By Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

Participants' evaluations of a professional development session are an important way to collect feedback regarding what went well (that you can build on for the future) and what went poorly (that you can do differently in the future). It is also an opportunity for participants to request additional follow up. Be sure to include an evaluation after each professional development session you lead.

If participants will be sitting in front of a computer, you can offer the evaluation online using a service such as surveymonkey.com. (Effective surveys can also be created using forms on Google Docs, but dedicated services like Survey Moneky still provide more survey specific features and analysis.) Even if participants are not in front of a computer, the value of having evaluation data in an easy to use electronic format might make it worth while to email participants a link to the survey to complete at their convenience - rather than handing out paper forms at the end of an event.

Evaluations might be best if kept to a few very specific and very short questions using a Likert-type scale. Ten might be the maximum number of questions you should expect participants to answer. Be sure that each question is asking only one thing (so that participant responses are not ambiguous) and be sure that each question will provide data you will actually use. Otherwise, don't waste the participant's time with the question. Ideally, of course, you should ask questions that focus on the things that are important for you to get right - or that you are working on. A glance at the questions in the sample evaluation below will reveal something about what I value and what I think makes good professional development.

Also, always be sure to leave an opportunity for open-ended feedback at the end of the evaluation. The opportunity to express themselves through natural language is the best opportunity for participants to share suggestions for improvements - or to share praise for what you did well. I always find the open ended responses the most valuable at the end of the day... both for making changes in the future and for feeling good about a job well done. Also, these responses will often shed light on otherwise confusing responses to the closed (multiple choice) questions.

Finally, give participants the opportunity to leave you their contact information (particularly their email). This can be invaluable for contacting them regarding follow up - and make it possible for you to contact them regarding future professional development opportunities. It is best, however, if leaving contact information is optional for participants. This way, it is still possible for them to complete the survey anonymously, which will make it more likely you will receive honest (and helpful) feedback.

The sample evaluation (and results) below are representative of the online evaluations I use for all workshops that I lead or arrange.

Sample Evaluation

Sample Results (based on what is entered into the sample evaluation above)