According to Donald Kirkpatrick, there are four levels of evaluation: Reaction, Learning, Behavior, and Results. If measured correctly, all of these levels should help organization reach the desired outcomes. The problem, however, is that most instructional designers only evaluate the first two levels and avoid the most important ones – behavior and results. The reason these two levels are so important is because in reality training, even the best kind, does not have any value if the business goal has not been achieved.
Measuring learners’ reaction to the training is easy. You can do this by putting together a short survey asking questions about learners’ thoughts on the course. The problem is that most learners do not take time to go through each question and provide sincere answers to each one.
While there is no best way to eliminate this problem completely, you can try asking more open-ended as opposed to multiple-choice questions. This approach will force learners to read and respond to questions instead of marking answers without ever reading the question.
The second level, Learning, is also fairly easy to measure by offering assessments to check whether the learners have mastered the course objectives.
Behavior and Reaction are the two most problematic levels. Level 3 is the degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job. Level 4, the most misunderstood level, is the degree to which the desired results take place. So even though training participants may apply their new knowledge, there is no guarantee that their management will see any improvements in terms of revenue, better sales, etc.
Since most projects leave instructional designers’ desks as soon as clients put their stamp of approval, measuring on the job application and results can be difficult. As mentioned above, instructional designers do not always have an opportunity to go back and evaluate training effectiveness after delivering it to the stakeholder. Therefore, it is imperative that organizations understand the importance of the last two levels of evaluation and take the necessary steps to measure behavior and results in a timely manner.