Theresa Redmond - How do you know if that training course you attended/delivered was actually any good?

Being the parent of a teenager, I decided it was high time my increasingly independent son learnt the important life skill of First Aid (I’m a little obsessed by First Aid, I will get you into the recovery position before you’ve hit the floor in a faint). So, on Saturday I delivered and collected my dutiful son to 4 hours of emergency First Aid training, leading to him having some kind of ‘certification’ valid for 3 years.

On the way there I asked him, “What do you know about First Aid?”

He replied, “Literally nothing” (please don’t be pedantic about his use of literally).

On the way home I asked him, “So could you save my life now?

He answered, “Well.. I know the theory but I’m not sure I could do it.”

“Oh, okay, well that’s something” I said.

“I think I could tell someone else what to do though..” he expanded optimistically.

I guess, this was my clumsy attempt at evaluating how effective this training actually was (with a basic before and after design). Had that 4 hour session turned my son into a lifesaver? Hmmm...

So, how effective was the last training session that you attended?

How would you even go about measuring that effectiveness???

Of course, the quality of refreshments provided and plush environment are important (to be fair it really is grim if you don’t feel well looked after).

Some training providers provide a higher quality biscuit


But this probably isn’t the reason that you’ve made the investment of your time and/or money to attend.

What do you hope to gain from attending?

At a recent ‘Developing and Using Evidence’ workshop we ran here at The Communication Trust, I came across ‘Rowland’s Rules’ (Caroline Rowland from Lucid wrote an earlier TCT blog see here) which expanded on some basic ideas on checking evidence for interventions.  These included checking the evidence on website/materials, making sure this evidence was not just personal endorsements, looking at the content and quality of this evidence and if the evidence demonstrated that the approach was actually EFFECTIVE for your needs.

This same approach, with some tweaking, could be applied to training courses.

Of course the kind of study designs used to evaluate interventions is not going to be applicable to most training courses but you SHOULD expect training courses to have some kind of evaluation which is MORE than how much people enjoyed it, if they THOUGHT it would be useful or how good the biscuits were.

In ‘Creating Evidence Based Practice’- a guide for busy Clinicians, Yvonne Wren writes that it is important that clinicians have knowledge about what is important to assess from a training course “confidence and knowledge is of less value than change to practice” (chapter 7, page 1).

And for most of us this would reflect what we are hoping to get from training we attend...

So next time you are attending a training course, or are devising or delivering one, think about how that training course can show an increase in:

  • Knowledge (perhaps with a simple ‘before’ and ‘after’ quiz/assessment)
  • Confidence (perhaps with a simple ‘before’ and ‘after’ rating scale)
  • Skills (perhaps with a ‘before’ and ‘after’ video or observation)

And ultimately CHANGE IN PRACTICE (perhaps with a longer term ‘learning journal’, videos or observations)

According to your individual or service needs you may also want to consider changes to attitudes, value for money, impact on organisational change, impact on service users etc.

And be wary – no training provider is going to say ‘our training is based on no evidence or evaluation whatsoever but everyone loves it! (and our biscuits are great!)'. There will be evidence. So scrutinise the evidence provided – is it just testimonials? Do they use objective measures that I recognise (tests, independent observations etc)?

Please do read Yvonne’s chapter for more information and also see the What Works Training Database – there you can find the criteria we use before accepting training programmes onto our database.


Did the 4 hour First Aid training course turn my son into a lifesaver? It has perhaps changed his attitude and confidence, increased his knowledge and started to give him tentative, new practical skills. He has a parent who will ask questions to reinforce his knowledge, but it is only through use of his new skills that he is likely to change his behaviour. Of course, this is one instance when I hope he won’t need to use these skills any time soon, but for the rest of us, our work related CPD really should have an impact on our daily practice to be worth the investment.

Theresa is a ‎Lead Professional Advisor in Speech, Language & Communication at the Communication Trust. She has worked as a speech and language therapist and clinical educator for 20 years and has broad clinical experience across paediatrics and a special interest in research and teaching skills.

Written by Theresa Redmond at 00:00


Abbie Bude said...
Thanks Theresa, this backs up what we have been discussing recently. We need to focus more on the longer term follow up to training and evidence the change in practice, rather than just enjoying the positive comments they have written on the evaluation form!
September 4, 2017 11:59
Lisa Morgan said...
Absolutely! - this really captures how we all need to ensure that training and CPD are not just 'interesting' or give 'food for thought' but really make a difference to what we all do in practice
August 22, 2017 02:48