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What is Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation?

February 21, 2018 | By Soma Bhaduri


Measuring eLearning ROI with Kirkpatrick's model of training evaluation

Those responsible for training delivery understand the value of measuring training effectiveness. Without systematically evaluating training effectiveness, gauging the Return on Investment (ROI) from your training expenditures remains elusive.. In this blog, I outline how you can use the Kirkpatrick’s model of training evaluation to measure training effectiveness and impact. I will also show you how this can be further used to determine your ROI.

What Is Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation?

Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation is a systematic framework for assessing the effectiveness of training programs. This model, created by Donald Kirkpatrick in 1959, is one of the most commonly used training evaluation models in the world. Featuring four levels, it covers the entire spectrum of parameters from learner reaction to the desired business impact. It is divided into four levels:

  1. Reaction: Measures participants’ immediate response to the training, focusing on their engagement and perceived relevance.
  2. Learning: Evaluates the extent to which participants have gained knowledge, skills, or attitudes from the training.
  3. Behavior: Assesses the application of learned skills or knowledge in the workplace or real-world scenarios.
  4. Results: Examines the ultimate impact of the training on organizational goals or outcomes.

Each level provides insights into different aspects of training effectiveness, enabling organizations to make informed decisions about their training programs and strategies.

What are the Benefits of Using Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation

The benefits of using Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation include:

  • Comprehensive Evaluation: It covers all aspects of training, from participant reaction to the final results.
  • Improved Training Efficiency: By evaluating each level, organizations can identify areas for improvement, enhancing training effectiveness.
  • Evidence-Based Decision Making: Offers data-driven insights for informed decisions about future training initiatives.
  • Alignment with Organizational Goals: Helps in aligning training outcomes with business objectives.
  • Enhanced ROI Measurement: Facilitates the measurement of return on investment in training.
  • Increased Accountability: Encourages accountability among trainers and learners.

What are the Limitations of Using Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation

The limitations of using Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation include:

  • Resource Intensive: Implementing all four levels can be time-consuming and costly.
  • Difficulty in Isolating Effects: It’s often challenging to directly attribute improvements or changes in organizational performance to the training alone.
  • Focus on Short-term Results: The model may emphasize immediate outcomes over long-term impacts.
  • Subjectivity in Measurements: Particularly at the Reaction and Learning levels, evaluations can be subjective and vary widely.
  • Lack of Emphasis on Environmental Factors: External factors influencing training effectiveness are not explicitly considered in the model.

Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation

The model underwent two revisions, first in 1975 and again in 1994, and now features the following four levels:

Level 1: Reaction

Objective: This is the first level of evaluation and helps determine whether the learners found the training relevant, engaging, and easy to apply.

From an evaluation perspective, feedback obtained through post-training surveys at this level enables L&D teams to assess the need for further improvements and address any gaps if applicable. Learner feedback is generally sought on the program objectives, course material, content relevance, and trainers’ knowledge.

Level 2: Learning

Objective: This level of evaluation is useful in determining whether the learners were able to acquire the intended knowledge and skills from the training. Based on the Training Needs Analysis (TNA), L&D teams formulate the learning objectives, which may include an increase in knowledge, skills or a specific behavioral change.

From an evaluation perspective, learner feedback allows L&D teams to determine if they achieved the desired learning outcomes. These insights enable them to identify future training requirements, non-training-based support like mentoring or coaching, and the need for performance support interventions (such as Performance Support Tools or job-aids that offer just-in-time training within the learner’s workflow.)

 Level 3: Behavior

Objective: An important evaluation metric, this level allows L&D teams to evaluate the impact of training on learner behavior.

From an evaluation perspective, it helps understand whether learners are able to “apply” the learning they’ve gained from the training. It is possible that there is no remarkable change in learner behavior immediately after the learning, as the learners may not have had an opportunity to apply the acquired knowledge. In this case, it is important to ascertain why such a scenario arose and make efforts to create the right environment for learners to apply their learning.

A reassessment to identify the necessity of reinforcement or remediation support may be necessary after a certain duration to gain insights into the change in behavior. 

Level 4: Impact

Objective: Again, a crucial element of the overall evaluation, this level helps gauge the result or the direct impact of the training.

From an evaluation perspective, the assessment at this stage includes measuring training key performance indicators identified at the commencement of learning, mapping to the desired gain that business had sought. 

How Can You Use Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation to Measure ROI?

ROI Determination (or Level 5)

The eventual outcome of any training endeavor is to achieve a positive business impact. Level 5 of the Kirkpatrick model of training evaluation is ROI determination, which enables L&D teams to assess if the gain from the training (business impact) is more than the cost incurred (including training development, delivery and measurement costs).

L&D teams can calculate the ROI by monetizing the gains and dividing them by the costs. A high-impact training will yield a positive ROI, where gains are higher than the cost incurred.

Parting Thoughts

Kirkpatrick’s Model is a crucial tool for comprehensively evaluating training effectiveness and measuring ROI in a structured manner. It’s more than just an assessment framework; it aligns training objectives with business goals, ensuring that training is a strategic tool for organizational growth. The addition of ROI determination as a fifth level provides L&D teams with a tangible way to evaluate the financial return on training investments, bridging the gap between training efforts and business results.

This model is essential in today’s business environment where training and development are key to success. It enables organizations to not just evaluate, but continuously improve their training strategies, driving meaningful, measurable business outcomes and fostering a culture of ongoing learning and improvement.

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