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Alternative to the Kirkpatrick Model of Training Evaluation

test-iconIf you have been in the elearning (or training) industry for any amount of time, then you are most likely aware of the Kirkpatrick model of learning evaluation. For many of us in this industry, it is the go-to methodology for gathering training related metrics and reporting on training success.

One could write an entire book on the Kirkpatrick model and the different levels, but I am not going to get into too much detail. As a quick reminder though, the four levels are as follows:

  1. Reaction: This level measures how your trainees (the people being trained), reacted to the training.
  2. Learning: At level 2, you measure what your trainees have learned.
  3. Behavior: evaluate how far your trainees have changed their behavior, based on the training they received. Specifically, this looks at how trainees apply the information.
  4. Results: At this level, you analyze the final results of your training. This includes outcomes that you or your organization have determined to be good for business, good for the employees, or good for the bottom line.

On nearly every consulting project I have worked on, the Kirkpatrick model has been what we have used to gather and report data to the client. Which got me thinking… why do I even use this model in the first place?

The short answer is because it was taught to me early in my career, so I have stuck by it ever since. It also comes with some “name recognition” – and clients like that.

However, there are other methods that one could use as an alternative (or perhaps even in conjunction with) the Kirkpatrick model.  Below is another popular model, as well as a high-level overview of the components.

Kaufman’s 5 Levels of Evaluation

Some may argue that Kaufman’s 5 Levels is not all that much different than Kirkpatrick – and you could very well think that. This core of this model is actually based on the Kirkpatrick approach. It’s a nice model to use if you are used to using Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation, but want to make some slight changes. The 5 levels include:

  1. Input and Process: This is broken into two sub-parts, called Enabling and Reaction. Enabling is designed to evaluate the quality and availability of financial, physical, and resources. This level is an input to Reaction, which evaluates the efficiency and acceptability of the methods/processes in the training.
  2. Acquisition: This level evaluations the competency and mastery of a test group or individual in a controlled setting.
  3. Application: The purpose of this level is to evaluate the success of the group or individual based on how they are using content of the training program.
  4. Organization Output: This level’s purpose is to evaluate the results of the contributions and payoffs of the entire organization, as attributed to the training. ROI is one metric used to determine the overall success.
  5. Societal Outcomes: This level looks to see how the contributions to and from the end-user are impacted by the training. Some indicators of success that are investigated include responsiveness, consequences, and payoffs.

As you can see, there are some similarities, but the model is slightly different. Also, there are also plenty of other viable models out there for evaluating elearning and training effectiveness. The important thing is that you employ some degree of metrics gathering and analysis when creating your training programs – it will provide value to your client, and allow you to further refine your skills as a training developer.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the Founder of LearnDash, a WordPress based LMS and Learning Strategy provider. He also works as a Learning & Collaboration Consultant where he implements large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies.

2 Comments
  1. Jay

    Can you comment on how long the Kaufman Model has been around and in what arenas it has been used? Are you aware of any large scale uses among any communities? Thank you for sharing. Jay Gendron

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