Using Formative Assessments in Training Programs

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Jobs are increasingly becoming digitally intensive, even in ones that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. In fact, nearly eight in 10 middle-skill jobs are now considered digitally intensive and require proficiency in desktop applications like Word and Excel.

In addition to the challenges digital transformation presents, trainers in the public sector face mounting pressure to reduce expenses and produce better results.

Why Use Formative Assessments and Certifications for Digital Skills?

Training programs in education and in the public sector have followed a similar but flawed process—teaching the same curriculum to everyone, regardless of skill levels. Formative assessments enable training departments to create a new way of delivering knowledge by understanding what an employee already knows and skill gaps that need additional training.

This advanced strategy begins with a detailed analysis of skills that help both the trainer and employee develop an individualized learning plan focused only on those skills that need to be learned. This creates tremendous financial savings and efficiency for organizations, reduces the time employees spend in training, and keeps employees’ skills relevant in today’s digital age. Ultimately, this makes employees more efficient in their jobs and more valuable to the organization.

Gaining a recognized certification in Microsoft applications, digital literacy and design programs also creates more engaged training environments by providing an improved outcome through a career-enhancing credential. Employees become more invested in their training when they are acknowledged for their proficiency.

Not All Assessments Are Created Equally

What seems like a simple task—creating an assessment to understand skills—is actually a complex process. Does the question really assess the skill being judged? Are the questions too difficult or too easy? Should you include multiple choice or true or false questions? How do you weight questions? What in-app exercises are most helpful for knowledge transfer? These and many other considerations are crucial in arriving at a result that effectively defines the competency of an individual.

An advanced formative assessment takes all these factors into consideration and uses psychometrics, adaptive methodology, Item Response Theory (IRT) formulas, and live, in-app questions to deliver more accurate results.

Adaptive Methodology
Adaptive exams are at the leading edge of today’s formative assessments. These exams automatically adapt to the level of the candidate and allow for individuals of any level to receive extremely accurate results. When they miss a question, the test gets easier; when they get a question right, the exam gets more difficult. It doesn’t matter if an employee is a beginner or an expert, the exam will provide valid results.

IRT Scoring
Item Response Theory represents an important innovation in the field of psychometrics. It is a paradigm for the design, analysis, and scoring of tests. When used in conjunction with adaptive testing, highly accurate results can be obtained in a much shorter period. Traditional exams without these advanced parameters can take upwards of 60 to 70 questions to accurately assess skills. Conversely, an adaptive exam using IRT scoring can achieve better results in 25 to 30 questions.

Live In-App Questions
Whether you’re training on Microsoft Office applications, design software, or basic digital literacy, the ability to create questions where the applicant must work within the application are critical to ensure they are actually learning the software platform and not simply answering multiple-choice questions. The challenge in developing live, in-app questions are numerous, ranging from license fees to providing full functionality of the software. Because of these challenges, adding this functionality to your assessments is best handled by a third-party solution.

The Benefits of Using an Advanced Formative Assessment

Training is a critical element to any organization. It enables employees to grow and expand their skill set and provide a greater level of value to the organization. Advanced formative assessments reduce the hours spent in training by allowing instructors and employees to focus only on those skills that are needed. By developing individualized learning pathways, organizations save time and resources and can train more individuals in a shorter amount of time.

Want to Learn More?

Isograd has developed the TOSA assessment and certification platform for desktop applications, design software, and digital literacy that incorporate all the elements of advanced psychometrics. They focus on the connection between training and work skills and can provide any training department the data needed to provide individualized learning pathways saving time and resources. To learn more contact Isograd online at

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About the Author

Terry James is the vice president of North America marketing for Isograd. He is a seasoned leader with over 20 years of client and agency management experience. He has served in leadership roles in businesses across multiple industries including tech, outdoors, direct and education in both B2B and B2C markets. He has also directed client and strategic management in several ad agencies, including Temerlin McClain. He has extensive experience in marketing strategy, brand management, market research, strategic planning, brand development, and creating and implementing comprehensive, integrated marketing and communications plans.

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