Basic principles, informal built-in evaluation, and formal evaluation 

When you’re an adult learner, there are three types of evaluation you can expect to encounter in your journey toward your degree. It’s important to know the difference between each one, because they all have very different goals and should be treated as such! This guide will help you understand the three types of evaluation and how they apply to adult learners at all levels and in all program types.

As an adult learner, you’ll encounter various types of evaluation—from informal built-in evaluations to formal evaluations required by certain organizations. Although there are three main types of evaluation, the distinctions between them can be hard to grasp at first glance. To help you understand each type, here’s what you need to know about the three most common types of adult educational program evaluation.

Basic Principles:

As an adult learner, you should be aware of the different types of evaluation that can be used to assess your progress in a program. These include basic principles, informal built-in evaluation, and formal evaluation. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to understand all three before making a decision about which one to use.

  • Learning on one’s own initiative and at one’s own speed.
  • Learning has the power to transform your worldview, and vice versa.
  • Experiential learning: emphasizes gaining real-world experience or “hands-on” learning.
  • Mentoring: Gaining knowledge from an external (established) mentor in a particular subject.
  • Adults need to redefine their feelings and preconceived notions about the experience and importance of learning.
  • Children are driven to learn by their parents and the law; adults are frequently driven internally.
  • When a kid reaches a particular age, they are ready to learn (for example, to read or know the basics of math), while adults have already gone through this development and must rely on prior experience or life events to generate a newfound readiness.

Informal Built-In Evaluation

Informal built-in evaluation is often used in adult education programs to assess progress on a regular basis. The evaluation is not formally done but instead happens informally through interactions with instructors or peers. Instructors may also do informal evaluations by observing student performance in class or reviewing student work.

  • Some advantages of this type of evaluation are that it provides an ongoing assessment, takes into account day-to-day learning, and creates opportunities for feedback.

However, there are some disadvantages to this type of assessment as well.

  • It can take more time to complete because there isn’t a standard protocol in place. It also doesn’t measure what students have learned outside of the classroom setting, such as other skills learned outside of the curriculum. Lastly, students might view informal assessments as unimportant and not take them seriously.

Informal evaluation, on the other hand, is done by regular participants and focuses on learning outcomes. Did you meet your learning goals? Did you like how certain aspects were structured? This type of evaluation can be useful for providing insights into what you could do better next time.

This is the type of evaluation that happens automatically, without you even realizing it. For example, when you’re trying out a new recipe, you’re constantly making adjustments based on how it’s turning out. This is informal, built-in evaluation in action! When we first start cooking, our goal is usually to make something edible – anything really – and we don’t have any expectations. But over time, we learn more about cooking and start being more intentional about what kind of food we want to create. We might say, I want this dish to be light or I want this dish to be spicy. And then we might add another ingredient or take one away, depending on what our goal is for the meal.

Formal Evaluation

Formal evaluation is usually done by an external body, such as the government, and looks at things like how many people completed the program, what their satisfaction levels were, and whether or not the program achieved its goals. This type of evaluation can be helpful in showing whether or not a program is worth continuing.  In some cases, programs can be deemed successful and scaled up nationwide. In other instances, a program might be considered unsuccessful and axed entirely. 

Formal evaluation is the process of assessing whether or not a program is achieving its intended outcomes. Formal evaluation can be provided by professional evaluators, but in most cases it’s simply done by program staff who already possess key qualities for evaluating.