Tests and Exams—one important question to ask yourself before you test others

As a young college professor, best-selling business author Ken Blanchard constantly found himself in front of disapproving faculty boards. The reason?  His insistence on giving out the final exam to each of his students on the first day of the class he was teaching.

As soon as they found out, the board would call Blanchard in to explain himself.  As Ken describes it, the exchange usually went something like this:

Ken: “I’m confused.”

The Board: “You act like it.”

Ken: “I thought we are supposed to teach these kids.”

The Board: “You are, but don’t give them the exam ahead of time.”

Ken would never listen and would actually spend the entire semester teaching the students the answers to the questions.  Ken’s belief was that his main job was to teach students the content they needed to learn, as opposed to worrying about evaluating them properly with the final exam.

Dr. Vicki Halsey, VP of Applied Learning for The Ken Blanchard Companies uses a similar approach when it comes to teaching. Instead of using tests to identify what people don’t know at the end of leadership training, she uses tests to help people claim and celebrate what they do know.  A recent example is work she did with pharmaceutical representatives who needed to learn a new skill in collecting information from doctors.  Halsey’s approach helped the learners to feel confident in what they knew and successful when they walked out the door and returned to their jobs.

How do you want people feeling when they finish a class?  Do you want people focusing on what they don’t know, or ready to put into practice what they do know? It’s a subtle difference that makes all the difference.

You can read more about Halsey’s unique approach to adult learning at Leaders Need to Be Teachers.  Also check out Halsey’s free July 20 webinar on 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.

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