Farewell to Kirkpatrick, but not the end for evaluation!

Last week I attended the ASTD International Conference in Orlando, Florida and was lucky enough to catch the last public presentation from Donald Kirkpatrick. He is someone who has had such a profound effect on our industry and I thought his contribution was worth reflecting on this month. Kirkpatrick is the creator of the Kirkpatrick Four Levels, the world-wide standard for evaluating the effectiveness of training programs. He created the model in 1954 as the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Wisconsin. The elegantly simple model has withstood the test of time with over 50 years of application. Interestingly, he never intended on it being more than just a scholarly pursuit and took 20 years before he penned an actual book on the subject. Originally the Four Levels were published as a series of 4 articles in ASTD Training and Development journal in 1959. More than 50 years on the Four Levels still define how organisations evaluate training. These four levels essentially measure: 1.Reaction of student - what they thought and felt about the training 2.Learning - the resulting increase in knowledge or capability 3.Behaviour - extent of behaviour and capability improvement and implementation/application 4.Results - the effects on the business or environment resulting from the trainee's performance For the record, these were never meant to be an order. Moreover, they are considerations that should take place after every training program. Whilst most organisations do reactions well, the other three are often poorly executed, if done at all. More recently the “Results” stage has been linked to the Return on Investment (ROI) movement , which Kirkpatrick himself prefers to call “Return on Expectation”. Kirkpatrick, two decades beyond usual retirement age, has enjoyed a wonderful career, sharing his knowledge with people all around the world. “I am so thankful for all of the people who have promoted and used the Kirkpatrick Four Levels over the last 50 years. Without this support they would certainly not be as widely used as they are today”, Kirkpatrick said. I wish him all the very best and as practitioners we should look towards building upon his great legacy through developing evaluation mechanisms, policies and tools which seek to both inform training decisions and improve the learning experience for students. Marc Ratcliffe CEO, MRWED Group Follow Me on twitter: @MRWED_CEO