Instructional Evaluation in Human Resource Development (HRD) is necessary in order to adequately assess the learning and development of a student. Assessment tools must be developed that reflect your objectives and how the presented instructional activities relate to those objectives. If the objectives are not reflected in the assessment, the assessment will not be valid, and you will likely arrive at inaccurate conclusions regarding the assessment tools and the students themselves.
Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation
Assessing training effectiveness often entails using the four-level model developed by Donald Kirkpatrick (1994). According to this model, training evaluation should always begin with level one, and then, as time and budget allows, should move sequentially through levels two, three, and four. Information from each prior level serves as a base for the next level’s evaluation. Thus, each successive level represents a more precise measure of the effectiveness of the training program, but at the same time requires a more rigorous and time-consuming analysis.
Level 1 Evaluation – Reactions
Evaluation at this level measures how participants in a training program react to it. It attempts to answer questions regarding the participants’ perceptions such as how well they liked the training and if the training design presented was relevant to their work. According to Kirkpatrick, every program should at least be evaluated at this level to provide for the improvement of a training program. In addition, the participants’ reactions have important consequences for learning (level two). Although a positive reaction does not guarantee learning, a negative reaction almost certainly reduces its possibility.
Level 2 Evaluation – Learning
Level two evaluations often use tests conducted before training (pretest) and after training (post test) to assess the amount of learning that has occurred due to a training program.
Assessing at this level moves the evaluation beyond learner satisfaction and attempts to assess the extent students have advanced in skills, knowledge, or attitude. Measurement at this level is more difficult and laborious than level one. Methods range from formal to informal testing to team assessment and self-assessment. If possible, participants take the test or assessment before the training (pretest) and after training (post test) to determine the amount of learning that has occurred.
Level 3 Evaluation – Transfer
This level measures the transfer that has occurred in learners’ behavior due to the training program and attempts to determine if the newly acquired skills, knowledge, or attitude is being used in the everyday environment of the learner. For many trainers this level represents the truest assessment of a program’s effectiveness. However, measuring at this level is difficult as it is often impossible to predict when the change in behavior will occur, and thus requires important decisions in terms of when to evaluate, how often to evaluate, and how to evaluate.
Level 4 Evaluation- Results
Level four evaluation attempts to assess training in terms of business results. This level measures the success of the program in terms that managers and executives can understand, such as increased production, improved quality, decreased costs, reduced frequency of accidents, increased sales, and even higher profits or return on investment (ROI). From a business and organizational perspective, this is the overall reason for a training program, yet level four results are not typically addressed. Determining results in financial terms is difficult to measure, and is hard to link directly with training.
In instructional design, evaluation serves to assess individual students’ performance and to provide information regarding the types of revisions needed in the instructional materials. It is important to receive feedback from learners to determine whether or not the learners learned what was intended for them to learn. In other words, evaluation helps determine if the learning objectives were achieved.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A. Human Resource Development