A Better Application of the Four Levels of Evaluation
Several years ago I participated in a webinar concerning how best to implement the concept of Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation. The webinar was hosted by Jim and Wendy Kirkpatrick. What they said struck a chord with me and I have advocated their implementation ever since.
When it comes to performance improvement what is the goal? Knowledge? Understanding? What good are these if the learners cannot implement the new skills or apply the new knowledge? Training should be focused on behavioral change and this is where the webinar comes in. Since we are focused on behaviors, how do the four levels complement and support each other to that end?
Taking another concept from Steve Covey and beginning with the end in mind, let’s start with the behaviors? What manifestations of performance are we looking for to be able to say the training was successful? This is in terms of performance in the work environment without support from the training team. The learner takes what they received in the training and applies it to the workforce. Define this in terms of observation and measurement. What does right look like? This is your level 4 evaluation.
Then determine what each learner will have to demonstrate during a controlled demonstration or role play event in the training environment. Give them the chance to practice what they believe right looks like under the watchful eye of a skilled facilitator. Engage them and the rest of the learners to energize that prior learning element of adult principles. This is the level 3 evaluation.
From these behaviors determine what the learners must know and understand. Design your knowledge based assessment on specific learning objectives. Try to get as high in Bloom’s taxonomy as possible. Solidifying the knowledge necessary to accomplish the task sets the learner up for success later in the process. This is your level 2 evaluation
Then determine what must be present in the learning environment which will facilitate the transfer of knowledge from the content to the learner. This can be anything and everything from the comfort of the classroom to the manner of delivery (ILT, CBT, WBT) and the skill of the facilitator. It could also reflect on the content itself. This is your level 1 evaluation.
We turned the four levels upside down, now lets turn it right side up.
If we do not meet the level 1 expectations of the learners, well designed and developed content, skillful facilitator or trainer, comfortable physical environment, the learner will not be focusing on the content so there is limited chance they will be a success on the knowledge assessment.
If we do not align the level 2 evaluation directly to the critical learning objectives and performance steps the learner will not have the knowledge of how to perform during the practice phase. This lack of knowledge may result in the learner struggling unnecessarily during the performance of the task.
If we do not focus the level 3 evaluation with the expected behaviors and provide the incentive in the training for a learner to want to perform at a higher/better level, they will not have the capacity to execute the training without close and constant supervision.
The level 4 evaluation is a cumulative event which demonstrates the efficiency of the training process in its entirety. It clearly shows us that we cannot pick and choose which level of evaluation will result in proficiency. We must address all 4 levels of evaluation in all training. We must conduct comprehensive assessment of our training programs to ensure we are adequately addressing every level of evaluation and each level supports the other three.