Evaluation methods ensure that you can meet training goals set by an individual learner, group or organization. One of the most common models used to design evaluation of training was developed by University of Wisconsin professor Donald Kirkpatrick in his 1998 book, "Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels." The four levels measure the effectiveness of training from the perspective of the trainee, the knowledge, skills and information gained, the change in behavior using the new knowledge and the results that the training produces for the organization.
Kirkpatrick's first level of evaluation measures the trainee’s reaction to the training. The goal is to determine what worked or did not work in the content or presentation and gather information that helps the trainer or organization improve the effectiveness of the material for future learning. One common way trainers and facilitators allow the trainee to evaluate them and their program is to use questionnaires and surveys. Because trainees often complete the surveys at the end of the training session, it is important for you to design the questionnaires in a way that encourages the trainees to return them, such as by filling in short answers and checking boxes. Leaving room for additional comments also allows the trainer to gather helpful reactions from the trainees.
Kirkpatrick's second level of evaluation measures the knowledge, skills, information or procedures the trainee gained from the training. The methods of evaluating learning range from administering written or oral tests before and then again after the training, to hands-on demonstrations of skills and procedures.
Kirkpatrick's third level of evaluation determines the change in the trainee’s behavior after completing the training. This level of evaluation seeks to measure how the trainee uses the knowledge, skills, and information learned in the training in the real world or on the job. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in addition to post-tests, trainers can conduct this level of evaluation with surveys, observations and interviews (see Reference 1).
Kirkpatrick's fourth level of evaluation measures the effectiveness of the training from the perspective of the organization. Methods for measuring the results include measuring the change in productivity, profit margins and the return on investment for the organization. According to Roosevelt University, the fourth level is difficult to measure because so many factors affect the organization that it may be difficult to isolate the effects of the training from other aspects of workplace change (see Reference 2).