Overview of the Kirkpatrick Model and foundational principles

4 min readApr 27, 2020


The Kirkpatrick Model was created by Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick as a model for measuring training and development effectiveness.

Originally envisaged for corporate training, the model proposes a linear level of training effectiveness.

There are 4 levels in the Kirkpatrick Model:

Level 1: Reaction

To what degree participants react favourably to the learning event.

In this level, there are a lot of questions that can be asked to the trainees to figure out the effectiveness of training

  • Was the training worth their time
  • Was the training engaging enough?
  • Did the learners like the venue and presentation?
  • What were the most important things that the learners learn’t from this training event

The feedback gathered during this level can be very useful to improve the training program.

Level 2: Learning

To what degree participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills and attitudes based on their participation in the learning event

A simple way to enforce level 2 is to do a before the training event on the skills that the candidates have and an after the event check on whether they acquired the intended skills during the training event.

Level 3: Behaviour

To what degree participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job

This is a difficult and resource consuming phase of the Kirkpatrick model. This level requires assesment of the team members to see how much of the knowledge that they learned during the training session was applied back on the job.

It is also important to see if there are organizational structures or culture issues that are prohibiting the learners from applying the new skills on to the job. This could be a behavior that points to a bigger problem and this feedback could be used to fix such organizational issues.

Level 4: Results

The degree to which targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training and the support and accountability package

The level 4 of the Kirkpatrick model really focuses on the figuring out the results of the training. Was the training effective and were the changes necessary were done to get the expected results?

Results can be quantifiable with metrics. Example did the training lead to better productivity, increased moral or reduced time to deliver the same output. It would be prudent for organizations to establish baseline metrics that quantify improvement before the training starts. That way, when the time comes the metrics are available and quantifiable.

Kirkpatrick model foundational principles:

The Kirkpatrick Foundational Principles are the key beliefs underpinning Kirkpatrick training evaluation.

1. The end is the beginning

Showing the value of training begins before the program even starts. The late Dr. Donald L. Kirkpatrick said:

“Trainers must begin with desired results and then determine what behavior is needed to accomplish them.”

Result based metrics must be measurable which means the resources required to achieve the training goals will be made readily available.

2. Set clear expectations

In order to be effective at delivering training, Learning professionals must ask the the relevant questions to clarify and refine the expectations at all 4 levels of the Kirkpatrick evaluation models.

Once expectations are clear, training professionals then need to convert those typically general wants into observable, measurable success outcomes by asking the question, “What does does a successful training program deliver?

3. Business partnership

To have a successful training plan, it is required to haev a strong business partnership throughout the training process.

It is critical to call upon business partners to help identify what metrics of success will look like at the end of the training program and work together to achieve the necessary metrics and results.

4. Value must be created before it can be demonstrated.

A lot of time is spent on design, development, and delivery of training events that yield 15% on-the-job application (Brinkerhoff, 2006).

Learning professionals spend most of their resources into the part of the training process that produces the lowest level of business results. They need to spend more time on pre-training and follow-up activities that translate into the positive behavior change and subsequent results (Levels 3 and 4).

5. Chain of evidence and results demonstrate value

Following the Kirkpatrick Foundational Principles and using the Kirkpatrick levels of training evaluation will define results that will justify the resources put into training plans

A chain of evidence also serves to unify the learning and business functions.

##The best way to use the Kirkpatrick Model

The best way to use the Kirkpatrick Model is in reverse order. i.e. Start with the results first. More on this in an upcoming blog.

Implementing the Kirkpatrick Model and foundational principles in a Learning Management Platform (LMS)

Interested to implement the Kirkpatrick Model using a powerful LMS within your Organization? Kloudlearn is the best tool to practice Kirkpatrick model effectively. Sign up for a free account today.




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