The Four Levels of Measuring Training Effectiveness

How to get beyond the “Student Happiness Factor” and achieve real results.

We’ve all filled them out at one time or another. The end of course survey that asks you whether the instructor presented the information clearly, the seats were comfortable, did you think the course was valuable, and would you recommend the course to your coworkers. While this is all good stuff, we folks in the world of instruction call this the “coffee and donuts” evaluation. If that is the only measurement of success, then I as an instructor can usually nail it by making sure that the coffee is good, and the pastries are abundant. If you are running a training program aimed at bringing value to your organization, you need to go further.

An excellent approach to measuring training effectiveness was outlined by the late Professor Donald Kirkpatrick of the University of Wisconsin. According to him, evaluation systems aimed at providing organizational effect and good feedback for improvement, evaluate at four different levels. Two are aimed at the learning event itself, and two are aimed at what happens after the training. An excellent, best-practices program will incorporate all four.

• Level One measures the student’s reaction to the training. This is the type of evaluation mentioned above. While it is important that students are fully receptive to the training, this is the lowest level of evaluation. Organizations should not stop there.
• Level Two measures the actual acquisition of the knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSAs) expressed in the course’s training objectives. This level represents the testing of the student against defined standards of performance. It answers the question “Are the students able to perform the tasks at the end of training?”
• Level Three measures the transfer of the KSAs acquired during the training into the workplace. What use is it to train students, just to have them go into the workplace and be told “that’s not the way we do it here,” or not be supervised against the standards they were taught. It answers the question “Are the trainees doing what we taught them to do back on the job?”

• Level Four measures the results of the training. The purpose of training is to produce some sort of measurable result, otherwise why do it. If you conduct training on speed and space management, you should expect things like a decrease in forward collision radar events and rear end collisions. Assigning monetary value to these costs will allow organizations to establish ROI and support the business case for the training. This level asks the question “Is the training having the organizational impact we are aiming for?” This arms safety and training managers with the data they need to compete with all the other projects seeking funding in the company, and show tangible results to the leadership.

This was a short introduction to the concept of the four levels. In future posts we will look at how you evaluate at each level and use it to prove value and improve your programs.