An Overview: Anderson's Model for Learning Evaluation

Many learning evaluation models outline different ways of assessing whether our learning solutions work and why. It's the first step in ensuring our future learning solutions work. And as part of our learning evaluation series, this blog post explores Anderson's Value of Learning Model and its three-stage learning evaluation cycle that's meant to be applied at the organization level rather than for specific learning interventions.

What is Anderson's Value of Learning Model?

The Value of Learning model emphasizes the importance of aligning the learning function with the organization's strategic priorities. Instead, it focuses on learning strategy evaluation rather than individual programs.

The model aims to address two challenges:

  1. Evaluation Challenge. Many organizations report that they struggle to do training evaluation well.
  2. Value Challenge. Organization leaders often require evidence showing the value of learning and training as well as cost-effective deployment of resources.

Stage 1: Determine current alignment against strategic priorities.

This stage evaluates how closely learning in your organization aligns with your organization's strategic priorities—such as driving sales, increasing production, or reaching a new market. To what extent is your learning strategy supporting that focus? Achieving high alignment requires knowing your organization's strategic priorities and developing a learning strategy that supports those priorities.

Stage 2: Use a range of methods to assess and evaluate the contribution of learning.

This stage evaluates the contribution of learning to your organization via a range of measures. The model doesn't detail these exact measures but outlines four areas of evaluation that should be covered.

  1. Learning function measures. How effective and efficient is the learning function within your organization? This includes the learning team and anybody else involved in supporting learning in the organization.
  2. Return on expectation measures. To what extent have the expectations of particular learning programs and interventions been met? For example, suppose you implemented a program to reduce a specific business process by two days. In that case, you'd use this measure to determine if you were successful in actually reducing this process by two days.
  3. Return on investment measures. How much did particular learning programs and interventions cost? And how does that compare to revenue generated and/or costs saved?
  4. Benchmark and capacity measures. How do learning processes and performance compare to internal or external standards? This evaluation should be monitored continually to show progress or decline compared to earlier data.

Stage 3: Establish the most relevant approaches for your organization.

The model recognizes that organizations differ and, as a result, that the measures outlined in the second stage will be more or less important depending on an organization's specific needs.

For instance, some organizations already recognize that learning is essential and want to ensure that they're investing in the right initiatives, but other organizations need to be convinced. Similarly, some L&D teams focus on the short-term benefits of learning, whereas others are more focused on the long-term benefits.

That's why choosing a blend of metrics that best suits your organization's needs is critical. Use the following table to determine which measures will most likely align with your organization's needs.

Depending on your stakeholders' values, Anderson's model recommends evaluating different categories of measure. We've outlined these categories in the following table:

Anderson's Focus on Learning Strategy

The Value of Learning model's focus on learning strategy and alignment with an organization's strategic priorities is extremely helpful.

For example, an organization might implement Kirkpatrick's training evaluation model to evaluate a learning program designed to increase the productivity of factory workers. The evaluation shows the program as a success if productivity increases.

But what if that same organization already had surplus stock due to poor sales? That means the L&D department should have focused on upskilling the sales force to drive more sales rather than on increasing factory workers' productivity.

Assuming that the same organization had sensible strategic priorities, an evaluation of how its learning program aligned with strategic priorities before starting a program would have identified that the program didn't match, and resources would be better spent elsewhere.

In other words, the Value of Learning model helps ensure you're not just delivering value but also delivering that value where it's most critical to the organization.

Does Anderson's Model Have Any Limitations?

The Value of Learning model is deliberately high level and flexible, making it less helpful in offering practical direction to specific evaluations. For example, the model encourages organizations to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of learning in the organizations as a whole, but it provides little direction as to how to measure either effectiveness or efficiency.

In practice, this model must be combined with other models, such as Kirkpatrick's model, to achieve the detail of individual learning initiatives to paint an overall picture of the effectiveness of learning in the organization.

Up Next: Watershed's 7 Steps for Learning Evaluation

Join us as we take our favorite parts of popular learning evaluation models to create our own "super method" for evaluating training, which we've named Watershed's 7 Steps for Learning Evaluation.

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