I have been reading “The Art of Evaluation” by Fenwick and Parsons.
Amongst many different topics on evaluation, they introduce 4 traps of Evaluation
- Evaluating what’s easiest to measure
- Underestimating the learning embedded in evaluation
- Unexamined Power
Upon reflecting on these ‘traps’, I realized that these are very similar to some of the difficulties in goal setting and performance evaluation.
Take good old customer service as an example. It is often very easy to report on how many phone calls or customer contacts a representative has. However, it is way more complex to measure the quality of those interactions or customer satisfaction.
In goal setting with employees, all too often we select goals that are easy to measure, rather than what is important or has value. I think this brings in reductionism too. By limiting the goals to what we can measure, we are reducing development to a tiny box. Not only will this lead to missing opportunities, but it can also affect employee engagement. Limiting the options could lead to easy or repetitive tasks and not valuing development in other areas. I’ve worked in these circumstances—it is very demotivating!
Another aspect is the learning in evaluation. All too often training in corporate environment lacks evaluation. This is a missed opportunity. It is an important tool for educators to develop better programs. Also, evaluation is valuable to learnings, as it gives them insight into the direction where they should apply more effort. Without this, it is like working in the blind, which again can be demotivating. One might argue that training is evaluated through work performance, which is fine. But all too often feedback in the workplace is scarce. Lack of feedback without fail is one of the main reasons employees look for other jobs.
Finally, power. Power is becoming one of my favourite topics in education, as you saw in my examination of “Whole Brain Teaching”. There is an inherent power authority in evaluation. Most people have some form of anxiety surrounding evaluation already, but with adults it can be all the more as they may be uncomfortable submitting to the criticism of others. Team this with other factors, such as coercive management or an authoritarian teaching style and you could have some really stressed out learners! With adults, as educators we need to look for ways to limit this unequal power. Transparency in the evaluation is a good first step.
Evaluation, whether employee performance or learning, is an important tool. Personally, I see it as a tool for growth and development. Avoiding these traps is important to keep with that philosophy.
One of my professors sent me a link in relation to this topic. Growth mindset–check it out!