Ongoing Feedback from Learners and Community Partners
It is important for you to remember that follow-up activities are much more than contacting learners at exit and 3, 6 and 12 months after they exit your program. Although these “check-ins” are important aspects of your Follow-Up Evaluation Plan, they are only one piece of the plan.
As we said in the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Requirements section of this module, the LBS Service Provider Guidelines, require you to “maintain a process for receiving ongoing feedback and information from other service providers in the community, employers and learners” as part of your Follow-Up service. You need to gather this ongoing feedback to evaluate the other four delivery services: Information and Referral, Assessment, Learner Plan Development, and especially Training.
We reviewed the requirements for including ongoing feedback and information gathering as part of your Follow-Up evaluation in the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Requirements section of this module.
Learner feedback is formative, in that it should inform you about your program. This feedback should inform you about:
- the learners’ satisfaction with all your LBS services
- the quality and value of your LBS services
- how successfully your program is meeting its goals
- what changes you can or should make to increase learner satisfaction, improve your service and meet your goals
How do you find out what learners think? Providing useful feedback is a learned skill. Many LBS learners have difficulty giving their honest opinion. Good relationships that allow for honest feedback from learners depend on openness, trust and growing confidence in their own abilities. Learners are more likely to gain confidence if they get regular feedback from you on how well they are learning. This “modelling” encourages learners to give feedback in return.
One good way of finding out what learners think is by getting them to reflect on what they have been doing in your program. Stimulate reflection in a discussion, through written answers to questions or through journaling. This activity can take place electronically through blogs, wikis, texting, Facebook or Twitter. Reflection doesn’t have to be a big deal; start with one or two things for learners to think about. Below are some simple questions you might try:
- Was there anything you found difficult?
- How could we help you better?
- What have you learned that pleased you?
- Would you like more time learning using a computer?
- Do you like working in a group or would you prefer to study alone?
There are a number of other ways to gather learner feedback. For instance, many companies and organizations use some form of customer satisfaction survey to determine if their customers are happy with the service or product they have received. Use this methodology with LBS learners as well.
In the Sample Forms section of this module, we have included two surveys. These provide example questions to use in obtaining ongoing feedback from learners who are still involved in the LBS program:
- Sample 1 – Learner Satisfaction Survey Program Evaluation from the Learning Centre for Georgina
- Sample 2 – Ongoing Learner Questionnaire from Connections Adult Learning
Surveys are used by many adult training organizations to get feedback from learners. A websearch for “learner feedback” brought us a good example using the SurveyMonkey tool: www.surveymonkey.com/s/BCTG_Learner_Feedback.
How much and what type of information you look for from learner surveys can vary. Most surveys should have some way of finding out about:
- the learner’s general impression of program quality
- the learner’s overall satisfaction with the experience
- how well the program met the learner’s expectations
- what the learner felt was good and bad about the program or service
- the possible effects of the program on learners (putting learning into practice or changing a learner’s life)
- learner’s attitudes towards learning
- complaints that learners may have about the learning program or a particular LBS service
- whether or not the learner would recommend the program to anyone else
Different methods may be better at gathering different types of feedback. The chart below offers some suggestions.
Some programs use their Facebook pages or Twitter to gather feedback. Other programs have boards for sticky note comments or suggestion/comment boxes, which help gather ongoing feedback.
Whatever questions and methods you consider, remember that gathering learner feedback is an important part of your overall evaluation plan. Like the rest of your plan, you need to know your objectives; plan and design how you will best go about getting the feedback; carry out the chosen methods; then continuously monitor and adapt, as necessary.
Feedback from Community Partners
When getting feedback as part of your Follow-Up service, you shouldn’t forget your community partners. As most LBS learners come to programs through word of mouth and other agency referrals, you need to ensure that your community partners are satisfied with your services.
A survey of LBS programs completed to inform this Literacy Basics project found that a variety of methods were used to get feedback from community partners, including:
- using only informal processes
- taking part in or hosting stakeholder meetings (regular committee, interagency and/or Literacy Service Provider meetings, focus groups)
- conducting stakeholder-specific surveys (by mail, email or using SurveyMonkey)
- sending out a bi-annual survey to referral agencies
- undertaking community evaluations
- contacting individuals through email and phone calls
- following up with other agencies that learners have been referred to (with the learners’ consent)
- maintaining an ongoing dialogue with OW caseworkers
- asking Ontario Works caseworkers what would be helpful to them
- establishing a working relationship, through collaboration with other service providers, to share information on programs and service changes
- making presentations to staff of service providers and their clients
- meeting face-to-face for brown bag lunches
- discussing how to meet identified needs and gaps, within agency capacity
As we said in the Plan and Design section of this module, under the heading “What questions does your agency need answered?”, the information you seek can be unique to your LBS program, your agency and your community. You may need answers from different partners, for example, referral partners compared to partners that your learners transition on to, such as employers, schools or training institutes. At different times, you may also have different questions.
Two of the examples in our Sample Forms section of this module are surveys for community partners:
- Sample 3 – Community Partner Survey from the John Howard Society of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton, Outreach Literacy Program
- Sample 4 – Assessing Customer Services from the North Bay Literacy Council
Questions and Activities for Reflection
- What methods does your program use to gather ongoing feedback from learners about the other four services: Information and Referral, Assessment, Learner Plan Development and Training?
- Do you think that, through ongoing learner feedback, you are getting the information that you need to help you evaluate and continuously improve your LBS services?
- What could you do to improve learners’ skills in providing valuable feedback on your LBS services?
- Review the ways that other LBS service providers gather feedback from community partners. Consider adopting one method into your evaluation plan that you don’t currently use.