Using Performance Tests to Build Leadership Skills

If you are not using “performance tests” to develop new leadership skills and knowledge, you have a great opportunity to raise the bar for your leadership development programs.

Based upon almost 20,000 training programs, we believe that the best way to ensure leaders have actually learned what you want them to learn is to utilize performance tests as part of your action-learning instructional design approach.

A performance test requires participants (under appropriate performance pressure) to demonstrate proficiency with specific skills and knowledge before they leave the workshop. While there are many different ways to construct performance tests, all methods fall into two broad categories:

  1. Simulations: We define learning simulations as specific activities that create either real-life or metaphorical representations of the work environment that require participants to contextually perform relevant tasks for critical scenarios that they will face in their job.

    Some simulations are short and simple and involve experiential role-plays, teach-backs, and debriefing. Others are more complex and span multiple learning sessions and consist of business cases, computer simulations, board games, and real action-learning projects tied to strategic priorities. Regardless of the length or complexity, simulations provide a proven context for measuring and improving proficiency.

  2. Tests: The other common method used is knowledge-based assessments such as multiple choice or fill-in-the-blanks tests. Commonly used for compliance programs, these types of tests evaluate a participant's knowledge of a subject, not their ability to apply concepts in a work context.
When it comes to learning new skills, make sure that you use the appropriate performance tests to ensure that participants can “DO” what you want them to do and “KNOW” what you want them to know before they leave your session. And, whenever possible, get real work done while you are learning.

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