State & Local Programs

Using Training Evaluations to Fine-Tune Your Program's WNTA-AM Frequency (Part One)

Terene Bennett, National CASA Training Specialist

As staff members of CASA/GAL programs, we all need to be aware of the station WNTA-AM (WNeed Trained Advocates-Always Motivated). But were you aware that one way to have clearer reception is to more effectively evaluate your existing training programs? Training is a gateway to both motivate your advocates and increase your program’s ability to provide quality advocacy for abused and neglected children.

To fine-tune your organization’s AM channel, be mindful of the connection between training and your organization’s relationship with your trained volunteers once they are assigned a case. Once a potential volunteer enters training, your program can strengthen and lengthen that connection if your training staff attends to the volunteer candidate’s skill and knowledge as well as commitment, confidence, engagement, relevancy and customer satisfaction—all necessary elements of a motivated CASA volunteer. Motivation feeds the dedication necessary to successfully fulfill the CASA volunteer role and promote volunteer longevity (i.e., volunteer retention).

Your program should engage in evaluation methods that focus on providing information about the learner. One such methodology is Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation: Reaction, Learning, Application, Results. When it comes to training evaluation and motivation, CASA pre-service training can be significantly improved by focusing on the first two levels (reaction, learning). Evaluation tools found in the National CASA Pre-Service Volunteer Training Curriculum are based on this methodology. These evaluations can be customized to fit your training evaluation needs.

A Brief Overview of Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation for Levels One and Two

Level One: This level answers the question: Are my learners satisfied with the training? High learner satisfaction scores don’t guarantee learning took place, but low scores on learner satisfaction may guarantee that learning did not take place. Activities to evaluate training at this level could be formal (end-of-session written evaluation) or informal, such as a quick paper toss where participants write one word on a small piece of paper that describes their feelings, ball up the pieces and toss them across the room to be read and shared with other participants. Another informal method is simply asking for thumbs up or down about how participants are feeling after a presentation.

Level Two: This level of evaluation answers the question: Are my learners learning anything? Pre/post tests, role playing, focus groups, direct observation, Q & A periods and informal interviews are ways you can determine whether learning has taken place. Level Two evaluations also include assessing attitudes, commitment levels and the learner’s confidence to successfully perform the role. Excelling in knowledge is great, but if the volunteer candidate’s confidence and commitment are absent or weak, it may impact the volunteer’s motivation and connection to the program. Activities such as one-on-one interviews, direct observations and providing as many opportunities as possible for the learner to demonstrate their knowledge and skills during training are just a few ways this can be accomplished.

As trainers, we can and should be able to evaluate our volunteer candidates on Levels One and Two. If the training staff in your program is different from the staff involved in volunteer supervision, these results should be shared with the volunteer’s prospective supervisor. Taking the time to share this information serves to help your volunteer supervisor support a volunteer’s ability to successfully perform the CASA advocate role and connect the training experience to your program’s strategic goals.

In other words, training evaluation tunes everyone to the same frequency: WNTA-AM. 

Finding Evaluation Resources

Check out the National CASA Facilitator Toolkit for examples of training evaluations that cover both Level One and Level Two learner assessments; your state CASA office may have sample evaluations used by other CASA/GAL programs in your state. All of these will help strengthen your frequency to WNTA-AM and ultimately provide effective, high-quality advocacy for children!

See Part Two of this article for more information about training and evaluation as we explore ways to measure training’s impact utilizing Kirkpatrick’s Levels 3 and 4 methodology!

 

 

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