Kirkpatrick Model

Kirkpatrick Model - toolshero

This article provides a practical explanation of the Kirkpatrick Model of Training Evaluation. After reading, you will understand the basic concepts of this powerful assessment tool.

What is the Kirkpatrick Model of Training Evaluation?

Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation is a model developed by Professor Donald Kirkpatrick in 1959 at the University of Wisconsin. It is still used 40 years later to evaluate the effectiveness of training programmes.

Kirkpatrick asked himself about the importance of evaluation in a training process and what impact value is given to the work actions of the trainees and how this process can positively contribute to the development of skills and improvement of processes in the workplace.

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This model is also known as the Kirkpatrick Levels or the Four Levels Model. The aim of this model is to evaluate training programmes and their effect after a lesson or class has been given to the participants, in this case in the business area. This model has four levels of evaluation: reaction, learning, behaviour and results, which are the evaluation guide in the training action.

Kirkpatrick model: four levels of learning evaluation

Read carefully each of these four levels that make up the model as this could help your business strategy in terms of staff training and learning costs. Also assess whether or not these are ultimately delivering results, in order to improve your strategies for business management success.

Kirkpatrick model: four levels of learning evaluation - toolshero

1. Reaction

This level evaluates the reaction of the participants to the training. It includes questions such as: did you feel comfortable with the class? Did you feel that you learned about the topic? What do you think about what you learned? Is the topic useful for your area of work? Were the facilitator and the materials practical? Among other questions that can be asked in a survey at the end of the training.
If the answers are positive then you can move on to the next level. If they are not, it is necessary to re-run the training with the improvements that the participants gave. This way there is effective feedback for the future learning process.

Here are some examples of techniques and methods you could implement at level 1:

  • Open-ended questionnaires (this will help the participant to express their free opinion about the course).
  • Dialogue with participants (receiving feedback from participants in the form of a dialogue will help them to trust themselves and freely express what they think).
  • Individual interview with each participant.

Example of the Kirkpatrick model evaluation level 1

With this example you will be able to analyse the Kirkpatrick Model of feedback more easily:

In a marketing agency there is a new intranet platform that employees are supposed to use for internal company communication where they can run new project tracking, online chats with other colleagues and do time tracking among other things.

However, in order for them to know how to use this new platform, it is necessary to train them for one hour so that they can log in and use it easily.

After the training on the new work platform, the facilitator gives them a survey with questions with a score from 1 to 5 if they are satisfied or not and with open questions about why they are satisfied, if they learned or not, if they now feel able to activate the platform in their workplaces among other questions that will give them the necessary feedback.

2. Learning

In this level of Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation, the aim is to measure the knowledge acquired by the participants of the course, both during the course and at the end of the course.
It is important to establish this control before and after the course, either by means of interviews or written questions for the participants. With this type of evaluation it is possible to compare the previous knowledge of a specific topic with the new knowledge that was acquired through the course that was implemented.

In this way you will know in a more precise way how the participants were before the course and how they are after the course. By using this method, you will be able to see the effect of the shared learning.

To consider some of the resources you could implement at level 2:

  • Pre- and post-course test and interview to measure participants’ learning.
  • Use a control group to compare writing before and after the course.
  • Record observations as the course goes on.

Example of Kirkpatrick model level 2 evaluation regarding learning

Following on from the previous example on the marketing agency, the following is an example from the process of level 2 of Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation.

In the evaluation of learning, the facilitator can implement see-and-repeat teaching with the trainees. This means that they can put what they are learning into practice during that hour.

Each participant has his or her laptop while the facilitator shows the new platform on the projector and they easily follow the step-by-step while the coach is explaining and doing.

The facilitator will be able to see if everyone is going with him or if any of the participants are stuck on any of the steps or if they have any doubts. This will make the learning process both theoretical and practical for the group members.

At the end, the facilitator can conduct a test or survey on what was learned in the class, looking to see if the knowledge that was shared met expectations.

3. Behaviour

This level measures whether the participants of the training are able to apply what they have learned in their area of work. This is done by means of interviews or questionnaires to determine the behaviour that was obtained.

Kirkpatrick stresses that it takes time for the behaviour to be reflected in the employee’s actions on the job. It can take weeks or even months to actually see the change in behaviour.

With the analysis and the result of the employee’s behaviour, improvements can be made in training and even in the work environment, such as processes, materials and the company’s social interaction.
If, on the other hand, the employee did not put into practice what he/she learned in the training, or did not implement the materials provided, among other things, this will help to redesign the training and improve the learning that is shared with the work team or the different areas of the organisation.

Some parameters that could be implemented at level 3:

  • Agree on a set timeframe to see behavioural changes in staff.
  • Have a monitoring team to see the changes.
  • Interview the employee with his or her boss, co-workers and experts who can observe his or her environment.
  • Check if the evaluation is cost-effective by comparing the benefits of the person’s behaviour.

Example of Kirkpatrick model assessment level 3: behavioural

Continuing with the examples, the next one is from level 3, regarding behaviour.

After the training, one will be able to see if it had a positive or negative effect on the employee’s behaviour in the workplace. In this case, the handling of the new internal communication platform is put into good practice.

With this behaviour, the company will be able to see if the platform is well received by the employees; if the employees adapted easily to the new changes and if the communication and control processes are more agile with the learning that they obtained from the handling of the new intranet.

This will be reflected over time (weeks or months), conclusions can be drawn on the improvement of the learning processes and also whether the employees feel good about it. Surveys can be sent out or each supervisor can have a direct interview with each employee to get mutual feedback.

4. Results

The last level is to evaluate what the participants learned and how this helps in their areas of work, gives further optimisation and advantages to the company.

This can be with interviews with the area manager or also a test to be able to measure the staff.

The impact of the results will be reflected in the actions of the employees, but also in the costs and budgets of the organisation, employee performance, turnover, productivity, among others.

To evaluate the results of the training process, follow the points below:

  • Measure before and after training.
  • Have a time range to obtain the results.
  • Repeat the evaluation if necessary.
  • Have a monitoring team.
  • Compare costs and benefits of the process.
  • Give feedback.

Example of Kirkpatrick model level 4 evaluation, results

The following is an example of level 4 of the Kirkpatrick Model of Learning Evaluation.

The same marketing agency conducted the training regarding the new communication and tracking system of the company. However, the results are seen according to the metrics of target achievement regarding the handling of the new platform.

Over time of using the new platform, the results of the training are reflected positively or negatively according to the conclusions drawn.

If there is a high level of proper use and interaction with the new platform by the employees and they feel good about it, then the learning in the training was successful. If not, and there are negative results, it is clear that the next trainings and the new platform must be taken into account.

How to use Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation?

With the above, it is now easy to understand what each of the Kirkpatrick levels offers. However, it is also necessary to consider the right way to put this model into action in the company in order for the initiative not becoming a mess when applying it.

It is recommended to start with level 4. You may wonder why start with results and not with reactions. With the results you want to achieve, you set the objectives, so make it clear from the beginning. Training should be carried out according to the positive results that the company wants to achieve.

For example, you want to improve your telephone sales with your customers and have a high percentage of sales closures. In order to achieve this, it is then necessary to focus on what kind of training the employees require, e.g. effective verbal management to close deals. This may be a topic that the employees need to learn or improve.

In this example, the organisation already knows what they need to be trained in and what goals they want to achieve with this. For example, to have 85% effectiveness in telephone sales in one year. Now the Human Resources (training) team can get started.

After this comes level 3. Level 3 deals with the question: what work behaviour is effective and has to be put in place in order to meet the sales targets? According to the training theory, it can be identified which behaviours the employees should have on the calls in order to, most likely, achieve sales success.

After this, we come to level 2: What skills, knowledge and strategies do employees need to have in order to be able to do a good quality job? This is evaluated with surveys before and after the learning moment. In this way it is determined whether the main objectives were met.

How should the training be designed and implemented so that the participants learn, feel comfortable and confident and find the learning formation vital for their work?

Identify how you will deliver the training, the important topics and plan ahead. The success of the training results will be reflected in the satisfaction and learning of the trainees when they apply what they have learned in their field of work.

Transformation of Kirkpatrick’s Model of Learning Evaluation

Although this model is still in use, it has been transformed by James and Wendy Kirkpatrick in the book Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation. In this book, they propose the “Kirkpatrick New World Model”, a methodology with a deeper focus on the training of people in their daily work.

This methodology seeks to first identify the objectives and needs of the organisation that need to be achieved through training. The value of training is, as expressed in this article, a business plus that in recent years companies have been betting on to achieve success.

Training is a means to collect data that is linked to the degree of effectiveness employees can achieve. A trained employee can generate good performance and therefore meet the positive results demanded by the company. It also motivates them for new learning, where it is a win-win for the company.

To demonstrate the impact of training, the ROI can be connected. What was said before, that the company by being able to train its employees can have a return on investment with the training that is done.
With the costs and benefits, the training of employees can be calculated from a financial perspective.

ROI= Benefits / Costs
The Return On Investment (ROI) could give the financial security to calculate the profitability of the opportunity that is the implementation of training in a company, which over time can become repetitive, more trainings, more learning opportunities.

Return On Investment (ROI)

  • Measures the potential returns on a variety of opportunity.
  • It measures the return on investment in the company’s specific activities (training).
  • It is a simple and effective measurement.
  • ROI calculations are easy to understand and explain financial ratios.

Corporate training is becoming increasingly popular

In order to improve the performance and the results of an organization, it is necessary to consider the strength and importance of employee training. Trainings, and even opportunities for specialisation, masters and doctorates within the staff of the same organisation, is a connector to the development of skills that some area of the company needs or wants to grow according to the needs, so it is an investment and a mutual benefit of professional development.

Now more than ever, organisations are betting on the development of their human capital in learning, which is why the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model is still popular in the evaluation of such learning formations.

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Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Do you think the Kirkpatrick Model is a valuable training tool? Have you implemented Kirkpatrick Model in your workplace? Do you think the Kirkpatrick Model worked for reaching success in the pursuit of organisational goals? Do you think the Kirkpatrick Model stands out from other training tools? Do you have any suggestions or anything else to add?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Tan, K., & Newman, E. (2013). The evaluation of sales force training in retail organizations: a test of Kirkpatrick’s four-level model. International Journal of Management, 30(2), 692.
  2. Praslova, L. (2010). Adaptation of Kirkpatrick’s four level model of training criteria to assessment of learning outcomes and program evaluation in higher education. Educational assessment, evaluation and accountability, 22(3), 215-225.
  3. Holton III, E. F. (1996). The flawed four‐level evaluation model. Human resource development quarterly, 7(1), 5-21.

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