Since the publication of my book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form, I’ve been working with clients to help them craft questions they can use to get the learner feedback they want. I’ve learned a ton through this process. The most important thing I’ve learned is:

  • The process of writing questions benefits from thoughtful iterations utilizing multiple stakeholders.
  • We, as question writers, must maintain humility and be aggressive in working to create continuous improvement.

To honor these bits of wisdom, let me share some improvements to the questions I’ve been recommending.

The questions here represent a culmination of a long line of improvements that rely on hundreds of helpful comments from learning-and-development professionals and numerous data points from real learners and real workplace learning.

Gauging Learning to Performance

Let me start with the great grand-daughter of a question I once called, “The World’s Best Smile-Sheet Question.” The original seemed great at the time, but I have learned that it was too wordy and missed some critical elements. This is a much stronger version:

HOW ABLE ARE YOU to put what you’ve learned into practice in your work? CHOOSE THE ONE OPTION that best describes your current readiness.

  • My CURRENT ROLE DOES NOT ENABLE me to use what I learned.
  • I AM STILL UNCLEAR about what to do, and/or why to do it.
  • I NEED MORE GUIDANCE before I know how to use what I learned.
  • I NEED MORE EXPERIENCE to be good at using what I learned.
  • I CAN BE SUCCESSFUL NOW in using what I learned (even without more guidance or experience).
  • I CAN PERFORM NOW AT AN EXPERT LEVEL in using what I learned.

This question gauges the learners’ perspectives on how well they will be able use what they learned in their work.

The following are the recommended standards for each answer choice above:

  • Unacceptable (Learning Not Relevant)
  • Unacceptable (Learning Did Not Work)
  • Unacceptable (Learning Still Needed)
  • Acceptable (Enabled for Action)
  • Superior (Enabled for Performance)
  • Unlikely/Overconfident (Maybe Not Attending to Question)

Standards should be negotiated with your stakeholders, so you can use the recommended standards as a starting point for discussions.

Gauging Learner Comprehension

Another key goal of training is to ensure that learner’s fully comprehend what was taught. The next question is focused on that:

Now that you’ve completed the learning experience, how well do you feel you understand the concepts taught? CHOOSE ONE.

  • I am still at least SOMEWHAT CONFUSED about the concepts.
  • I am now SOMEWHAT FAMILIAR WITH the concepts.
  • I have a SOLID UNDERSTANDING of the concepts.
  • I AM FULLY READY TO USE the concepts in my work.
  • I have an EXPERT-LEVEL ABILITY to use the concepts.

Standards recommended:

  • Unacceptable (Learning Insufficient)
  • Unacceptable (Awareness Not Enough)
  • Acceptable (Learned Sufficiently)
  • Superior (Ready to Use)
  • Unlikely/Overconfident (Maybe Not Attending to Question)

 

Gauging After-Learning Support

Another goal of training is to provide learners with after-learning support, to increase the likelihood that learning will transfer:

After the course, when you begin to apply your new knowledge at your worksite, which of the following supports are likely to be in place for you? SELECT AS MANY ITEMS as are likely to be true.

  • MY MANAGER WILL ACTIVELY SUPPORT ME with key supports like time, resources, advice, and/or encouragement.
  • I will use A COACH OR MENTOR to guide me in applying the learning to my work.
  • I will regularly receive support from A COURSE INSTRUCTOR to help me in applying the learning to my work.
  • I will use JOB AIDS like checklists, search tools, or reference materials to guide me in applying the learning to my work.
  • I will be PERIODICALLY REMINDED (for at least several weeks) of key concepts and skills that were taught.
  • I will NOT get much direct support, but will rely on my own initiative.

 

Using Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are some of the most powerful questions you can ask. Here are two I recommend:

Which aspects of the learning helped you the most in learning what was taught?

What could have been done better to make this a more effective learning experience? Remember, your feedback is critical, especially in providing us with constructive ideas for improvement.

 

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the improved questions I’m now recommending. If you want help with your smile-sheet questions, please get in touch.

If you want to read the book, go to the book’s website.

If you want to learn more about my smile-sheet workshop or rebuilds, check this out.

If you want a better question than the Net Promoter Score, use this one.

If you want to see questions I recommended six months after the book was published, look here.