Posted on: June 15, 2021
Author: Alexa Combs, M.Ed., Accreditation and Training Coordinator
From Reaction to Results: an Introduction to the Kirkpatrick Model of Evaluation image

As one of the most widely adopted contributions to the training world, Donald Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation established a standard for effectively assessing the quality and lasting impact of training.

The evaluation of training is integral to the health of a Continuing Education program and a requirement of the ANSI/IACET 2018-1 Standard for Contintuing Education and Training. By providing the opportunity for improvement, providers optimize the potential they can have on learners, as well as their subsequent influence on the broader organization.

Within that, it is crucial that training can be directly transferred to on-the-job skills. If there is a disconnect between what is taught and how it can be applied, you risk the perception of wasted efforts and poorly allocated resources. Prioritizing the evaluation of your learning events will allow greater opportunity to recognize and address areas of improvement in a CE/T program, thereby further developing the individual for the fulfillment of the organization’s mission.

To emphasize the primary objective of all training, as it relates to its lasting impact on collective individuals, today's exploration of the Kirkpatrick Model will begin at the top, establishing the central purpose of training.

Level 4: Results

The Results (Level 4) is the ultimate goal of all training. Level 4 is the most complex level of evaluation because it measures the  fundamental reason for all training.  Level Four is measured by what degree stated outcomes occur as a result of the learning event (and additional support). It is important that these results are driven from the organizational mission. The desired results should cover a broader span than just a particular project or task. A question to ask at this level is, “Are we meeting our mission as a result of this training?”

Level 3: Behavior

Level Three measures the degree to which participants apply what they learned during training once they are back at work. Evaluating Behavior examines the correlation between acquired skills and a willingness to apply them (Level 2) with the performance of critical behaviors in the workplace. The transition between Levels Two and Three is debatably the most difficult. Once an organization has demonstrated the ability to transfer ‘book knowledge’ and instill motivation in its employees, it will experience a radical shift in positive behaviors. The New World Kirkpatrick Model also includes required drivers at this level as ways to encourage and reinforce these behaviors. Various supports must be put in place to allow opportunity for lasting impact. A question to ask at this level is, “How has this training positively impacted employee productivity and quality of work?”

Level 2: Learning

Evaluating at Level Two focuses on the degree to which learning has occurred in a learning event. This is measured through acquired knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The New World Kirkpatrick Model also includes confidence and commitment as significant indicators. Not only do participants need to perform to a desired standard, but they also must be motivated to implement their abilities and know their potential. A question to ask at this level is, “Are the learners now equipped to be able to perform their tasks?”

Level 1: Reaction

The most common yet preliminary level of evaluation, Level One gauges the degree to which participants react favorably to a learning event. In The New World Kirkpatrick, this level also measures relevance and engagement. It is often associated with “smile sheets”, gauging participants’ opinions on the success of the course. Learners can express their thoughts on a wide variety of variables, ranging from the learning environment to the instructor’s perceived qualifications to the quality of the lunch served. Level One is driven by personal experiences and feelings as it relates to the specific course offering. A question to ask at this level is, “Did the learners find this training worthwhile and enjoyable?”

For more information on Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation check out this IACET Resource: Kirkpatrick’s Learning and Training Evaluation Theory

About the Author


As the Coordinator of Accreditation and Training, Alexa is responsible for assisting with matters related to upholding best practices for continuing education and training. Her duties include hosting virtual site visits, helping facilitate IACET workshops and webinars, and providing information throughout the ANSI/IACET 1-2018 Standard and Application review process. 

She also serves as the Digital Badging Standard Committee staff liaison.

Alexa has a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies and earned a Master of Education from George Mason University. She lives in the Washington DC metro area, and enjoys staying active, being outdoors, and spending time with friends and family.

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