Evaluation is considered an integral part of the learning design process given that it allows for an appraisal of the effectiveness and impact of your instructional strategies and materials in students’ learning. However, evaluation is often overseen due to a lack of awareness, experience, time or capabilities to choose and apply an appropriate methodology (Oliver & Conole, 1998). In higher education, the most common approach is to reduce evaluation to a Student Experience Survey (SES) collected at the end of the semester. At times, this process may include a reflection on students’ grades without much thought given to the link between grades, curriculum, teacher performance, and students’ ability to apply knowledge. This approach is emblematic of a summative evaluation approach for it happens after the fact, and is quite limited in scope. Students’ self reported reactions to the learning experience do not faithfully communicate the impact of your instructional decisions, materials and strategies on their actual learning. Students’ self reports also do not inform you of the effectiveness of tasks, resources and supports used in your curriculum program and provide no suggestions on how to improve them.

The focus of this section is formative evaluation, which provides you with the tools you need to evaluate your learning designs before, during and after instruction. Formative evaluation focuses on the process of teaching and learning as it develops over time, and hence requires much more frequent intervention (Knapper, 1980). There are three characteristics that distinguish formative evaluation:

  1. It is conducted during the formulation of instruction for the purpose of locating the strengths and weaknesses in the instruction and for prescribing revisions.
  2. It is iterative or cyclical, meaning that following prescribed revisions, the instruction is implemented again.
  3. Judgments made during formative evaluation include those based on actual performance data collected from target learners who complete the instruction (Dick and Carey. 1991).

There are many evaluation models. Some of the most commonly used are Kirkpatricks’ 4 Levels of Evaluation, Draper et. al’s integrative evaluation, and Stufflebeam’s CIPP model just to name a few. As the focus here is to provide you with simple suggestions for application, the following exercises encompass the lessons from several models found in the literature. Choose an action from the menu below according to the stage you are currently in with your design: