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Understanding Kirkpatrick’s Four Level Training Evaluation Model

Written By Nibha Verma

As perhaps know, the training process in an organization starts with training needs identification and once these needs are identified, collated, categorized and summarized, the prioritization of the specific training required is decided. After that, for each program one has to set measurable learning objectives.

Understanding Kirkpatrick's Four Level Training Evaluation Model

This is followed by designing and developing training programs and delivering training interventions, whether in a classroom or eLearning mode. Finally, we come to the evaluation step of the process where we try to evaluate how much and to what extent the training achieved results that it set for itself. Here, we will focus on this step of the training process.

Now, if we go one step deeper into Kirkpatrick’s model for training evaluation, we find four levels of this training evaluation, which are:

1. Reaction level

2. Learning level

3. Behavior level

4. Business level

Let’s go into each one of these and see what we can evaluate at each level, the extent of its usefulness and the method of evaluation.

Reaction level: As the name suggests, at this level, we check the reaction of learners. It can be checked at the end of the program with the help of a feedback sheet or “happy sheets.” How happy is the learner at the end of the program? It has questions like: “Do you like the program? Doyou like the trainer or facilitator?”

It also goes on to give feedback about the venue, facilities or the kind of handouts available. This level gives a very general kind of idea, so it can be seen as a superficial level of evaluation. Learners may be happy but the training program may be very ineffective, plus it doesn’t give us any ROI. So, it is of limited use and application. Of course, it is useful to the trainer to evaluate his own delivery.

Learning level: This can be a very good and realistic level of evaluation. It is usually done with a pre-test and a post test, though more often only a post test is used. It could be considered a very good level of evaluation because training and learning are supposed to increase the knowledge and skills of learners. And, by improving their knowledge and skills, their performance is also supposed to improve. So, testing how much the learner’s learned is a logical step.

Usually, the evaluation at this level is done with a paper and pencil test. Or, in the case of e-learning, we give multiple choice questions with options and scores are tracked by using a learning management system. So, essentially it is in spirit a paper and pencil test.

Behavior level: This level is used to evaluate the behavioral change of the learner after attending training sessions. The question that arises now is: How many times are learners applying the knowledge and skills to the job and what is the effectiveness of this new knowledge and skills on their performance?

Once the program is complete, a gestation period is necessary. Follow this up with ask all those who took the training how effective it was. Collect all their information through a statistically valid response form or questionnaire to reset information.

Business level: Now, coming to the last level, we have to find out the answers to the following question:

  • How have productivity, quality, sales, cost reduction, employee retention and customer satisfaction improved?
  • But again it is immediately apparent that we cannot link the effectiveness of training to the achievement of business goals. This cannot be ascertained based on a particular training program. This is where the difficulty arises.

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