I. Robertson

University of Washington (UNITED STATES)
Asking participants to assess the effectiveness of a workshop using standard methods and questions is likely to prompt responses that are predictable, 'standardized' and superficial. Such responses may be of limited assessment value particularly when the workshop topic is how to foster creative and innovative attitudes of mind. To encourage participants in a workshop at an Innovation and Entrepreneurship conference to think more deeply about what they learned and what this learning meant to them, participants were presented with an unusual and provocative assessment task. They were provided with postcards from the 1920s or 30s and asked to reply to the writer telling her or him what they had learned in the workshop. This unusual context prompted very different frames of mind in participants than do standard assessment tools and their responses. Though less easy to interpret the results were more interesting and revealing. The paper briefly describes the workshop activities and methods and discusses participants' assessments.

Asking questions that confound accepted norms and do not conform to common assumptions requires respondents to think about how they answer rather than respond on 'automatic pilot'. As a result answers are more interesting, revealing and useful, although these answers, too, cannot be understood using standard assessment processes. The author proposes that the approach of asking questions in unusual ways may be adapted and used in diverse contexts not solely to assess the effectiveness of workshops.