Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Success Case Method

Working on evaluation of learning and development, one of the things that amazes me is how little known, and how little used, is the Success Case Method. It shouldn’t really amaze me that much, as I only discovered it myself after writing my last book, 101 Learning and Development Tools, which means it doesn’t feature in the book, despite 21 of the tools being about evaluation. More’s the pity, as it’s an excellent tool. I should clarify that the method is little known or used in the UK, as it is quite commonplace in the USA, and has been implemented by many Fortune 100 companies.
Devised by Robert O Brinkerhoff (pictured), emeritus professor at Western Michigan University, the Success Case Method is deceptively and ingeniously simple. In essence, it comprises just two steps: 1) survey, with a very small number of questions, the target population, typically learners, their managers or their customers, and then use the survey data to 2) interview, in depth, the “success cases” – and the non-successes – to investigate what exactly enabled their success.
Brinkerhoff’s breakthrough was to recognise the pattern of achievement common to nearly all learning interventions, whereby some learners apply what they have learned to great success, some learners are unable to apply the learning at all, but the great majority either have very limited success in applying the learning, or give up under other pressures. The Success Case Method aims to work out what makes a difference in the success cases, in order to try to apply that to the great majority, and therefore accomplish more widespread success.
My learning evaluation business, Airthrey Ltd, is conducting a research project using the Success Case Method to investigate how organisations in Scotland evaluate their learning, which organisations enjoys standout success, and why. The research project is endorsed by Brinkerhoff, and we believe is the first instance of a macro application of the method to an entire country. We hope it will help popularise the method in the UK and beyond.
We are looking for financial help to get the research project off the ground, and if you think this is worthwhile, or would be interested in the research outcomes, please give us a small contribution.  We are using the crowdfunding site, sponsume, to collect contributions, and everyone who contributes, no matter how little, will receive a summary of the research report. In addition, everyone who gives at least £20 will receive a copy of the full report, and everyone who contributes £50 or more will receive a matching discount voucher for Airthrey services.
Learn more about Airthrey’s research work here.
And learn more about the Success Case Method here.

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