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How Rigorous Should Your Training Evaluation Be?

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Magazine Volume: 70 Issue: 5 Dated: October 2008 Pages: 116-118
James B. Wells
Date Published
October 2008
3 pages
This article outlines the benefits of evaluating training programs and critiques today’s most popular training evaluation designs, which reflect the work of Donald L. Kirkpatrick.
The benefits of a training evaluation are improved efficiency of training, information on how to improve future training programs, an informed decision on whether to continue a training program, justification for the existence of a training department, and protection against potential litigation. Kirkpatrick’s model for training evaluation involved four levels: reaction (how well participants received the program); learning (measurement of participants‘ knowledge of facts, principles, skills, attitudes, and techniques); behavior (changes in job performance attributed to training); and results (impact of the training on the organization). This article’s critique of the Kirkpatrick model of training evaluation advises that it is not tailored to specific types of training programs, in that it may be too extensive for some training programs and not extensive enough for others. In the latter case, more thorough evaluations may be required, including a training needs assessment, whether the program was implemented as designed, whether the training is being delivered to the people for whom it was designed, and the training program’s cost-efficiency. To the extent that an evaluation involves more advanced rigor, greater corroboration of information is obtained; more attention is given to reliable and valid measurement; more complex data analyses are conducted; and greater effort is made to track and control influences that might bias results. The National Institute of Corrections is in the process of developing a training evaluation model called the Evaluation Matrix. The Evaluation Matrix, when used in conjunction with training objectives, will assist correctional staff in identifying the appropriate type of evaluations to conduct, as well as the proper level of evaluation rigor. 1 table and 6 notes