Guide to the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model

Guide to the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model

Companies today are beginning to invest more in improving employee training and development. You may be among those who’ve seen the value of upskilling the existing workforce. And the results are highly positive.

According to LinkedIn Research, effective employee development increases employee performance by 25 per cent. But how do you know if your training plans will be effective? How do you measure the effectiveness of training?

This is where the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model comes in.

kirkpatric evaluation model graphic

Who Is Kirkpatrick?

Donald Kirkpatrick first published his model in 1959 as part of his Ph.D. dissertation. Companies use the Kirkpatrick Model as a way to evaluate learning initiatives and instructional design. 

Through the decades, it has been updated three times. The latest update in 2016 introduced a revised version called the New World Kirkpatrick Model. The New World Kirkpatrick Model retains the original framework of the model with a few added details.

What is Kirkpatrick’s Training Evaluation Model?

The Kirkpatrick Model provides a systematic method in evaluating training programs and their effectiveness. It’s comprised of four progressing levels of training evaluation:

  • Level 4 – Results
  • Level 3 – Behaviour
  • Level 2 – Learning
  • Level 1 – Reaction

Level 4: Results

The fourth level of the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model measures the outcomes of a training program. It allows you to see if training connects to key business targets. 

Metrics can vary depending on your desired outcome. Examples include increased productivity, sales growth, improved customer satisfaction, and lesser errors or safety incidents.

Essentially, you’re looking for positive impacts at the organisational level due to training. Favourable results will mean value and return on investment from your training initiatives.

Level 3: Behaviour

The third level of the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model measures the transfer of learning to the job. It focuses on behavioural changes post-training. Have the trainees applied acquired knowledge, skills, and attitudes in day-to-day work?

You’ll be doing it over a period of time to allow new behaviours to manifest.

Level 2: Learning

The second level of the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model investigates how much participants have learned. This is usually gauged through different types of assessments, quizzes, or practical tasks. 

At this stage, it’s crucial to quantify learning. Metrics ensure that participants have understood and grasped the subject. Metrics also show if learning points have been effectively communicated regardless of learning styles.

The Learning Level forms the foundation for behaviour change. So, it crosses over to the Behaviour Level.

Level 1: Reaction

The Kirkpatrick Model’s first level measures the participants’ immediate response. It evaluates their perceptions and feelings about the training’s quality, relevance, and presentation.

Methods to gauge this reaction often include feedback forms, surveys, or verbal responses. You collect these immediately after a training session.

It’s a crucial initial assessment resulting in useful feedback. You can identify the strengths and areas for improvement in the training delivery. But it doesn’t directly assess other impact areas. Learning, changes in behaviour, and results are only covered in the other three levels.

kirkpatricks training evaluation model

How Does the Kirkpatrick Model Help You?

Here are the main reasons how the Kirkpatrick Model can benefit you. 

1. Provides a Structured Approach

The Kirkpatrick model provides a structured, systematic approach to training program evaluation. The four-level model guides you through a logical process. If you follow best practices shared later on, you’ll start with your long-term results. And you end with immediate reactions to training.

This approach covers all relevant aspects of training. You may then gain a more comprehensive understanding of training impact. You can find the strengths and weaknesses of your employee development plan and improve employee training.

2. Sets Clear Outcomes

Second, the Kirkpatrick Model provides valuable data to justify investments in training. The Results Level gives you a concrete view of organisational outcomes. As a result, the model can prove returns on investment. Learning teams may then secure management or executive support for future training programs.

3. Encourages Application

Third, the model encourages transfer of learning to job performance and business results. It’s one thing for trainees to learn what they need to know. It’s another for them to use or practise what they need to know. With this, the Kirkpatrick Model promotes training programs with practical, actionable results.

4. Allows Flexibility

Lastly, the model’s broad coverage allows for flexibility. Flexibility is a significant advantage. You can apply the model to any type of training or learning initiative. This makes the model universally applicable across industries and topics.

5 Best Practices for the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model

Despite the limitations of the Kirkpatrick Model, it can still be a valuable tool for measuring learning effectiveness. You can still expect a pretty solid perspective. This will allow you to start improving on things where you need to.

How can you use the model in the best way possible? Consider the following.

best practices for the kirkpatrick evaluation model

1. Start with the Fourth Level

It may feel counterintuitive to start from your business goals, targeted outcomes and key metrics. But doing so allows you to orient all your decisions in the other three levels towards the right direction. You may then ensure that Reaction leads to Learning; Learning leads to Behaviour; and Behaviour leads to Results. For example, you may need better coordination or collaboration between teams and employees. Your key metric here may be power skills like communication.

What behaviour will show you that employees have acquired and applied communication skills? Perhaps you want them to ask more questions, initiate critical conversations, and more. So, you now have the behaviour you’ll need to watch out for.

Next, what learning or training will help employees get the necessary communication skills? You could have employees and teams role-play specific scenarios. Teach them how to talk and listen to each other. What questions are good, and which are bad.

Once you’ve envisioned the entire process from Level Four to One, you can start training. As you go along, follow the Kirkpatrick Model from Level One to Four. Feedback and key performance indicators here help in fine-tuning your training programs.

2. How to Gauge Reaction to Training (Level 1)

To accurately gauge reactions to your training sessions, consider using an online questionnaire. An online assessment software may save you resources in conducting Level One surveys.

Give some time post-training for participants to complete it. You need to capture their immediate reactions and insights. Throughout training, also be observant of any verbal feedback that can give context.

When designing your post learning assessments, create questions centred on learner’s takeaways. Informing participants at the beginning of training about these questions.

This will allow them to reflect on their learning journey throughout training. This can result in richer, more considered feedback.

3. How to Gauge Training Effectiveness (Level 2) 

To gauge training effectiveness, conduct assessments both pre- and post-training. Both will give a more complete picture of the learning experience. Use diverse assessment strategies, like exams, interviews, or other evaluations.

Additionally, acquire feedback from instructors, along with learners. Their observations and critiques matter as much. They can help you improve your training methods.

4. How to Gauge Behavioural Changes (Level 3)

The best time to assess behavioural change is 3-6 months post-training. If you assess any earlier, results may be unreliable.

Start with simple observations to find simple changes in behaviour. Once you see emerging actions becoming habitual, you can then conduct interviews.

However, minimise opinion-based observations. Bias may intrude into your process. Make your assessments as objective as possible for more accurate results.

5. How to Gauge Results (Level 4)

For Level Four, utilise a control group if possible. Give enough time for skill integration, ideally sometime after Level Three.

Once you do assess, make observers understand the assessment’s intent and goals. While participant feedback is valuable, pair it with observations for more objective results. For senior employees, yearly evaluations centred on business targets are more appropriate.

employees working together

What Are the Limits of the Model?

While the Kirkpatrick Model is widely used, it still has some limitations.

Limit 1: Inconsistent Causality

One primary concern is that it assumes a causal chain from Reaction through to Results. There may be times when this causality doesn’t hold true. A positive reaction doesn’t guarantee learning. At the same time, learning doesn’t necessarily lead to behavioural change or impactful results.

Limit 2: Challenging Levels 3 and 4

Another concern involves Levels Three and Four of the model. These stages are challenging, time-consuming, and costly. They entail longer-term monitoring and analysis.

Limit 3: Outcome Differentiation

In addition, how do you differentiate training effects? How do you know they aren’t the result of other influences? The model doesn’t consider the contexts or factors influencing training. So, differentiation of outcomes is another challenge for the process.

The Kirkpatrick Model: Developing the Most Effective Training Experience

The Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model serves as an invaluable tool for businesses. It amplifies the impact of training initiatives. Organisations are able to analyse training effects across four levels. They can then discern both immediate and long-term outcomes.

While it has its limitations, the Kirkpatrick Model’s systematic approach ensures a holistic understanding of the effectiveness of a training initiative.

Companies today recognize the significance of continual learning. The Kirkpatrick Model stands out as a robust guide to ensure that training investments yield tangible, actionable, and impactful results.

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