20 Benefits of Learner Surveys

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Learner surveys are the most common method of measuring learning. I’ve been studying them for over a decade, ever since I learned of how they were deficient. Here, I will describe their benefits, but of course they must be well designed.

In 2016, I published a book on how to radically transform learner surveys into something useful. The title was Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form. 

In 2022, I published the book again in a second edition, after updating it considerably based on the knowledge I gained in consulting with organizations in their learning-evaluation efforts. The second edition is titled: Performance-Focused Learner Surveys: Using Distinctive Questioning to Get Actionable Data and Guide Learning Effectiveness (Second Edition). It’s available on Amazon and you can learn more by clicking here. (This is the US Amazon, it’s available worldwide).

In the first edition, I listed nine benefits of learner surveys, but I had only touched the surface. In the second edition I share 20 benefits. Here’s the list:

Supporting Learning Design Effectiveness

  1. Red-flagging training programs that are not sufficiently effective.
  2. Gathering ideas for ongoing updates and revisions of learning programs.
  3. Judging the strengths, weaknesses, and viability of program updates and pilots.
  4. Providing learning architects and trainers with feedback to aid their development.
  5. Judging the competence of learning architects and trainers.
  6. Judging the contributions to learning made by people outside of the learning team.
  7. Assessing the contributions of learning supports and organizational practices.

Supporting Learners in Learning and Application

  1. Helping learners reflect on and reinforce what they learned.
  2. Helping learners determine what (if anything) they plan to do with their learning.
  3. Nudging learners to greater learning and application efforts.

Nudging Action Through Stealth Messaging

  1. Guiding learning architects to create more effective learning by sharing survey questions before learning designs are finalized and sharing survey results after data is gathered.
  2. Guiding trainers to utilize more effective learning methods by sharing survey questions before learning designs are finalized and sharing survey results after data is gathered.
  3. Guiding organizational stakeholders to support learning efforts more effectively by sharing survey questions and survey results.
  4. Guiding organizational decision makers to better appreciate the complexity and depth of learning and development—helping the learning team to gain credibility and autonomy.

Supporting Relationships with Learners and Other Key Stakeholders

  1. Capturing learner satisfaction data to understand—and make decisions that relate to—the reputation of the learning intervention and/or the instructors.
  2. Upholding the spirit of common courtesy by giving learners a chance for feedback.
  3. Enabling learner frustrations to be vented—to limit damage from negative back-channel communications.

Maintaining Organizational Credibility

  1. Engaging in visibly credible efforts to assess learning effectiveness.
  2. Engaging in visibly credible efforts to utilize data to improve effectiveness.
  3. Reporting out data to demonstrate learning effectiveness.

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