To Evaluate Social Change Trainings, Start Here

Form Leaders Who Form Leaders Education programs

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Before we get into the “How”, let’s talk about why to evaluate trainings.

I hear a lot of talented trainers, organizers, facilitators and other leaders dismiss evaluation.

“That’s just more hoops the funders make us jump through.”

“We already know the impact, people loved our training!”

It’s frustrating to have people who haven’t experienced your powerful work judge it’s success, especially when they wield power and control over your organization.

But evaluation isn’t just important because funders and other decision-makers say so, it’s important because, done correctly, it helps guide us towards a common vision.

We need clearly stated goals with transparent measures to help us learn about the real impact of our collective efforts.

Otherwise we might be subject to hidden goals and measures that are subject to other power dynamics in our group.

Evaluation done right is about equity and participation.

The Four Levels of Evaluating Training for Social Change

A lot of training evaluation forms I’ve seen (or used!) ask what participants liked about the training and what they would change.

This is a great start, but it only scratches the surface.

In 1954, a professor named Donald Kirkpatrick developed a model for training evaluation that might be useful to social change trainers.

He talks about four levels of evaluation: reaction, learning, behavior and results.

Here are some questions you might ask for each level.

Reaction (Level 1): What did people like about the training? What would they change?

Learning (Level 2): How well did people understand and remember the content?

Behavior (Level 3): How did people use what they learned after the training was over?

Results (Level 4): How did using what they learned help advance their social change goals?

You want learners to like the training and understand the content, of course.

But in order to make change happen learners need to take action that leads to results!

Learning from History

Not convinced? Let’s look at some historical examples that illustrate this point.

In 1979, the revolutionary government in Nicaragua created a country-wide education program that politicized an entire generation.

Their political education program had a specific measurable goal in mind: eradicate illiteracy.

In only five months it successfully decreased illiteracy from 50% to 13%.

This was unprecedented and it won a UNESCO literacy award because of it.

We can also look at the Citizenship Schools in the Southern U.S. from late 1950’s to early 1960’s.

Civil rights leader and former Mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young once said,

“If you look at the Black elected officials and the people who are political leaders across the South now, it’s full of people who had their first involvement in civil rights in the Citizenship Training Program.”

Its goal wasn’t only to raise consciousness, though, it was to build political power by registering Black voters.

It set up over one-thousand independent schools across the South to advance this goal.

Each of these examples had goals relating not only learning but also behavior (action) and results.

What might this mean for your training?

Next time you develop a training program, begin by identifying the goals you hope to achieve as a group.

Then develop a training program that will help learners accomplish it.

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Riahl O’Malley and Indira Garmendia, co-founders