An Overview: Kirkpatrick Learning Evaluation Model

Kirkpatrick’s learning evaluation model has been used for more than 50 years. In this post, find out more about each of the model’s four levels.

Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels

The Kirkpatrick learning model encourages us to evaluate learning on four levels:

  1. Reaction. Did participants enjoy the training?
  2. Learning. Did they pass the assessment?
  3. Behavior. Do they work better?
  4. Results. Did business metrics improve?

Be sure to evaluate your learning program on each level so you can tell the best and most comprehensive story about its impact.

How should I use it?

The Kirkpatrick evaluation model is a useful and well-known starting point to learning evaluation. The lower levels (i.e., reaction and learning) are commonly used in learning and development (L&D). The higher levels (i.e., behavior and results), however, are usually ignored in practice because they're often harder to evaluate.

But knowing the impacts on learner behavior and business results is fairly important. In fact, research suggests that learner reaction is a poor indicator of whether or not they learned anything or if their behaviors will change.

Of course, that doesn't mean you should dismiss the lower levels of the Kirkpatrick evaluation model. They provide early warning signs of problems with your learning program. You need all four levels to tell the story and, if your program wasn't successful, identify areas for improvement.

What else should I know?

Much of the learning that happens in your organization isn't initiated by the L&D department, so be sure to consider informal and operational learning in your evaluation. Learners tend to forget information over time, so monitor your metrics continuously to evaluate the long-term impact of your program and any reminder elements you’ve built in.

Up Next: Kaufman’s Levels of Learning Evaluation

We'll be covering Kaufman’s learning evaluation method in our next blog post. Subscribe to Watershed Insights so you can get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox.

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