The Kirkpatrick Model is a model for analyzing and evaluating the results of training programs. It was developed by Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick in the 1950s. The model can be implemented before, throughout, and following training to show the value of a training program. The Kirkpatrick Model shows you at a glance: how the trainees responded to the training ,whether the training produced learning, if the learning translated into workplace changes, to what extent the stakeholder’s expectations were met. As described before it consists of 4 levels. The lower levels (reaction and learning) are commonly used in learning and development (L&D). The higher levels (i.e., behavior and results), however, are usually ignored in practice because they're often harder to evaluate.
Level 1: Reaction
This level is normally captured by surveys following the training. Questions should try to analyze how the learners felt about the training experience, mainly if they enjoyed the whole process and if it met their needs. Other questions that should be asked refer to the trainees’ opinion regarding the trainer.
Level 2: Learning
This level is checked by assessments and tests handed out at the end of the training. In order to illustrate the knowledge gap, assessment quizzes can be given at the start of the training as well as at its end. The quizzes aim to discover if the learners actually acquired new knowledge or if their skills were improved. Strategies for assessment should be relevant to the goals of the training program.
Level 3: Behavior
Level 3 should be evaluated a few months after the training by surveying the trainee (teacher), his/her principal or even his/her students. A variety of open-type questions can be asked to evaluate if the learners actually did anything different as a result of the training they had. For the majority of individuals this level offers the truest evaluation of a program’s usefulness. Eventually, testing at this level is challenging since it is generally impossible to anticipate when a person will start to properly utilize the acquired knowledge, making it harder to determine when, how often, and how to exactly evaluate a participant post-assessment. Keep in mind that taking into account the opinion of the participant can be deceptive as it makes evaluation unreliable, so it is crucial that assessments aim towards more defined factors such as results at work rather than opinions.
Level 4: Results
Commonly regarded as the primary goal of the program, level four determines the overall success of the training. This level can only be measured by examining data related to the training. Those data are already extracted and the biggest challenge will be to identify which outcomes, benefits, or final results are most closely linked to the training, and to come up with an effective way to measure these outcomes in the long term. The evaluation process asks whether the training results offered increased productivity, higher morale, led to reduced costs, satisfied students, etc.
Advantages using the Kirkpatrick Model:
It is widely accepted and established in many environments such as industry and professional settings while at the same time is a simple model and easy to understand even for new trainers.
Disadvantages using the Kirkpatrick Model:
Since the lower two levels are open to interpretation and sometimes the opinion of the trainees may not be sincere, conclusions at these levels may not be accurate. Besides, critics of the Model suggest that there should be more levels, such as return on investment (ROI). In addition, in many training scenarios, trainers tend to overlook the higher 2 levels, mainly because it is hard to evaluate those two, since it requires great resources and time.
So, the main question is if Kirkpatrick’s model is worth the effort. The answer is pretty straight forward. It comes down to executing it correctly. There are many opinions on how to make its application effective. The most common suggests that the trainer should work backwards, by following a reverse path, setting the ultimate goal-results first and then think what participants have to do to achieve that goal. As most models, the Kirkpatrick Model is not a one-fits-all solution. It is a training evaluation method that can be applied in most situations, as long as the training program is adjusted to the particular needs of the organization or the teachers that will be trained.