I’ve been reminded recently about Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model.

Donald L. Kirkpatrick (1959) developed a four level model used primarily for evaluating training.  This model is still used extensively in the training field and is espoused by ASTD, the American Society of Training and Development.

It also occurred to me that Extension conducts a lot of training from pesticide handling to logic model use and that Kirkpatrick’s model is one that isn’t talked about a lot in Extension–at least I don’t use it as a reference.  And that may not be a good thing, given that Extension professionals are conducting training a lot of the time.

Kirkpatrick’s four levels are these:

  1. Reaction:  To what degree participants react favorably to the training
  2. Learning:  To what degree participants acquire intended knowledge, skills, and attitudes based on the participation in learning event
  3. Application:  To what degree do participants apply what they learned during training on the job
  4. Impact:  To what degree targeted outcomes occur, as a result of the learning event(s) and subsequent reinforcement

Sometimes it is important to know what the affective reaction our participants are having during and at the end of  the training.  I would call this a formative evaluation and formative evaluation is often used for program improvement.  Reactions are a way that participants can tell the Extension professional how things are going–i.e., what their reaction is–using a continuous feedback mechanism.  Extension professionals can use this to change the program, revise their approach, adjust the pace, etc.  The feedback mechanism doesn’t have to be constant–which is often the interpretation of “continuous”.  Soliciting feedback at natural breaks, using a show of hands, is often enough for on-the- spot adjustments.  It is a form of formative evaluation as it is an “in-process” evaluation.  Kirkpatrick’s level one (reaction)  doesn’t provide a measure of outcomes or impacts.  I might call it a “happiness” evaluation or a satisfaction evaluation–tells me only what is the participants’ reaction.  Outcome evaluation–to determine a measure of effectiveness–happens in a later level and is another approach to evaluation which I would call summative–although, Michael Patton might call developmental in a training situation where the outcome is always moving, changing, developing.

Kirkpatrick, D. L. (1959) Evaluating Training Programs, 2nd ed., Berrett Koehler, San Francisco.

Kirkpatrick, D. L. (comp.) (1998) Another Look at Evaluating Training Programs, ASTD, Alexandria, USA.

For more information about the Kirkpatrick model, see their site, Kirkpatrick Partners.

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