In a year full of transitions in possibly all aspects of learning and teaching, the full-time online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought up the need to adjust the ways we evaluate learning and training outcomes as well.

The Kirkpatrick model is one among other useful models that found its way into Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and other virtual learning platforms. This model is a great format for assessing whether a lesson or training has been successful and effective. Let’s dig into understanding exactly what is the Kirkpatrick model, its history, and its four levels, and how LMSs can benefit from it.

Understanding the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model

The Kirkpatrick learning model has been a staple of evaluation in training programs dating back to 62 years ago when Donald Kirkpatrick—Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin—first published it in 1959. The model was then updated twice and published in 1993 as his work “Evaluating Training Programs”, whereas, in 2016, the theory was revised into the “New World Kirkpatrick Model” together with his wife Wendy. 

The model is to this day used and well known as a method for analyzing and evaluating the results and effectiveness of training and educational programs. Through its four levels of analysis, the Kirkpatrick model found use and success among many industries and their training programs, becoming popular as a method of evaluation in online training formats as well.

Kirkpatrick Levels

The Kirkpatrick model combines four stages that are intertwined together as a process that aids the delivery of a qualitative training program and evaluates its effectiveness. The four levels of the models are Reaction, Learning, Behavior, and Results. Let’s examine how each model contributes to the training evaluation process and what it consists of.

Level 1: Reaction

During a training program, one of the most important aspects that can measure effectiveness is how attendees react. Be it during an in-person training or an online class, there are various methods to measure the participants’ reaction and perception of the training. Some aspects to measure include participant engagement, their contribution to training activities and discussions, and how they respond to the training overall. 

Some questions you can ask participants in order to get their reaction include:

  • Did you feel that by participating in this training you got effective use of your time?
  • Do you think it was successful?
  • Did the training cover enough information and instructions? 
  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of the training?
  • Was the training engaging and did it offer enough opportunities to ask questions and express yourself?
  • Was the training style (pace, method of delivery, content) appropriate for you?
  • From the training, what can you apply to your job?

Measuring trainee’s reactions during this level is done mostly through verbal communication and feedback, but you can also observe their body language, or conduct an attendee-satisfaction survey.

Level 2: Learning

The second level of the Kirkpatrick model measures what the trainees have gained in knowledge and skills or what they have not learned from the training program. During this stage, the trainer and the team that conducts the training should come up with learning objectives for the training session or program, so they can determine whether those expectations are met by the end of it.

Depending on the nature of the training, trainees can be evaluated both before and after it, so they can compare their knowledge, level of skills, and even motivation. In an LMS, this section of the model can be tracked through reports and regular tests, or keeping a self-evaluation sheet where trainees can track skills that they have gained or improved.

Level 3: Behavior

The third level, Behavior, is in essence one of the most crucial concepts of training effectiveness. This level measures how well the skills and knowledge gained in a training program can be applied to real life. That includes but is not limited to work settings; any setting where the practical side of the training can be applied counts.

What is worth noting regarding the third level is that work environments play a big part in trainee behavior and how they apply their acquired knowledge and skills. According to the New World Kirkpatrick Model, leaders and managers must reinforce, encourage, and reward good performance in the workplace. This should give employees an added incentive to apply their skills in the best way possible.

The following questions can be posed to trainees in order to evaluate their behavior after the training:

  • Are you applying the acquired skills learned in training to your daily work?
  • Has the training improved your job performance in any way?
  • Is your place of employment supportive in motivating you to use the new skills?
  • Are there any obstacles that prevent you from utilizing the skills learned in training?
  • Are you able to share the acquired or improved skills or techniques with others and teach them?

Level 4: Results

The fourth and final level of the model is Results. This level focuses on measuring the Return on Investment (ROI), during which you evaluate whether the training was effective or profitable for the trainees, business, or any other beneficiary. Depending on the type of training and its main goals and objectives, there are several questions to ask in order to determine if the training was successful:

  • Did it increase employee retention?
  • Was there an increase in productivity?
  • Are employees or trainees more motivated to work and apply learned skills?
  • Is the business (if applicable) more successful? 

The results of the training can also be measured through short-term observations which are conducted from time to time in order to ensure that skills and knowledge gained through training are beneficial and effective.

Why Is the Kirkpatrick Model Important for LMSs?

As many schools, workplaces, and training institutions transition to online learning, LMSs have grown substantially to the point of being an indispensable tool of learning. Whether you are training students or employees, an LMS can be an important asset to help you keep track of the progress and outcomes of the training sessions or entire program. 

Similarly, implementing effective training evaluation models in an LMS is just as important. With methods such as the Kirkpatrick model, you can track each step of the learning process by closely monitoring how trainees react to the training, what their expectations are, what they are gaining from the training in knowledge and skills, and how they intend to apply it or are applying in a workplace setting. This data is not only important for trainees; it is also a valuable form of feedback for trainers, managers, or employers who conduct the training. 

Through LMS management and evaluation models, trainers can track how trainees learn best, what methods of the training program are most effective or ineffective, and what improvements can be made to the workplace in order to create an environment where trainees can put their learning and acquired skills into practice.

In a restaurant LMS such as Kiwi, this system is helpful in ensuring that restaurant employees such as chefs and servers are trained with the right tools, within the right setting, and that the training format and pace are suitable for them.

The Kirkpatrick model and its four levels of training evaluation are ideal for various types of training, with the New World model further specifying how training and other processes can improve behaviors on the job and reward good performance. Evaluation models such as Kirkpatrick will aid both employees to get the most out of their training and employers in creating an efficient training program and a favorable work environment.

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