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Kirkpatrick Evaluation Levels Cheat Sheet by

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Kirkpa­trick’s system of evaluation has been widely used in the area of profes­sional training for over 40 years. This system consists of four steps or levels of increasing comple­xity. Kirkpa­trick’s four levels can be summarized as follows:

Level 1 — Reaction

This level represents the feelings of the learners about the training received. A variety of testing examples show a familiar series of questions where the student is asked to rate various aspects of the training on some kind of quanti­tative scale. While most questions are given in an objective form, some space is generally allowed for additional comments not addressed by the other questions.
Kirkpa­trick emphasizes that this level of evaluation "does not include a measur­ement of any learning that takes place" (Kirkp­atrick, 1976, p. 18-2).

Level 2 — Learning

Kirkpa­trick defines learning in this context as "the princi­ples, facts, and skills which were understood and absorbed by the confer­ees­" (Kirkp­atrick, 1976, p. 18-11). In other words, the learning he describes corres­ponds to Bloom’s (1956) Knowledge category and subcat­ego­ries. Kirkpa­trick recommends that this level of evaluation include before­-an­d-after testing as well as a control group when possible in order to assess the actual impact of the training, the use of objective questions to provide quanti­fiable data which can then be subjected to a statis­tical analysis.

Level 3 — Behavior (also called Transfer)

At this evaluation level, the focus is on behavioral changes that are brought about by the learning which has presumably taken place. Kirkpa­trick saw this as a way to quantify the common knowledge that there is often "a big difference between knowing principles and techniques and using them" (Kirkp­atrick, 1976, p. 18-16). Here again, the use of before­-an­d-after testing, a control group, and statis­tical analysis are recomm­ended. In addition, he suggests appraisal by persons other than the individual being evaluated to aid in the object­ivity of the results. He also recommends a post-t­raining appraisal three months or more after the training has been completed in order to assess the lasting effect of behavioral changes resulting from the training

Kirkpa­trick 4 Evaluation Levels

Level 4 — Results

This is the most vague of Kirkpa­trick’s levels. The desired results can vary greatly from one type of training program to another, and therefore the testing to determine the degree to which those results have been met vary as well. For this reason, in the context of job-re­lated training, Kirkpa­trick suggests that evalua­tions focus on the first three levels. "From an evaluation standp­oint, it would be best to evaluate training programs directly in terms of results desired. There are, however, so many compli­cating factors that it is extremely difficult, if not imposs­ible, to evaluate certain kinds of programs in terms of results. Therefore, it is recomm­ended that training directors evaluate in terms of reaction, learning, and behavi­or" (Kirkp­atrick, 1976, p. 18-21).

Three assump­tions

Three assump­tions associated with Kirkpa­trick’s system are "­imp­licit in the minds of resear­chers and trainers, although to all appear­ances unintended by Kirkpa­trick himself when the model was propos­ed" (Alliger & Janak, 1989, p.332). These assump­tions are:
1. Levels are hierar­chi­cal, with each providing more inform­ation than the last,
2. There is a causal relati­onship between each successive level, and
3. There is a positive correl­ation between levels. The authors challenge the validity of these assump­tions with a detailed analysis of the available litera­ture.

Hard data and Soft date

It can be useful to divide results into categories of "hard data" and "soft data" (Phillips, 1996). Hard data, the kind tradit­ionally used to evaluate perfor­mance, includes things such as output (units produced, tasks completed, etc.), quality (waste, defects, etc.), time (project completion time, overtime, etc.), and cost (overhead, variable costs, etc.). Soft data are more subjective and harder to assign a monetary value. This includes work habits (punct­uality, safety, etc.), work climate (griev­ances, job satisf­action, etc.), attitudes (loyalty, perception of respon­sib­ili­ties, etc.), new skills (decisions made, conflicts avoided, etc.), develo­pment (promo­tions, perfor­mance ratings, etc.), and initiative (imple­men­tation of new ideas, employee sugges­tions, etc.).

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