written by
Dr. Damodar Rai

Four Levels of Evaluation of Training Effectiveness

Learning & Development Training Effectiveness Learning Continuity Planning 5 min read

Four level model for evaluation of training effectiveness was introduced by Donald Kirkpatrick in 1994.

Any training program must have its effectiveness, for it to be directed towards specific business related performance outputs. It may be defined as a measure that examines the degree of improvement in the knowledge, skill and behaviour of participants.Improved efficiency, higher outputs and better work-environment, along with higher return on investment (R.O.I) are some of the distinct benefits.

An attempt has been made here to describe in brief, four levels of evaluation of training. It may help you in knowing the salient points of the same, without need to go through huge amount of literature available on the subject.

The four levels of Donald Kirkpatrick evaluation model are given as below

Reaction: The degree to which participants find the training favourable, engaging and relevant to their jobs

Learning: The degree of acquiring of intended knowledge, attitude, confidence and commitment after the training, by the participant

Behaviour: The degree of application of the acquired skill sets during training, when they are back on the job

Results: The degree of the impact of the training on the bottom line of the organization

It is to be noted here that based on needs of your organisation, you may decide whether to evaluate all the four levels or any one of the above.

A survey was conducted and it was found out that maximum number of organisations preferred to evaluate reaction, followed by learning, behaviour and results in the decreasing order.

Let us discuss the four levels

Evaluation of Training Effectiveness -Level 1: Reaction

Level 1 of knowing the reactions or feedback of participants is a very vital.It is the first step in assessing the success of the training program. The reactions or feedback may help you to determine the effectiveness of the program and improving it further.

Evaluation of Training Effectiveness- Reaction

However, level 1 evaluation suffers from the following disadvantages

  • It does not measure the extent of learning, which one may subsequently apply during the job
  • It cannot measure the changes in attitude or beliefs
  • It cannot be used to know if the training impacted the organisation.

Owing to the above, one school of thought is that level 1 evaluation is not so useful, as it concentrates on the “fun-part” experienced by participants.However, the author is of the opinion that if participants do not enjoy or like the training, how they will implement it after going to work.

In Level 1 evaluation, designing the feedback forms is the first step. It may include the reactions of participants with respect to the following

(a) content of the training,

(b) material given,

(c) instructional methods used,

(d) the energy level and or overall impact of the trainer during the training, and the total ambiance or environment.

The participants may also be asked to chart out their own recommendations, for improving the program further.

Evaluation of Training Effectiveness -Level 2: Learning

Donald Kirkpatrick defines learning as the extent to which participants improve knowledge and or increase skill and a change occurs in their attitude or “behaviour”.

Measuring knowledge or skill acquired during training program is easier than to devise a way to find out if their opinions, attitudes or behaviours changed after the intervention.

Evaluation of Training Effectiveness- Learning

Thus, level 2 evaluation is used to measure whether learning has truly occurred. Some examples of such evaluations are academic sessions, workshops on specific skill sets, training courses or seminars.

The best way for doing level 2 evaluation is to conduct pre-and past tests. These tests should be given before and after the training event. They help us to know the knowledge or skill of the learner before and after the planned event. It may be done by any of the following methods.

  • Oral quizzes
  • Written examinations may consist of objective tests, matching the columns, true or false, fill in the gaps etc
  • Interviews of individual participants may be conducted immediately after the event
  • Observations of individual participants may be done in the class during practice and learning activity.
  • Performance examinations or proficiency tests may also help a trainer to evaluate the extent of learning by participant during sessions.

    However, it is usually applied when you are certifying a learner, for a specific skill set.

Evaluation of Training Effectiveness -Level 3: Behaviour

As per D. Kirkpatrick, level 3 measures the degree to which participants behaviour change as a result of the training-basically whether the knowledge and skills from the training are then applied on the job. Level 3 evaluation involves both pre and post event measurement of the learner’s behaviour.

Evaluation of Training Effectiveness- Behaviour

It is really unfortunate that most organisations tend to ignore level 3 evaluation, owing it to be time consuming and costly. It also requires good organisational and follow-up skills and processes.

In spite of this, level 3 evaluation is having the following distinct advantages

  • It helps in knowing whether skill set acquired during training were really implemented on job
  • It identifies the grey areas of the training, needing improvement
  • It identifies the strongest point of training deciding the future strategy

The best course of action is to prepare the participants mentally and psychologically that they will be subjected to level 3 evaluations and what it may contain. This will increase their seriousness during the event. Subsequent follow-up actions must also be shared with them.

If anything goes wrong during the actual training, it should be ascertained on-spot from the learners and remedial action taken.

Level 3 evaluation may be carried out by

  • Observations of the participants
  • Interviews of participants, along with their peers, subordinates and leaders
  • Survey to find out whether the participants are actually applying the skill acquired
  • Control group of similar set of employees may be deployed for conducting the surveys.

Evaluation of Training Effectiveness -Level 4: Results

Level 4 evaluation deals with the measurement of real organisational impact.

It helps in knowing if your training program is having a positive impact on the relevant key performance indices (KPIs) and is helping move your company towards its business goals. In order to do it, you have to clearly identify the goals, KPIs and data sources etc. pertaining to your organisation.

Evaluation of Training Effectiveness- Results

Level 4 evaluation is costly and time – consuming. It may be a difficult proposition in view of many inter-dependent and difficult to measure variables. However, with due diligence and effort, the following terms, which may be measured are: ROI, indirect and direct costs, overhead costs, development costs and many more.

Recently, there has been mention of a fifth level of evaluation of training effectiveness, ROI. But some experts opine that it is actually level 4 evaluation only, as suggested by Kirkpatrick. Also, training effectiveness has been evaluated using HR analytics. With increased role of technology in HR, the day is not far when the training effectiveness-evaluation will be a reality, for fourth level evaluation also.

Ripples Learning has developed a new software for level 3 evaluation of training over an extended period from 3 months to one year, you may know its details on


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