Assessing Skills for Improved Learning

Have you ever experienced studying relentlessly for an exam and still didn’t make the desired mark? The way in which information is taught, coached, or practiced versus how it is assessed is an impactful concept. Phrases like, “That’s the way I learned. They just need to try harder,” or “They are just not listening. We’ve gone over it with them twice- they just don’t get it,” are often said without consideration of instruction and how it aligns with the assessment. For example, did you read over the chapter for a fill in the blank test or memorize facts and dates with flash cards for an essay exam? Or, do we practice running long distances for a triathlon? All of these questions are common approaches for coaching skills that are not aligned with the assessment. Remember, we practice how we perform.

This way of ‘learning/coaching’ doesn’t just exist in schools or sports. The business world can be very similar. Assigning projects with a brief overview and a deadline often results in frustration with inaccuracies or lack of alignment with execution of the project. This is a major contributor to inefficiencies in companies or organizations. It is important that as leaders and coaches that we intentionally understand the strategy of aligning the tasks with the assessments.

“Going over” something is very different than teaching or coaching. Great coaches, leaders, and teachers who have cracked this code will often share that if there is a certain skill being trained or coached it is far more impactful to assess that certain skill, rather than the overall capacity or endurance. When onboarding or introducing a change, assessing specific skills one at a time will allow for establishing a foundation, leading to huge gains and successes in building additional skills. This is how one can accomplish this: 

  • Clear Vision: Sharing the “why” and connecting to the individual “why” is imperative for alignment in purpose. Coach people how they need to be coached.
  • Clear Structure & Ownership: Define what is expected, what will be measured and when, and who is owning the project or task.
  • Role Clarity: Define the purpose of the role and how each role is an integral and necessary contributor to the success of the company or organization. Discuss the specific task or skill at hand and how it will impact the greater good of the company.
  • Weekly 1:1 Check-ins: Trust is developed with dedication of time and commitment from supervisors, coaches, or teachers by allowing for consistent check-ins with the opportunity for questions, ideas, and clarification. 
  • Consistent and Intentional Dialogue and Feedback: Supervisors, leaders, and coaches who provide opportunities for dialogue, questions, and intentional feedback allow for a culture of growth.

Anything can be coached, but establishing the foundation for an enriched learning and working environment is key to improving and assessing new skills. Buy-in and developing a growth mindset begins with clarity of the task or skill at hand. Establishing the individual “why” up front with a clear structure and role clarity, coupled with weekly check-ins comprised of intentional feedback and dialogue, will inevitably set the foundation for success. Not only that, this is also sure to establish a continued love for learning, growing, and pushing past plateaus

Leah Rios, Head of Learning & Training