Perhaps the most widely recognized and used training evaluation model is the four levels of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model. Donald Kirkpatrick is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin in the United States and past president of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).
The model was first published in 1959 in a series of articles in the US Training and Development Journal and later in the book “Evaluating Training Programs” in 1994. The four levels are an approach to evaluating training programs. The four levels of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model are:
- Reaction – What participants thought and felt about the training. Often right after the training.
- Learning – The resulting increase in knowledge and/or skills, and change in attitudes. Occurs during the training e.g. via knowledge demonstration or testing.
- Behavior – Transfer of knowledge, skills, attitudes from classroom to the job. This is the change in job behavior due to training. The evaluation occurs generally 3–6 months after training while the trainee is performing the job. Evaluation occurs through observation.
- Results – The final results that occur due to attendance and participation in a training program. This is monetary, performance-based, etc.
It is believed that as you proceed through each of the levels, the evaluation becomes more expensive, time consuming and tasking. Hence, most evaluation rarely proceeds to levels 3 and 4.
Some researchers, like Roger Kaufman and JJ Phillips have suggested adding a fifth level of evaluation. For example the addition of a Return on Investment (ROI) level, which is compares the fourth level of the standard model to the overall costs of training.
Many instructional designers and trainers use the evaluation model to assess whether learning has been achieved. This of course must all be related to learning objectives and the process of instructional design and development in order for the findings to be meaningful.