Informal Learning Insight of the Month: Don’t Just Give an Assessment, Explain How You Arrived at It

“It’s one of the things I really like about managing people — the teaching element, and giving feedback,” commented SugarSync Chief Executive Laura Yecies in a recent interview with New York Times reporter Adam Bryant.

Yecies likens it to a professor grading assignments.  “If the teacher gives you a B, without any specifics, that’s not an acceptable situation” adding “that dynamic happens a lot in the workplace.”

That is, an assessment on its own does not help learners improve their performance;  they need specific feedback on what worked—and what could be improved—to move forward in their ongoing learning process.

In the context of informal learning, that means the following:

  1. Identifying the intended outcome and how close (or far) the worker reached it.  That, in turn, requires that managers and others coaching workers in their learning process have a clear understanding of the end result.  That may or may not be the case.
  2. Describing the gap between what the worker provided and what was sought.
  3. Suggesting ways the worker can bridge that gap in the future.

Tip: Check out Chapter 8 of Informal Learning Basics for a framework for evaluating informal learning and Chapters 4 and 6 for more tips on coaching workers in their informal learning efforts, and.


Bryant, A. (2012.) When you write a report card, explain the grades. New York Times, June 9, 2012.Viewed at Visited June 10, 2012.


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