Kirkpatrick's Evaluation Model

Kirkpatrick's Evaluation Model
Summary: Ever wonder about Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model? Unsure of what it is or how to use it? Let me give you a brief introduction!

Learn About Kirkpatrick's Evaluation Model

Does the term evaluation scare you? Don’t let it! Performing evaluations shouldn’t have a negative association, instead, use the results of the evaluation to drive your organization to success! Let’s take a deeper look at the levels of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model.

Evaluation is critical to organizational success and is essential if an organization wants to continue to adapt and grow (Hale & Astolfi, 2015, p. 6). Kirkpatrick has developed 4 levels of evaluation to determine the overall effectiveness of trainings/programs or lack thereof (Reio, Rocco, Smith & Chang, 2017, p. 36). Evaluation can provide key data that allows you to make specific improvements benefiting not only the organization but the employees as well.

Level 1: Reaction

Level one of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model, reaction, focuses on the learners/participants' reactions or feelings to the event.

The reactions of learners/participants are often overlooked and can hold valuable insight into overall feelings toward trainings/programs. Level one of Kirkpatrick’s model can aid in the identification of positive or negative feelings. Identifying positive reactions to trainings/programs can be useful! This information will assist in the retention of learners/participants attendance. Detecting negative reactions or emotions is essential. Don’t be afraid to get negative feedback, you will have the ability to change it! Negative reactions may prevent learners/participants from completing the trainings/programs. The identification of both positive and negative reactions can aid in organizational support through the modification of trainings/programs (Reio, et al., 2017, p. 36).

Level 2: Learning

Level two of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model pertains to content evaluation in regard to knowledge gained by learners/participants as a result of the training/program (Reio et al., 2017, p. 36).

This level, according to Kirkpatrick and Kayser (2016), “assess the degree to which participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence, and commitment based on their participation in the training" (p. 42). Achievement tests or performance assessments are used to measure learning and surveys measure self-reported behavior changes at this level of evaluation (Hale & Astolfi, 2015, p. 21). The evaluation of learning is vital, as learning can lead to changes in behavior (Kirkpatrick & Kirkpatrick, 2006, p. 50).

Level 3: Behavior

Level three, according to Jones, Fraser, and Randall (2018), is identified as “the most important of the four levels because training alone will not generate changes in practice or outcomes” (p. 498). Level three evaluates behavior, or to what degree learners/participants are able to transfer content to job-specific context (Jones et al., 2018, p. 498).

This level is crucial in evaluating learning transfer and the impact performance will have on the organization. The goal of training is to improve performance, and implementing Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation will provide you with the quantitative data you need to determine that.

Level 4: Results

The highest level of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model is considered level four: results. Results indicate the extent to which targeted outcomes have been met (Jones et al., 2018, p. 499).

At this level of evaluation, organizations are hoping to quantitatively measure change (Reio et al., 2017, p. 37). Overall, after any type of program or training implementation, the organization is looking for a benefit. Training should lead to results, performance improvement and gains in knowledge. The use of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation can determine the success and provide valuable data to modify training to increase the results!

Can’t Get Enough Of Evaluations?

If you can’t get enough of evaluations, you are in the right career! As an Instructional Designer, evaluations are critical and are completed at multiple stages in the process!

Successful Instructional Design can be determined through proper evaluation and can be thought of as an iterative process happening at almost every stage in the design. Formative evaluations are part of Instructional Design and evaluate effectiveness throughout the process and are divided into needs assessment and implementation evaluation (Hale & Astolfi, 2015, p. 6). Feedback from the formative evaluation guides the design based on the result. The needs assessment, typically occurring at the beginning of the design process, determines if the training or program is necessary and identifies the need, goals, objectives, and vision of the organization (Hale & Astolfi, 2015, p. 6). As an Instructional Designer, we must remember that training isn’t always the solution. Instructional Design isn’t and shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. Solutions and strategies are developed through careful analysis. Implementation evaluation determines if a training/program is being implemented as intended and can occur at a specific point in time or frequently throughout the implementation (Hale & Astolfi, 2015, p. 6). Summative evaluations, usually occurring after implementation, aid in determining if organizational goals were achieved, thus leading to improvements or changes in design where needed. (Hale & Astolfi, 2016, p. 6).

Program evaluation is relevant to the field of Instructional Design, essentially determining the success of the training/program. Research through program evaluation will provide tangible evidence of a successful design and ROI, delivering valuable information to stakeholders and decision-makers (Hale & Astolfi, 2015, p. 9).

Instructional Designers are responsible for successful designs, application of knowledge in relevant contexts, and ROI for stakeholders. Program evaluation for Instructional Design can be thought of as a measure of accountability for designers, ensuring learners acquire the intended skills and knowledge needed.

As an Instructional Designer myself, the possibilities evaluations create is exciting! Think of evaluations not only to identify success but as a way to identify areas that can be improved!


  • Campbell, S., & Mather, C. (2018). The evaluation of a home-based pediatric nursing service: a concept and design development using The Kirkpatrick Model. Journal of Research in Nursing, 23(6), 492-501
  • Hale, C.D. & Astolfi, D. (2015). Evaluating education and training programs: A primer. <>
  • Kirkpatrick, D.L. & Kirkpatrick, J.D. (2006). Evaluating training programs: The four levels (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
  • Kirkpatrick, J.D., & Kirkpatrick, W.K. (2016). Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation. Association for Talent Development.
  • Reio, T. G., Rocco, T. S., Smith, D. H., & Chang, E. (2017). A Critique of Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Model. New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 29(2), 35–53.