For those of us in the training and development industry, the quest to measure the results of training is almost as complex and even unattainable as the quest for the holy grail. Why? Because showing the return on investment from training involves many components and metrics that are not readily measurable, such as the behavioral changes in the learner’s day-to-day work as a result of the training they attended.

Today, when we discuss training evaluation, we likely reference Kirkpatrick’s model with the familiar four levels: reaction, learning, behavior and results. However, several other models have been developed throughout the past 50 years that delve into training evaluation. Most of the models expand upon the Kirkpatrick model and try to address some of its limitations, including criticisms by researchers that the interdependence and implied causality of each of the four levels has not been proven by empirical research. These models include the Hamblin Model, the Organizational Elements Model (OEM Model), the Indiana University Model, the IS Carousel of Development Model (Carousel), the Phillips ROI Model, the Kearns and Miller Model (KPMT), and the Context, Input, Reaction and Outcome (CIRO) Model.

The Institute of Employment Studies (IES) has analyzed these models and organized them into an easily comparable table:

evaluation models

Source: IES, 2002

A cursory review of this table readily shows that some models have added a few steps before the reaction level in an effort to capture the pre-work conducted by learning professionals and training departments to obtain buy-in for the training itself. Also, some models have expanded the process by adding additional steps after Kirkpatrick’s results to capture the broader impact on and value creation for society.

From a practical business application perspective, the key takeaway, apart from this snazzy table of learning models, is to remember two important concepts. First, true learning implies change, in this case of behavior. Second, to be successfully implemented in an organizational context, every change requires an understanding of the current knowledge and motivation levels of the learners, as well as an organization that is itself open to change. Understanding and articulating these two concepts will give you an edge in your training evaluation efforts.