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Theoretical Framework for Training Evaluation

Introduction

Training is an inseparable part of any educational and corporate process. However, when delivered to either a team of students or members of any particular organization, it is essential to be able to measure its efficiency and effectiveness. Moreover, if some money is invested into certain training, it is even more significant to have a good return provided.

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There have been many researchers who explored the topic of success factors in the implementation of the human resource planning process of any company, where the training was cited as one of the most successful (De Bruin, 1997; Gibson and Mann, 1998; Sumner, 1999). However, the most widely accepted is the training evaluation framework, which was developed by Kirkpatrick (1998). It includes the following four levels of assessment: reaction, learning, behavior, and results. This model helps to analyze objectively the effectiveness and impact of training conducted, which as result can improve its perspectives.

This essay is the combination of the theoretical framework of Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training assessment and the practical application of Kirkpatrick’s framework through the evaluation of the Training and Development course. It is attempted to comprehensively comment on the course by linking the theory to its application, and including both positive outcomes and constructive criticisms.

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Theoretical Framework

Professor Kirkpatrick’s evaluation training model includes the following four levels: reaction, learning, behavior, and results. Let us analyze each of them in more detail.

The reaction level measures the extent to which the people that are being trained (or trainees) reacted to the received training. As a rule, most trainers desire their trainees to consider the training being a useful experience. The instructor needs to see that his or her trainees are conformable with their leader, the topic was quite interesting, and the materials were chosen accurately according to the subject of training. Moreover, the way how all of the information is presented and the chosen venue also play significant roles in this case.

The measurement of the trainees’ reaction is necessary as it helps to understand the level of how the training material was perceived by the audience. Besides, it is an inseparable element of analyzing the gaps that are needed to be improved in the prospective training.

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At the learning level, the material that was learned by the trainees is usually measured. Furthermore, it is significant to pay attention to the existing level of knowledge of the topic before the training, and how it was increased after the training ends.

At the beginning of the training, it is essential to have planned specific learning objectives, which work as starting points for the measurement. Depending on those objectives, it is vital to remember that learning can be measured in various ways. Furthermore, they can be analyzed from particular areas of interest of the evaluator: whether he or she is interested in changing one’s skills, attitudes, or knowledge. It is not only necessary for the evaluation of the chosen training, but also it helps to improve future training.

The behavior level helps to evaluate whether the tendencies of trainees’ behavior have changed after the received training. To be specific, at this level it is possible to look at the possibilities of applying newly received information by the trainees.

At the behavior level, it is significant to remember that behavior tends to change only upon favorable conditions. For example, if to skip the measurement at the first two levels of Kirkpatrick’s model and observing at the behavior of the group, it is possible to notice that the behavior did not change. Because of such an assumption, it is obvious to think that the trainees did not learn anything, which makes the training ineffective.

However, the fact of the unchanged behavior does not necessarily mean that the trainees did not acquire any knowledge. Thus, there is even the possibility that the boss does not allow them to apply the newly gained knowledge. At the same time, there is an option of their full possession of taught material; however, they do not have any desire to apply the gained knowledge.

The results level helps to analyze the final training results. It includes the outcomes that were determined by the leader of training or by an organization. For example, in this case, we deal with good results for the corresponding business, for employees, or generally for the bottom line. Thus, it is essential to plan the training effectively to achieve quick and efficient results.

Application of the Kirkpatrick’s training evaluation model should be implemented accurately with a thorough analysis of the questions that should be first answered by the trainer. For example, at the reaction level, it is significant to start by the identification of how the instructor would measure the trainees’ reactions.

It is essential to analyze whether the trainees feel that training is worth of their time spent, whether they consider it successful, and what were the biggest training strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, it is significant to know whether the participants enjoyed the venue and the style of presentation. In particular, it is vital to know whether the training session accommodated their learning styles.

It is significant to identify how one would like to measure the aforementioned reactions. To achieve this, it is possible to use questionnaires or employee satisfaction surveys. However, paying particular attention to trainees' body language during the training and getting their verbal feedback by asking them direct questions about their experience help to analyze the situation more accurately. After the needed information is gathered, it should be deeply comprehended with particular attention to the changes that have to be applied to the future training, based on the received suggestions and feedback.

To measure learning, it is essential to start by identifying exactly the aim of evaluation: changes in skills, attitudes, or knowledge. It is often helpful to measure the aforementioned areas at both the beginning and the end of the training. Before the training commences, the instructor usually tests the trainees’ skill levels, attitudes, and knowledge. At the training’s end, it is essential to test the trainees repeatedly by measuring the knowledge that they have gained with the help of conducting interviews or using corresponding verbal methods of assessment.

As for the behavior, it is usually challenging to measure it effectively due to its long-term activity, as it should take place in a couple of weeks or even months after the training was conducted. However, if there is a possibility to measure it, it is essential to consider whether the trainees already had a chance to apply gained knowledge and whether they can teach other people their new skills, knowledge, or attitudes. It is also significant to note whether the trainees realize the change in their behavior. All of that can be achieved by the conduction of observations and interviews.

Finally, measuring the results of the training can be the most time-consuming and costly process. One of the biggest challenges is the possibility to identify which benefits or results are linked the most closely to the training. Furthermore, there is a need to come up with an effective and efficient way of measurement of those outcomes.

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Even though Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model is widely used, yet there are some considerations to be taken when using the model. The first is the fact that it can be both expensive and time-consuming, which makes it impractical for all situations in organizations. It mostly concerns those organizations that do not have a human resource department or a corresponding person that is responsible for training.

At the same time, the model also assumes that the importance of every next level is greater than the last, which makes all of them tightly linked and interdependent. It is significant to note that organizations are different from each other and have a tendency of changing.

The aforementioned changes provoke differences in behaviors and set results. Thus, it has an essential impact on training aims and prospective results. At the same time, when a lot of attention is paid to the long-term measurement, a sudden appearance of a new management representative can change the whole situation, which can further influence the productivity of an organization. Thus, Kirkpatrick’s model is useful for training evaluation; however, it is essential to consider different variables that can predominate in organizations that tend to change fast while developing.

Framework Application

The HRCU 646, Training and Development course aims to the provision work on understanding the required skills and major practices in the Training and Development field. The topics included managing the training function, methods of instruction, assessing training needs, program development, competencies and roles of trainers, and evaluation of training. It also included practical information on the relationship between training and fields of career development and organization development.

After the course, students were able to analyze the roles and responsibilities of training and development functions by being able to connect them to organizational strategy and human resource management. Learning theories with their ways of incorporation into training and development to facilitate learning in employees were discussed. Training and development strategies were examined to ensure that the employees possess the corresponding skills and knowledge to achieve set business objectives.

Another learning objective of the course was to create an integrated, systems-oriented skills training module, designed to achieve behavioral learning objectives. Moreover, the students had to examine the alternative strategies for evaluating of the training effectiveness and developing corresponding initiatives.

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Based on Kirkpatrick’s model, let us further analyze the course by linking the aforementioned theory to the practical course taken. The analysis is conducted based on the four training assessment elements: reaction, learning, behavior, and results.

Before the course started, the students were given a syllable with the course description. It included learning objectives of the course, major study units, recommended literature to read, and various instructional strategies, including equipment and facilities. Moreover, the ethical element was also included in the syllable, so everybody had an idea of all of the course aspects from the very beginning.

My reaction to the course is positive as it has completely satisfied me. I was able to link both the content and assignments, which was quite a valuable process for me. The only element that I would recommend is to slow down in some parts of the course and to move faster in other parts.

The course learning objectives were set and corresponded to my academic and practical needs. It has always been a challenge to combine practice and theory. I was always taught that a rule without a practical example is not a rule. It is indeed, especially when one deals with a human resource subject, and theory should serve as a background and thought-provoking element to explore the topic more deeply in practice. Thus, I consider the incorporation of learning theories into training as an essential learning objective of the course.

Another valuable element of the course is the possibility to examine the alternative strategies to evaluate the training effectiveness and development initiatives. Quite often, the learning theories and their practical implementation go beyond the frames because organizations tend to change rapidly while developing and people, in general, are unique. Thus, very often there is a need to apply some alternative behavior to reach quick and efficient results.

The behavioral pattern is an essential element of the course. After eight weeks, I was able to comprehend all of the theoretical and practical knowledge gained. The course is quite thought and behavior-provoking. I noticed that I became more attentive to the details. I started to see individuals more critically, and, generally, I am trying to be a better psychologist.

Because of this course and to enhance my professional effectiveness I will always keep in mind and try to use where applicable the information on the roles and responsibilities of training and development practitioners. As a rule, people are just aware that they have particular roles in society. The same situation concerns the organizations. However, knowing personal responsibilities and working on their improvement makes an employee more dedicated to the job and generally more efficient in the work that he or she conducts in an organization.

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The easiest way to assess the results of the course is to conduct a questionnaire. However, I would additionally arrange some of the individual interviews to see how they influenced the organizational results.

To assess the benefits, of course, it is significant to put correct questions in the questionnaire. In this case, such questions should be put in a way that would discover the benefits of the course, not the costs. At the same time, it is essential to put the questions in the corresponding order so that the respondents’ way of thinking would stimulate the shade of the answers that we aimed to ask.

The same situation is with semi-structured individual interviews. The questions should be put logically, and they should not answer the questions categorically with “yes” or “no.” Furthermore, the respondents have to be aware that the more details they present, the better it will be for future courses and other trainees. Thus, during the semi-structured interviews, an individual approach to every person is critical.

Conclusions

Analyzing the course based on Kirkpatrick’s evaluation training model was useful for the HRCU 646, Training and Development course. However, I would draw more attention to various case studies in particular organizations, although I realize that there was not enough time to cover everything that every individual student would desire.

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The course is a good background for future human resource representatives who should now feel more comfortable in their job while communicating with various types of people and in various organizations. As training is considered one of the most successful factors in the implementation of the human resource planning process, it should meet all the needs of personnel and organizational goals to stimulate the reaching of efficient and effective results.

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