The five stages of evaluation


Anne Bradbury, L&D Consultant Last Published  24 March 2014

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Background information
Evaluation is crucial in enabling you to critically assess the impact of any training programme. Effective evaluation is integrally linked to a rigorous training needs analysis process. Without having agreed business outcomes and specific learning objectives during the needs analysis phase, it becomes difficult to assess the success of the training with any accuracy.

Training evaluation often gets forgotten or left until the last minute. One of the reasons that evaluation may get overlooked is that the range of rigorous data collection techniques suggested by academics can be rather bewildering. The realities of a busy work environment mean that it's tempting for trainers do the bare minimum and simply assess the reactions of participants at the end of the event. However, even a simple 'happy sheet' assessing the immediate reactions of participants is better than no evaluation at all.

Why training evaluation is necessary
Evaluating training is necessary in order to:
  • Assess whether the training  met the agreed needs (business outcomes and learning objectives)
  • Evaluate whether the training was useful to course participants in their jobs
  • Improve the quality of the training for future participants
  • Demonstrate whether or not the training added value to the business.
What effective training evaluation looks like
A robust, well-structured and carefully implemented evaluation process is essential. Acting to implement changes as a result of feedback from the evaluation process is going to be futile if the evaluation process itself is flawed.

Effective training evaluation should seek to:
  • Capture feedback with objectivity and lack of bias
  • Encourage honest feedback which seeks to identify what worked well together with any areas for improvement
  • Gather a range of feedback, not just from participants but from their managers and in some cases their peers and customers.
The five levels of training evaluation
There are five possible levels of training evaluation that can be completed. The first four levels were identified by US Academic, Don Kilpatrick, during the 1950s and a fifth stage was added in by Jack Phillips in the 1980s.

Level 1: Reaction - How did course participants react to their training?

Level 2: Learning - What have participants learnt as a result of attending their training?

Level 3: Behaviour - How has the behaviour of participants changed as a result of their training?

Level 4: Results - What was the business impact of the participants having  completed their training?

Level 5: ROI - What added value contribution has the training made to the business
Using the five levels of training evaluation
It may not be feasible to evaluate every training course at each of these five levels. The depth and rigour of the evaluation process will vary according to a number of factors which may include the scope and range of the training initiative, along with the manpower, skill and time available to conduct the evaluation. 

Within the Support materials section of this tool, you can find further information about the five levels of evaluation, along with some examples each. There is also the opportunity to explore where your organisation is in terms of how it evaluates training at the moment.
How to evaluate training in your business
Use the 'Evaluating training in your business' handout available in the Support material section to help you identify what evaluation tools you can use at each stage.