Evaluating the learning process is a difficult task, especially when considering the complex objectives of skilled training for adults. So much of the success of the program depends on the learner and their circumstances in society after the program. Usually, learning theories are conceived in a controlled environment in the laboratory. In the real World, many more variables which can’t be controlled exist.
The evaluation of a program is broken down into four levels, according to Donald Kirkpatrick. Reaction evaluation is the first level. Here, data is gathered from the participants during the program about their feelings toward it. They can discuss what aspects of the program are negative or positive in discussion groups, interviews or questionnaires. This information would be valuable to an educator or facilitator attempting to evaluate a program.
The second level is learning evaluation, where the participant is pre and post-tested on their ability to grasp the new skills they learned. This information is useful for the learner when they can see the new skill they’ve acquired by the operation of equipment, for instance. Evaluation for this step may also include writing, speaking or other “information-recall tests or problem-solving exercises. (Knowles)”
The third step is also helpful to the facilitator of the program. This is behavioral evaluation, which tracks the behavior of the participant after the program is over. They study how the person’s skills, knowledge or behavior expresses growth from the learning process. Certain work performance evaluations will give an indication of how much a subject learning from training.
The last step is results evaluation, which is gathered from the records of an organization. These may include cost, efficiency, turnover or frequency of accident data. This information is useful to a funding agency responsible for subsidizing the program. This will give them an idea of how successful the program could be in the future and if the investment was useful.
- Knowles/Holton/Swanson, the Adult Learner, 7th, Routledge, 2012