L&D: Knowledge Tests Don’t Test for Performance Capability

30 Year Ago

Performance Tests Do Test for Performance Capability

In the first consulting work efforts that my former business partners and I did creating Performance Tests back in 1987, we used our 4-Phase approach to Curriculum Architecture Design slightly modified, on 22 distinct Target Audiences, and then produced over 2200 Performance Tests in collaboration with the identified Master Performers.

Perf Tests

The Performance Tests fell into three categories:

  • Real Work
  • Simulated Real Work
  • Talk Through Troubleshooting

I created our methodology and then we tested it with several of the Target Audiences before we trained our staff and then did all of the targeted jobs.

After creating the Performance Tests and administering them the client was going to have me conduct a Curriculum Architecture Design (CAD) effort so they could build/buy any Training really needed. A good plan IMO.

It was a cold winter in Prudhoe Bay that November. Here next is a photo of one of my souvenirs from my part of the project.

2007-11-01 008

One interesting aspect of the effort – was that had been attempted twice previously and had been roundly rejected by those Target Audiences (both generated Knowledge Tests) who were each very technical in nature. And they hated paper and pencil tests – but loved our approach to Performance Testing.

Of course, they created the tests with our help – or vice versa.

This was an oil field, feeding the Alaska Pipeline – in the Arctic Circle – where sometimes the sun just don’t shine. And whales are sometimes carved up by the locals on the edge of the oil field – where the land meets the Beaufort Sea – as they have done for a long time – oil fields or not.

Oh. The Tests were part of a Pay Progression Program.

Meaning – you would only get a pay raise if you could prove additional competence – not in test taking – but in Performance Competence.

Meaning – we had everybody by their wallets – so to speak.

Meaning we had their attention. And suspicions.

They were a tough crowd. Members of oil field crews are known as roughnecks for a reason. But once they overcame their own suspicions – and they saw that they owned the whole shebang – so to speak – we had no trouble with participation/ engagement.

2007-11-01 004

All of the Performance Tests with a few exceptions were open book tests – just like the real world. That also was a big selling point. The tests were authentic in that way.

Speaking of the Real World

Here is a 15:15 minute:second video of my tour of the facilities where we lived and worked when we weren’t out in the environment.

It starts in our temporary office with my two business partners. They are looking for flights home to Chicago – through Anchorage after our cycle of a two week stay – one week home – and then repeat. I tour the living and eating areas and then my quarters. Talk about small – but I had been on a ship for most of my time in the Navy (1972-1975) – so it wasn’t small. It was cozy.

Note the temperature outdoors (on a TV monitor) when I approach one of the entrances and peak into the cold, dark night. At about the 3:15 mark.

Cold Cold Cold

The Book

Here is a book that provides very detailed steps and outputs for the Performance Tests AND the entire system we designed and developed for hand-off to the client for their use in operating and maintaining it all. 9 Systems – per the graphic on the books cover.


This book – available as a paperback a Kindle, and a free PDF – is based on this project – and another in 1994 for 20 jobs on the Alaska Pipeline for more technical jobs (20) – and also a project for another client’s Branch Managers, Sales Staff and Technical Staff in the lower 48 (plus Hawaii) the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Employee performance-based Qualification/Certification Systems (2008)

Click on image to link to the download page.

Employee performance-based Qualification/Certification Systems is also available as a $15 Paperback book – and $7.50 as a Kindle – for more info and to order – please go – here.

Implications for Performance Support Efforts 

Creating Performance Support is much easier when you understand the Performance Competence requirements – and have the tests developed. Much easier.

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Curriculum Architecture Design Effort

It was determined after the Tests were administered that it just wasn’t necessary to spec out and then develop/acquire any Training at all. Or any additional Performance Support items.

You see, as it was all aimed at improving Performance Competence – and it was tied to their pay – the motivated learners/Performers figured out how to pass each test … open book and viewable by anyone wanting to see them … by reading the available manuals, getting help from their crewmates, etc.

No Formal Training was necessary. For 2200 tests.

The tests themselves were all the Performance Support that were needed.

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One comment on “L&D: Knowledge Tests Don’t Test for Performance Capability

  1. Pingback: L&D: Prudhoe Bay in 1987 | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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