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Test-Teach-Test: A Quick And Effective Way To Plan Training

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Introducing new technology is part of a change management process. Change management coordinates technical implementation with awareness raising and training activities to prepare people to use the technology effectively.


Large companies can afford to run full-blown change management projects.

Smaller and medium-sized companies do not have these resources.

They buy the technology and let managers train their staff to use it.

Now you’re the manager. Someone has sat down and shown you the basic workflow. You have to get your team trained by lunchtime. How do you plan it? How do you make sure that your staff are engaged and that the training is successful?

Inputs And Outputs

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A good training session requires “inputs” and "outputs.”

“Inputs” are where knowledge is passed from the trainer to the trainee.

“Outputs” are where trainees demonstrate that they have absorbed, understood, and can use this knowledge.

The “outputs” are often more important than the “inputs” because a good training plan is designed to prepare trainees to successfully complete the “outputs,” while the “outputs” demonstrate that trainees have achieved their learning objectives.

Some people might call these “outputs” “tests.”

A good trainer sees this as a test, but not of the trainee, but of him/herself. If trainees fail to complete the “output” activity successfully, then is it the trainees’ or the trainer’s fault?

Why “Test, Teach, Test”?

Manager teaches her employee a new technology

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The “teach” is the “input” while the “test” is the “output.”

The first “test” is where we run the “output” or test before we have trained the trainees.

It might seem like a strange idea, but there are two good reasons for doing this:

  1. To get trainees’ attention. Your trainees may think they know everything because it is a refresher course or because they are very confident teenagers. Give them the completion test first and let them fail. That will show them that they have something to learn.
  2. You may not know your trainees’ level of knowledge. This often happens in business. Training is often hastily organized. Some trainees may need to learn everything from the beginning, while others only need to brush up on their knowledge.

How Should We “Test” Our Trainees?

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​This depends on the content, and how much time you have to plan and conduct your training.

If you are training staff to follow a workflow, then the obvious test is to have them follow this workflow on their own computers, or describe it in some way, or answer questions on it.

If you are training staff to follow new rules, then you can present them with cases and get them to explain how the rules apply, or have them answer questions on the rules.

Where we are talking about a “refresher” training session, then the work sample, description exercise or test questions will reflect the new version of knowledge. The test could include a request to describe the main differences between the old version of the workflow/rules and the new one, to ensure that they understand the difference.

How Would I Plan This In Real Life?

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Let’s say that there has been a change to a workflow your team uses on an IT system. The cutover to the new system is next Wednesday.

Your training objective is to train them to follow the updated workflow. Follow the steps below:

  1. Master the workflow yourself and find out both the main route and the likely “diversions.” (e.g., What happens if a customer forgets his membership number?)
  2. Decide how you are going to test how they follow the new workflow. (e.g., They log into the training environment and follow the workflow by role-playing with a colleague.)
  3. Decide how you are going to train them to follow the workflow. (e.g., You will do a step-by-step demo backed up with a step-by-step written description. This “input” session should take no longer than 20 minutes.)
  4. Book the room, test the computers, and conduct the training. Deliver the “test” first, telling them you want to see how much they already know, then “teach” the content, then deliver the “test” again and see how the results have changed.

Over To You!

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No doubt you will be providing a “knowledge transfer,” training a new team member, or giving your staff a “refresher” on some new rule or technology “upgrade.” Try using this method to plan your training! Let me know how you get on!

Further reading...

If you’re training your staff to use a computer system, then you might find this article interesting: Explaining How Things Work: How To Do It And Why It Matters

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