In training and development, evaluating the effectiveness of a program is just as crucial as the planning and implementation stages. The evaluation process can, however, be challenging to navigate, often leading to ambiguous or insufficient outcomes. Thankfully, evaluation models like the Kirkpatrick Framework provide a robust method to ensure your training initiatives yield desired results.
Developed by Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick in the 1950s, the Kirkpatrick Model remains a gold standard for training evaluation. It provides a four-level approach that helps organizations systematically gauge their training efforts’ efficiency and effectiveness.
Understanding the Kirkpatrick Framework
Level 1: Reactions
The first level, “Reaction,” refers to how participants respond to the training. It’s often gauged through feedback surveys, observation, or verbal reactions. This level helps trainers understand whether the learners found the training useful, engaging, and relevant to their work. The primary aim is to evaluate participant satisfaction and uncover any immediate issues.
While measuring participant reaction is important, it’s not a definite indicator of learning or the impact of training on job performance. Hence, it’s just the starting point of the evaluation process.
Level 2: Learning
The second level, “Learning,” assesses what knowledge or skills the participants gained from the program. Evaluation methods here might include quizzes, interviews, demonstrations, or simulations.
This level goes beyond participant reactions to objectively measure whether the training resulted in knowledge transfer, skill development, or attitude change. This helps identify whether the training content was effective and if the learning objectives were achieved.
We generally like to assess learning using Retrospective Pre-Post tests, which we find more useful than other methods at assessing change from trainings.
Level 3: Behavior
“Behavior,” the third level, evaluates the extent to which participants change their behavior due to the training when they return to their jobs. It examines whether participants can apply what they’ve learned in their work context.
This evaluation is often conducted a few weeks or months after the training to allow sufficient time for behavior change. It may involve observing the participants on the job, interviewing their supervisors, or self-reported surveys. However, many factors beyond training can affect behavior, so it’s essential to consider these when interpreting results.
When that isn’t feasible, we sometimes look at “intent to change.” It’s a little crude but can be an okay gauge for predicting future behavior.
Level 4: Results
The final level, “Results,” examines the ultimate impact of the training on the organization. It measures outcomes like improved productivity, increased sales, reduced errors, better customer satisfaction, or any other metrics that the training aimed to improve.
This level is the hardest to evaluate, as linking these outcomes to the training provided directly can be challenging. However, it’s crucial to prove the value of training to the organization.
Applying the Kirkpatrick Framework for Effective Evaluation
- Plan Ahead: To get the most out of the Kirkpatrick Model, start by outlining your desired results before the training. Define what success looks like at each level, and then design the training and evaluation methods to achieve and measure these outcomes.
- Use a Variety of Evaluation Methods: Mix and match different methods like surveys, quizzes, interviews, observations, and data to get a comprehensive picture of the training’s effectiveness.
- Communicate and Involve Stakeholders: Keep all relevant parties, including the trainers, participants, and management, involved in the process. Make sure they understand the purpose of evaluation and their roles in it.
- Analyze and Act on the Data: Once you’ve collected the data, analyze it to uncover patterns, strengths, and areas for improvement. Then, use these insights to revise and improve your training programs.
While the Kirkpatrick Framework provides a comprehensive, systematic method for evaluating training effectiveness, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each organization and training program is unique, so adapting and customizing the model to suit your specific needs and context is important.
However, with its focus on reaction, learning, behavior, and results, the Kirkpatrick Model ensures that you evaluate training at multiple levels, leading to more insightful and actionable feedback. Whether you’re a seasoned training professional or new to the field, the Kirkpatrick Framework can be a powerful tool to enhance your training effectiveness.
A few years ago, we wrote up a paper on using a formative approach to evaluating training. You can find our article by clicking the article below. Note, this will download a pdf.