Is assessment a necessary evil or a blessing in disguise?

This week’s post comes from #chat2lrn crew member, Judith Christian-Carter B.Ed (Hons), M.Phil, FLPI, Chartered FCIPD. Judith is a Director of Effective Learning Solutions, a UK-based learning services company. You can find her on Twitter @JudithELS


As a learning professional, do you regard assessment to be part and parcel of your job role? If you do, then you aren’t alone but why is the learning profession so obsessed with assessment? Is it by desire, or as a result of coercion from line managers and senior executives? Even if the reasons are largely historical, this still doesn’t make the need for assessment to be right, or serve as an excuse when it’s done badly, which, alas, is all too often the case.

Testing, testing and yet more testing

Today, in several countries there is much controversy surrounding the excessive testing of school students. However, for some time there has also been a growing groundswell of criticism about the use and frequency of assessing adult learning. Does the love of measurement lie at the root of the obsession with assessment? After all, just think of all those quotes and saying extolling the value of measurement: “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it” and “If you cannot measure it, it doesn’t exist” – so it must be a good thing, mustn’t it?

Okay, many people do want to know how they are doing, be they a learner, a manager or the organisation as a whole. So measurements that inform them of what they want to know are a good thing. However, there are two aspects to this: the first is what is actually being measured, and the second is how it has been measured. The truth is, that what you measure is what you get! So, does the fact that I have scored 100% on a compliance or regulation-based test mean that I am competent to perform either in the workplace? If all I’ve been assessed on is knowledge and not understanding or the application of that knowledge, then probably not.

Designing assessment is far from easy

Designing valid and reliable assessments is an extremely skilled and experienced activity. As with other aspects of learning provision, there are far too many who assume that anyone can design assessments. It is largely this assumption that has led to assessments being used when they are not needed and, when they are needed, being designed so poorly.

Putting assessment in its place

Do you think that the time has come for the learning profession as a whole to acknowledge that assessment has got totally out of hand, as well as being conducted extremely badly in far too many instances? Why should assessment be assumed to be a given when people are learning? Instead, should its use be questioned and challenged in each and every situation? Measuring and collecting data are just fine, as long as there are reasons for doing the former and collecting the latter. If no reasons can be provided, then should we leave well alone and just get on with helping people learn what they need in order to do their jobs better? 

Lots of questions, so join in and discuss these and others on 2 June, 2016 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST  to see to what extent assessment is viewed as a necessary evil or a blessing in disguise.



Guerilla Learning!

This weeks post was written by Adam Weisblatt, a Learning Technologist focused on creating environments for great learning experiences. A specialist in the selection, deployment and optimization of learning infrastructure and tool sets that support the delivery of online and in person training, Adam is a creative problem solver with an in-depth understanding of the workflow and business drivers that Learning Professionals grapple with every day. He has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of corporate learning, and he has a proven track record of implementing the infrastructure required to consolidate training efforts across business units and country offices. Adam learned about business from his father’s electrical contracting company. He expressed his creativity and leadership by running a Performance Art Troupe while at art school and he fueled his passion for learning by being an instructor, an eLearning designer, and a blogger. Adam writes about the intersection of technology and learning and how it is reshaping business. He promotes a business-driven learner-centric approach to using learning technology. He believes in opening up the definition of what learning can be.  Reach Adam at: Twitter  @weisblatt or    Email

I was on #chat2lrn a while back and we were talking again about how difficult it is to get buy in from our organizations on all the innovative things we learn from our online community and the conferences we go to. A phrase popped into my head and I typed it into the Tweet Chat window: Guerrilla Learning. Suddenly there were a ton of retweets with people saying, “What a great idea.” But it wasn’t an idea. It was just a clever phrase. I had no idea what Guerrilla Learning was.

Later on I thought about the problem. Why is it so hard to implement new ideas in an L&D environment? After all, as learning professionals, we are expected to find out about the latest innovations. That’s why we go online and attend conferences. We get all revved up on the possibilities of transforming learning. We see the future impact of technology on work. But when we come back to our teams and share our enthusiasm with them, we get nothing. “Oh that sounds great, but it won’t work for my program.” You know how learning people are. The project they are working on today is the most important thing to ever happen in this company. They don’t want their high priority, high visibility, high stakes project to be your guinea pig.

The problem is that without a guinea pig, your new ideas are not going anywhere. I thought more about what Guerrilla Learning would look like and how it might solve the problem. What if I became a rebel? What if I created learning programs under the radar? What if I asked for forgiveness rather than permission? I could create programs, deploy them without anyone knowing and then declare success.

Of course, I would have no content, no resources, no audience and no budget.


  • Think small. If you run a small program, you don’t need much content.
  • Be a junk collector. Dig deep into the bottom of your LMS and pull out some old content that’s been sitting there for a while. No one will mind you using that.
  • Curate content instead of creating it. Use content that already exists. But don’t just make a link farm. Put some context around the content to give it relevance to the learner.
  • Let the learners create the content. Set up a place where they can contribute their own ideas and resources.
  • Create experiences instead of content. Give instructions for learners to go out on their own or in a cohort and experience the learning through activities.


  • Use what you have at hand. Your phone has a video camera in it that is better quality than a top of the line camcorder from 20 years ago.
  • Use free tools and resources. Cloud-based tools usually have a free version. Use this just to get started.


  • Start with your network. Every viral video had to start somewhere, and that is usually with your friends. Get them to be your conspirators.
  • Use social media. First though, you need followers. Go on your company’s social media tool and post about yourself, your work and resources you’ve found. Then, once you get a following, you can post about your programs.
  • Use reverse psychology. Tell people that no one is supposed to know about this and people will want to be involved.

Once you’ve created the program and ran it successfully, you can present to senior leadership like it was a planned, sanctioned program. You will already have an audience that you’ve built for the full version. Just remember to talk to them about their experience. You are innovating and by definition you will make mistakes. Take advantage of people’s willingness to help you find and resolve them.

You are well on your way to creating Guerrilla Learning. Viva La Revolution!

Go to my Facebook page to access resources and examples:

Please share your thoughts, experiences and opinions. Join us for #chat2lrn Thursday, May 19th, 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST and let’s chat about it!



Death to Learning & Development! Fact or Fiction?

This weeks post has been written by Ajay M. Pangarkar CTDP, CPA, CMA (a member of the #chat2lrn crew) and Teresa Kirkwood CTDP are founders of and They are renowned employee performance management experts and 3-time authors most recently publishing the leading performance book, “The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy” (Wiley), award-wining assessment specialist with Training Magazine, and award-winning writer winning the 2014/2015 prestigious Readership and Editors’ Awards for the Top 10 most read articles. Help them start a, “Workplace Revolution” at or contact:

Is workplace learning and development (L&D) dying? Does it deserve to continue to exist? What should L&D become to survive? These are some of the questions people have recently been asking. My friend and colleague, Tom Spiglanin, just blogged about a significant change in the workplace learning space. Tom knows his stuff and I encourage you to read his post, “It’s Happening” first before reading this. But also, Tom (and me too) is open to discussion so please share your opinions.

What I appreciate about Tom’s post is that it brings to light the need for L&D to keep up with the times. Regretfully, I meet too many L&D practitioners who have an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude or are seeking a ‘quick fix’. If you fall into this category then soon say ‘bye-bye’ to your job and L&D role.

Colleagues from the Internet Time Alliance asked, “What would happen if there were no L&D department?” or as I want you to ask yourself, “What if my role becomes irrelevant?” Don’t scoff at these questions, it’s very much a reality, not a possibility. Our position is that L&D won’t die but will evolve significantly. Essentially, death to L&D, as we currently know it and in my professional experience, is as close to being ‘irrelevant’ as you can get.

There are a variety of reasons why I firmly commit to the L&D (r)evolution hypothesis. Those who know me, read my books (recently, The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy), or participate in my workshops (Learning DevCamp, ‘Gaining Buy-in for Your E and M-Learning Projects‘), know that I’m an L&D hard ass…I like to refer to it as L&D ‘tough love’ and always look at L&D from a business perspective, not from one of learning. This means that I interact with many business leaders, and trust me, they’re desperately seeking more from their L&D people. But not in the traditional context. They need L&D to be innovative and become a leading performance indicator partner.

Another reason that I believe an L&D (r) evolution is afoot has to do with generational progression. What’s that you say? At no other time in modern human history has there been so many generations in the workplace at one time. Think about it, there are the traditionalists (the 75+ crowd), the boomers (the 55+ crowd), the Xer’s (the 40+ crowd) and the boomers’ children, commonly referred to as millennials, (the 25+ crowd). Count’em. That’s four generations. Typically, there are only three. But wait…there’s more! Gen X generation’s children, gen Z or the Facebook gen, are popping-in. Both the millennials and gen Z employee population will soon exceed the combined employee population of older generations or at least they will in some countries, but not worldwide. In the UK, the workforce population is getting older and it’s not just in the UK that things are changing…it is a worldwide occurrence that L&D professionals will have to address.

So, what does this generational progression mean for L&D? Well, you may notice that millennials and generation Z are mobile ones. They were raised with, and using, the Web. Gen Z is even more mobile than millennials as they typically rely on using tablets and smartphones. Worse, they have the shortest attention span compared to any other previous generation. Recently an interesting Forbes article, Generation Z: 10 Stats From SXSW You Need To Knowhighlights many pertinent Gen Z facts but more importantly for L&D are bullets 2, 3, and 4. They say that pictures speak a thousand words…have a look at this infographic… L&D are facing a huge challenge!

There must be some type of (r) evolution considering the options available to deploying L&D solutions that is inclusive. This technology (r) evolution is accelerating forcing L&D to rethink its place and how it moves forward.

Finally, ‘the learning curve is the earning curve’ resonates with millennials and older generations alike. In the Bersin by Deloitte report, “The Future of Corporate Learning – Ten Disruptive Trends“, people are increasingly seeking additional knowledge or education. In the last four years, 35 Million people enrolled in massive open online courses (MOOCs), with 2015 enrolments doubling 2014 (Bersin et al.).

It’s safe to assume that L&D’s is an endangered species and I say, so be it! If L&D can’t evolve with the new need then should we let it die? But what then of the workforce that likes and feel safe in traditional methods of delivery?  Do we need to find a different way – a way that supports all employees? From its ashes what we have is a stronger, more innovative, more adaptable and a more relevant L&D to rise. Be part of the solution and not part of the legacy.  Align with your business leader’s needs, adapt your learning solutions to meet generational expectations, and seamlessly integrate technology to facilitate the learning process. Simply doing just one of these things will make you an indispensable part of the L&D revolution and for your organization as well.

What do you think? Do you agree? Did I miss something that will revive or possibly kill L&D? Please share your thoughts, experiences and opinions. Join us for #chat2lrn this week Thursday, 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST and let’s chat about it!