Kirkpatrick's Learning Evaluation Model

Kirkpatrick's Learning Evaluation Model
Written & Researched by: Ivan Teh RunningMan

Developed by Donald L. Kirkpatrick in 1954, and published in his book in 1994, the Kirkpatrick's Learning Evaluation Model is a sequence of steps that demonstrates evaluating the effectiveness of training and training programs, as well as to show the business value and worth of training.

In his book, Donald L. Kirkpatrick writes, "Trainers must begin with desired results, and then determine what behavior is needed to accomplish them. Then trainers must determine the attitudes, knowledge, and skills that are necessary to bring about the desired behavior(s). The final challenge is to present the training program in a way that enables the participants not only to learn what they need to know, but also to react favorably to the program."

Besides evaluation of training, the Kirkpatrick's Learning Evaluation Model can also be used / applied to the evaluation of any learning process, formal or otherwise.

The 4 levels or steps of the Kirkpatrick's Learning Evaluation Model are:
  • Level 1: Reaction - To what degree participants react favorably to the learning event, what they think and feel
  • Level 2: Learning - To what degree participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, and attitudes, based on their participation in the learning event
  • Level 3: Behaviour - To what degree participants apply what they learned when they are back on the job, the amount of learning transfer
  • Level 4: Results - To what degree pre-determined targeted outcomes occur, as a result of the learning event(s), and subsequent reinforcement

For maximum effectiveness in the Kirkpatrick's Learning Evaluation Model, it's best to begin with step 4, and work backwards to step 1, when planning and designing a training program.

Then work forward from step 1 to step 4 in the delivery and post training activites, following what you originally planned before the training began.

Learning professionals will need to negotiate with key business stakeholders, to ask questions to clarify and refine their expectations. They will have to convert generic expectations into observable, measurable outcomes, through asking the question, “What will success look like to you?”, in essence, defining Level 4: Results.

This leads to specific results that are satisfying to the key business stakeholders, and realistically achievable for learning professionals.

However, delivery of excellent training, by itself, does not equate to lasting, bottom line outcomes, without deliberate and consistent reinforcement. As up to 70% of employee learning occurs on-the-job, learning professionals will need to partner with key business stakeholders, because only a cooperative effort will ensure that learning is integrated into daily work and performance processes.

Supervisors and Managers will need to reinforce newly learned knowledge and skills in their employees through support and accountability. The tricky bit is that this ongoing reinforcement and monitoring can take months of follow up effort!

It is critical therefore, for learning professionals to redefine their roles and extend their expertise, involvement, influence, impact, and value, into Level 3: Behaviour, and Level 4: Results.


Source Attributions:

Donald L. Kirkpatrick, "Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels (1st Edition)" by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, November 1994, ISBN-13: 978-1881052494.

Jim Kirkpatrick & Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick, "The Kirkpatrick Four Levels: A Fresh Look After 50 Years 1959 - 2009" white paper by Kirkpatrick Partners, April 2009. Retrieved from

Jim Kirkpatrick & Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick, "The Kirkpatrick Four Levels: A Fresh Look After 55 Years 1959 - 2014" white paper by Kirkpatrick Partners, May 2014. Retrieved from

Robert O. Brinkerhoff, "Telling Training’s Story" by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, March 2006, ISBN-13: 978-1576751862.