve toovercome possible barriers to training and create the proper environment. In order to set up the environment, we promote the learning, providing the instructions on how to sign up for the course. The pre-training session questionnaire provides the trainer with very useful information about their audience, including the level of expertise and knowledge on the subject. Such information allows the trainer to customize the training to the needs of the learners, making the session the most effective.

During the planning stage, we need to decide which training style will fit the best: a lecture, training class, or facilitated session. Selecting the style, we keep in mind that the lecture style provides a passive way of learning that does not enhance practical skills, while facilitator and trainer styles ensure active learning. The facilitator style requires the learners to have some practical or theoretical knowledge of the training topic.

Giving a demonstration of a process assumes the following approach: show the whole process, break it down into pieces, and repeat how it all works together.

During the training session, it is vitally important to manage learning activities and provide feedback to learners.

Training evaluations are able to tell us how well the training is received and if any improvements are required.


TABLE 1

Learning Styles

  • Visual:
    • Uses visual objects
    • Can read body language
  • Auditory:
    • Retains information through hearing and speaking
    • Prefers to be told how to do things
  • Kinesthetic:
    • Likes to use a practical approach to learning
    • Prefers to demonstrate how to do it

TABLE 2

Sample Training Session Plan

  • Objective:
    • To improve understanding of asthma as a disease by delivering an ILT session to clinical project managers with regards to its epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment in order to be able to develop protocol inclusion and exclusion criteria and to answer quiz questions
  • Pre-training activities:
    • Preparation of questionnaires and handouts
  • Training activities (approximately 2 hours):
    • Introduction of the trainer, icebreaker, agenda, and ground rules
    • Clarify attendees’ expectations and write them down on a flipchart
    • Explain training objectives:
      • 5 minutes
    • Pre-training assessment activity:
      • 5 minutes
    • Presentation Part 1
    • Video
    • Discussion
    • Presentation Part 2:
      • 40 minutes
    • Individual assessment activity:
      • 10 minutes
    • Review and discussion:
      • 10 minutes
    • Small group assessment activity:
      • 15 minutes
    • Review and discussion:
      • 10 minutes
    • Summary
    • Q&A:
      • About 10 minutes
    • Recap objectives:
      • 5 minutes
    • Review attendees expectations:
      • 5 minutes
    • Answer any last questions:
      • 5 minutes
    • Post-training questionnaire administration:
      • 5 minutes
    • Positive conclusion and further learning resources:
      • 2-3 minutes
  • Post-training activities:
    • Post-training questionnaire evaluation Level 1
    • Recommendations to tailor/improve the training session

TABLE 3

Training Session Introduction

  • Health and safety requirements
  • Arrangements (e.g., refreshments)
  • Goal of the training session
  • Planned learning outcome
  • Timing
  • Overall structure of the training session
  • Ground rules (e.g., not using cell phones)
  • Introducing the learners

TABLE 4

Overview of Training Techniques

  • Winston Churchill’s speech technique:
  • Tell them what you are going to tell them
  • Tell them
  • Tell them what you have told them
  • 4 MAT Model(Bernice McCarthy):
    • Why?: Give the audience reasons to listen
    •  What?: Provide the right amount of background and description about the subject
    •  How?: Give practical examples and describe how the subject can be applied
    •  What if?: Anticipate and answer questions
  •  VAK concept:
    • Auditory sense: Through voice, sounds, and words
    • Visual sense: Through visual images
    • Kinesthetic sense: Though activity or emotion
  •  Demonstration:
    • Demonstrate the whole process first
    • Break down the process into manageable chunks
    • Repeat the process in a step-by-step demonstration
  •  Learning activities (games, discussions, case studies, and work-based activities):
    • Divide into smaller groups
    • Provide content for the activity
    • Give clear instructions
    • Monitor the progress with the groups
    • Ask groups to report back and share the output
    • Debrief the activity with the “official” answers
    • Conclude the activity
  • Visual aids:
    • PowerPoint slides
    • Interactive white board
    • Flip charts

TABLE 5

Level 1 and 2 of Kirkpatrick’s Training Evaluation Model

  • Level 1: Reaction:
    • At the end of the class
    • Immediate feedback; however, not enough information to evaluate the effectiveness of training activities
    • Assignments:
      • Online questionnaire (surveymonkey.com, etc.)
      • Paper questionnaire form
      • Voting devices
  • Level 2: Learning:
    • Pre- and post-testing
    • Test for knowledge:
      • Quiz
      • Exam 
      • Case studies, discussion, and scenario exercises



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