What is the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model? 4 Steps to Better Results

Understanding the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model

The overall goal of any training program is to educate a specific audience in specific skills or information.

Training programs can follow a number of instructional and assessment methods, so finding an accurate way of assessing the results of a program needs to account for all of these factors.

The Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model is one of the most recognized systems for both analyzing and evaluating the results of an educational or training program, whether formal or informal.

What Is the Kirkpatrick Model?


In the 1950s, Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick crafted a four-level model of evaluation for training courses. While the subject was initially the basis of his doctoral dissertation, the ideas were published to the public later on.

In 1994, his book “Evaluating Training Programs” gained significant attention for this evaluation model. The four levels are used in sequence to assess the effectiveness of a training program, and as the levels progress, evaluation becomes consecutively harder and more time-consuming.

The model encourages an objective assessment between the four levels of reaction, learning, behavior and results, with the overall goal of making training more relevant to the individuals who are a part of the experience.

The model can be used to answer the following questions you may have about your training program:

  • Are the individuals making real-world applications of their learning?
  • Is the learning having a positive impact on both the individual and the greater organization?

The data collected along each level of the model can be used to help with subsequent level analysis, with a more precise measurement of training usefulness being achieved. The model can be implemented by a wide range of companies and organizations, making it a leading, easily adapted system for training program evaluations.

How To Implement the Kirkpatrick Model

Analysis through the Kirkpatrick model is systematic, and all evaluation must start at level one. Through objective analysis, you can identify the impact of the training, determine the extent of participants' learning and craft a strategy to improve future learning opportunities.

Level 1: Reaction

In this first level, the primary goal to determine how training participants feel about the learning experience.

The reaction phase measures the level of engagement, determines how participants reacted to the training and how active individuals were in contributing to the training program.

Many companies will use a post-course or training survey to determine participant reaction. When devising a questionnaire, you aren’t only looking at the response to what occurred but looking for topics that may have been missed during the course. Sample questions for a survey can include:

  • Identify the biggest weaknesses or strengths of the training program?
  • Was the venue and presentation style supportive of the training’s objective?
  • Which of the activities did you find to be the most engaging?
  • How do you plan to apply your learning in your job?

In addition to formal evaluation through questions, body language can be another tell concerning a participant’s engagement or emotions.

You can watch their body language during a course, or you could request verbal feedback before trainees leave.

Level 2: Learning

In level two, you will focus on measuring the extent of the trainee’s learning. Each participant is evaluated on the acquisition of attitude, skills, knowledge or confidence that the training was intended to convey.

This evaluation should include bothpre- and post-learning assessments in order to fully explore comprehension. Exploration at this level is more time-consuming and challenging, and techniques can range from self-assessments, team assessments or formal and informal tests.

A pre-test taken before the training and a post-test after the training can reveal comprehension. Other procedures can include:

  • Pre- and post-training interviews
  • Peer and instructor observations
  • Printed or electronic exams

Level 3: Behavior

In level three, the analysis looks at the differences that occur during the work or real-world environment once the training program has been completed.

By looking at changes in the behavior or actions, it is possible to see whether the training had an impact on mindset or knowledge or skill acquisition.

It is difficult to pinpoint when an individual will utilize training information, so it should start at least three months from the completion of training. Observation, interviews, formal evaluations, surveys and feedback or ways to gather data.

Level 4: Results

The final level is often the goal of the training program, as this analysis focuses on results. Measurable factors include return on investment, fewer accidents, more efficiency with production, higher sales numbers or lowered spending.

The type of training influences how to determine results.

For more accuracy in this area, rely on a control group, inform participants of what will be measured, ensure that enough time elapses for change to take place and use processes that are relevant to any feedback participants had provided.

Prime Examples of the Kirkpatrick Model in Action

It can be tough trying to calculate how effective a training program is, but the Kirkpatrick model can help your company determine the ROI of training. Here are key examples of this model in action.

Maneuver Center of Excellence

The U.S. Army used the Kirkpatrick model to evaluate the course “Dismounted CIED Tactics Master Training Course.

The evaluation effort revealed the effectiveness of the training program and the success improvement of a unit’s operational effectiveness when in Afghanistan carrying out combat operations.

Level one measures the soldier’s reactions to the course through surveys, while level two uses pre and post test scores for knowledge increase.

Level three used survey responses from both soldiers and their commanders when carrying out missions in Afghanistan.

Level four analyzed and measured the combat performance of units, using the number of IED detonations, IEDs located and cleared and the number of casualties inflicted by IEDs.

Post-test scoring had an average of 77% and the majority of soldiers had a positive reaction to the course.

Most classes showed improvement between test scores, and there was significant improvement in operational combat when comparing a control group to the units who received training. The Army determined the training course was doing what it was intended for.

Whether an online or in-person class, the Kirkpatrick model can help your gauge instructional effectiveness. Use this approach to make your training more relevant and successful.






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