There has been a lot of buzz recently about the usefulness of the Kirkpatrick model

I’ve been talking about it (in two previous posts) and so have others.   This model has been around a long time and has continued to be useful in the training field.  Extension does a lot of training.  Does that mean this model should be used exclusively when training is the focus?  I don’t think so.  Does this model have merits.  I think so.  Could it be improved upon?  That depends on the objective of your program and your evaluation, so probably.

If you want to know about whether your participants react favorably to the training, then this model is probably useful.

If you want to know about the change in knowledge, skills,  attitudes, then this model may be useful.  You would need to be careful because knowledge is a slippery concept to measure.

If you want to know about the change in behavior, probably not. Kirkpatrick on the website says that application of learning is what is measured in the behavioral stage.  How do you observe behavior change at a training?  Observation is the obvious answer here and one does not necessarily observe behavior change at a training.  Intention to change is not mentioned in this level.

If you want to know what difference you made in the social, economic, and/or environmental conditions in which your participants live, work, and practice, then the Kirkpatrick model won’t take you there.  The 4th level (which is where evaluation starts for this model, according to Kirkpatrick) says:  To what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement. I do not see this as condition change or what I call impact.

A faculty member asked me for specific help in assessing impact.  First, one needs to define what is meant by impact.  I use the word to mean change in social, environmental, and/or economic conditions over the long run.  This means changes in social institutions like family, school, employment (social conditions). It means changes in the environment which may be clean water or clean air OR it may mean removing the snack food vending machine from the school (environmental conditions).  It means changes in some economic indicator, up or down, like return on investment, change in employment status,  or increase revenue (economic conditions).  This doesn’t necessarily mean targeted outcomes of the training event.

I hope that any training event will move participants to a different place in their thinking and acting that will manifest in the LONG RUN in changes in one of the three conditions mentioned above.  To get there, one needs to be specific in what one is asking the participants.  Intention to change doesn’t necessarily get to impact.  You could anticipate impact if participants follow through with their intention.  The only way to know that for sure  is to observe it.  We approximate that by asking good questions.

What questions are you asking about condition change to get at impacts of your training and educational programs?

Next week:  TIMELY TOPIC.  Any suggestions?

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