The Learner Who Just Doesn’t Get It


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One of the saddest things to face in a training cycle is when a learner doesn’t pass their qualifications assessment. This can be particularly hard on some learners, depending upon their individual personality. Some will want to quit, others will blame the trainer, and still others will just get depressed.

Failure is a normal part of learning. If someone could do the tasks perfectly, why would they need to be in the training? No, they are clearly there because they don’t know it all and need to learn. With that in mind, we must always make sure that our learners realize that they may fail an assessment; but that doesn’t mean that they’ve failed. It just means that they have to try again.

While everyone would like to pass every assessment the first time at bat, it just doesn’t happen. Learners need to realize this, so that they will be ready when it happens. In effect, it can be extremely helpful to them if they look at their first assessment as a practice one; established so that they can find out what they need to work on so that they will pass. Of course, if they pass, then they don’t need to try again.

With that sort of attitude, learners can face their assessments much more positively. Not only that, but trainers can face it more positively as well. They can look at their candidates’ efforts not just to evaluate whether they are competent or not, but also from the viewpoint of what to do with that learner, so that they can pass the assessment on their next try.

In one sense, you could say that this is what separates the really good trainers from the average ones. An average trainer will take the results of a failed assessment and think “I just need to teach my learner how to pass this one thing.” However, a really good trainer will take those same results and seek out the root cause of why the leaner didn’t pass that assessment. Maybe they need more practice on a particular task; maybe their underlying knowledge isn’t all the way connected to the task; maybe they don’t have some basic skill that is showing up in a number of parts of the assessment.

We have to remember that we’re training these people so that they are ready to work in industry. The assessing that we do is based on making sure that our learners are ready to do the work, not just so that they can pass a test. If all we are thinking about is getting them through the assessment, then we’re not serving them well. Better we ensure that they are ready for anything.

Our learners are going to be looking for our feedback in these situations. They expect that we’ll be able to answer their questions, solve their problems and prepare them to pass the next time around. We start that process by giving them feedback on their performance; feedback that won’t crush their motivation, but rather help them to be motivated to prepare for the next time.

Feedback is an important part of maintaining proper communications with learners. For more on how to give feedback and make it effective, check out the Assess Learning Guide, where we talk about it.