Effective Reaction Evaluation in Evaluating Training Programs

Purposes and Dimension Classification
by Sung Heum Lee, PhD and James A. Pershing, PhD
he evaluation scheme that many corporate training programs use is Kirkpatrick's four-levels of evaluation: reaction, learning, behavior, and results (Kirkpatrick, 1994). However, surveys of the evaluation of corporate training programs show limited application of the levels other than at the reaction level (Alliger & Janak, 1989; American Society for Training and Development, 1996; Brinkerhoff, 1989; Dixon, 1990; Industry Report, 1996; Parker, 1986; Plant & Ryan, 1994). Training participants' reaction is the most commonly used criterion for determining the effectiveness of corporate training programs. Most corporate trainers evaluate their training programs by using a sim-


pIe end-of-course reaction form, often referred to as a "happy sheet" (Plant & Ryan, 1994), a "smile or whoopie sheet" (Robinson & Robinson, 1989), an "end-of-event questionnaire" (Bramley, 1996), or a "reactionnaire" (Newby, 1992). Based on a recent survey of corporate training programs using Kirkpatrick's four-levels of evaluation (American Society for Training and Development, 1996), only 4.3% of the organizations surveyed measured results, 13.7% measured behavior change, 27.9% measured learning, and 88.9% reported using participant reactionnaires. These findings indicate that the majority of the organizations evaluated the reactions and opinions of their training participants

immediately upon completion of training programs.

Reaction Evaluation of Training Program
Purposes The main purpose of reaction evaluation is to enhance the quality of training programs, which in turn leads to improved performance. The ultimate objective is to make training programs more efficient and effective for organizational performance improvement. Reaction evaluations are a type of formative evaluation when the results are used for program modification and the redesign of content, course materials, and presentations (Antheil & Casper, 1986; Robinson & Robinson, 1989). Generally, they collect information that


Performance Improvement.


presents a few sample reaction forms but does not suggest This difference calls for the careful selection of dimensions guidelines for selecting reaction dimensions. 1997). The kinds of questions to be addressed in to program evaluators. Reaction evaluations provide program designers with insights about participants' degree of satisfaction with a program's design and implementation. modification. Kirkpatrick (1994. He indicates for reaction evaluations and for the rigorous design and that ideal reaction evaluations provide the maximum development of reactionnaires. 1987). Basic Differences Between Formative and Summative Evaluation. The main difference is not in the information. tive or summative. 1986. Both forand applicable presents a formidable problem for corpomative and summative evaluations are essential because rate training evaluation practitioners (Mattoon. interviews observations. merit. there are few differselecting reaction evaluation dimensions that are valid ences in how trainers collect and analyze the data. Formative Evaluation Purpose Use Focus Tools Time Audience User Major Characteristics To determine program's worth. If participants are not satisfied with the training experience. they may not use what they have learned and will probably advise others not to attend the training program. supported by internal evaluators in unique cases Convincing information decisionmaking for observations. This is crucial information. Therefore. interviews After training program Stakeholder or potential consumers External evaluators. 1997). 1996. Instructors are far more likely to accept als. The tion. questionnaires. impact of the training activity. when. training materithe instructor alone. termination. supported by external evaluators Timing and control for program improvement Reaction evaluations can also be summative in nature. the goal of reacrevision. Sanders. Consequence such cases. effectiveness. & ever. questionnaires. 1990. Summative evaluations provide program uation focuses on the course instructor or facilitator decisionmakers and potential customers with judgments (Phillips. Figure 1 summarizes the and make constructive feedback about what they do rather basic differences between formative and summative evaluathan who they are. The evaluation of training programs can play either a formative purpose to improve the program or a summative purThere are a number of different dimensions for training pose to decide whether a program should be continued or reaction evaluations. value. howabout a program's worth or merit (Worthen. be linked with the Performance Improvement. or adoption (Worthen. or efficiency of a training program (Smith & Brandenburg. 1991) and to make decisions Dimensions to Evaluate concerning program continuation. merit. expansion. 1987). The evaluation of a training program. expansion.1996) Bloomer. termination. effectiveness. not instructors or facilitators (Cangelosi. Judgment for program continuation. and even the training facilities. instructor. Although these two distinctive roles call for difsent a comprehensive set of dimensions. but in how. the reaction evaluation of a training program should relate to an instructor's Any aspect of a training program can be evaluated: the instruction and the impact of the training program.is specific enough to help make revisions and improvements in the training program. value. or adoption tion evaluation is to deterFigure 1. a reaction evaluation will. training programs is to evaluate a training program. Worthen & Sanders. or quality To improve training program and correct errors Program process Tests. of course. 1992). Volume 38 • Number 8 33 . Summative Evaluation To determine program's worth. Keller. or Fitzpatrick. value. timing and use determine whether an evaluation is forma1991). The responsibility of an evaluator of tion. and improvement (Grove & Ostroff. Identifying and ferent uses of the evaluation results. instructional strategies. During training program Program designer or team Primarily internal evaluators. and by whom it is used (Beer & In writing about level 1 evaluation. mine the value. 1991). not to trainee. Worthen & In some organizations the primary purpose of reaction evalSanders. In Diagnostic for program modification. Reaction questionnaires amount of information and require the minimum amount of should be designed to supply valid and reliable information time to complete. decisions are necessary during the developmental stages of Guidelines for reaction dimensions can help practitioners a training program to improve it and-when it has been stadesign useful reaction evaluations for program modificabilized-to judge its final worth or determine its future. is a judgment about the quality. however none of the citations preterminated. or redesign termination. or quality To make decisions about a program's future or adoption Program impact Post-tests.

and relevance to the job or to intended changes. & Cook. Robinson and Robinson (1989) indicate that reaction evaluations should include some questions that are specific to the particular program being evaluated. 1996. efficiency. program value. quality of the program materials. administrative details. and timeliness of the content presented can be judged by the participants' reactions. adaptability. Instructional materials include published and unpublished print materials such as textbooks. Program designers select procedures. duration. and planned improvements. level. the use of media. 1996). helping to improve future programs. instructional activities • Program time/length • Training environment • Planned action/transfer expectation • Logistics/administration • Overall evaluation • Recommendations for program improvement Program Objective(s)/Content. while others might be detailed and require a considerable amount of time to complete. program materials. or approaches. trainer. class handouts. manuals. comprehensive dimensions for reaction evaluations can be summarized as follows: • Program objective(s)/content • Program materials • Delivery methods/technologies • Instructor/facilitator. and methods that are relevant to the training objectives. quality of materials. 1993). effectiveness of the instruotorls). Cayer. The areas of feedback used on reactionnaires should be directly tied to the nature and scope of the training program and the purposes of the evaluation. (1995) suggest some guidelines for selecting dimensions of reaction evaluation. Phillips (1996) enumerates the most common dimensions of reaction evaluations as being program content. They also suggest that the reaction evaluation of a training program should not only focus on the program itself. methods. The most important concept associated with program content is that of a performance objective. Based on the results of an extensive literature review on reaction evaluations. During the design and development stages of training program materials. content. overall evaluation. Typically. However.information requirements of program designers. facilities/accommodations. such as objectives. discrepancies are bound to occur. techniques. The results of material evaluation can be used to revise the training materials and to make the materials as effective as possible (Dick & Carey. developers should make every effort to avoid unnecessary duplication of content. In addition. etc. reactionnaires inquire about participants' reactions to and interest in the usefulness ofthe program content. The selection of training objective(s)/content depends on the purposes of the training program and is largely a judgment procedure (Tracey. The purpose of evaluating the training materials is to determine their effectiveness. training environment/facilities. trainers. and value (Hellebrandt & Russell. whether the content was organized into manageable amounts. resources. various delivery methodologies. but ask more general questions about whether the training participants feel that they will be able to transfer what they have learned to the work environment and whether the organization is ready to support new skills. participatory materials. Sample reaction questions for objective(s)/content dimensions are as follows: • Did the program content meet the stated objectives? • Were the program topics effectively sequenced? • Was the program content up to date? • Was the course content at an appropriate level of difficulty? • Was the course content practical? Program Materials. or textbooks-performed for participants. Some reaction forms might be very simple. and any conflicts in concepts and terminologies used. such as the quality of classroom environment. laboratory manuals. There are areas to assess during a reaction evaluation. Sanderson (1995) advocates dimensions such as the participants' opinion of the precourse briefing. Considerations include how well the training materials matched the real world of the trainee. technological materials. the appropriateness. program coordinator/facilitator. manipulable materials. allowing for more precise information about a program's content and process. 1993. program relevance to job/work area. and recommendation for program improvement (Basarab & Root. level of difficulty. 1993). and the learner's belief as to the overall effectiveness of the event. individualized instruction packages. The reaction questions should consider how well training materials-tutorial guides. instructor. ease of use. the trainer. and helpfulness. communication medium. Faerman & Ban. whether the 34 Performance Improvement. such as the size and comfort of the room and the tests or other performance measures (Wart. 1989. 1993). 1992). Robinson & Robinson. 1994). the course materials. A performance objective is a detailed description of what trainees will be able to do when they complete a training program. or decisionmakers (Payne. Schouborg. trainee. 1992. objectives. content. Other areas incorporate logistical concerns. Designing a training program starts with these factors. Answers can verify the consistency of the materials with the program objectives. and reaction evaluations can identify these weaknesses. Keller. and delivery methods. SEPTEMBER1999 . gaps in content. Program materials are the objects the trainer and instructor use in the training environment. handouts. Forsyth et al. The content of a training program should be identified with recognition of some significant variables. and general comments.

The instructors must possess the required technical and pedagogical knowledge.. drill and practice. Determining whether the delivery methods will help trainees reach the stated objectives is an important issue in selecting appropriate delivery methods/technologies for different types of objectives (Dean. 1995). and whether the training materials were presented in a way that was both interesting and stimulating (Forsyth. to group-based activities. 1981. Various instructional activities can take place in a classroom. In this sense. To be effective in using instructional activities to enhance job performance. Jolliffe. They must identify trainee characteristics. Several of these standards can be assessed using reactionnaires. After using delivery methods such as audio. Physical separation from the workplace distinguishes classroom instruction from on-the-job training. and helpful. Evaluation questions revolve around the instructor's ability to interact with the learners and his or her ability to deliver the training content in a meaningful way. 1990). discussion. and tutorials. Developers should consider several factors in selecting delivery methods/technologies that will help trainees reach objectives. instructional staff variables can be one of the more important factors in attempts to account for variance in program outcomes and to distinguish a program's success. Reaction evaluation of program materials should also include gathering data regarding the relevance of reading materials. Classroom instruction has two distinct attributes: the teaching of groups of trainees and the physical separation of the classroom from the workplace (Yelon. participant evaluation. 1995). the evaluator can evaluate the appropriateness and helpfulness of the delivery methods in helping learners understand the content of a training program. discovery. the evaluation might ask questions such as the following: • Were the course exercises relevant to the program objectives? Performance Improvement. the training situation. The designers of training programs strive to be effective in creating each element of classroom instruction. Sample questions for the evaluation dimension of delivery methods/technologies are as follows: • Were the audio learning aids helpful? • Were the presentation technologies used in class effective? • Were the visual aids helpful? InstructorlFacilitator. designers adhere to many instructional principles derived from learning and instructional theories (Yelon. To evaluate the appropriateness and helpfulness of instructional activities. The designer can choose from delivery methods such as lecture. As a manager of the training situation. interesting. The instructional designer determines method/technology options to achieve the objectives of a training program. laboratory. 1992). Group teaching distinguishes classroom instruction from individualized instruction. 1994). Seels & Glasgow. ranging from listening to the instructor. Based on the performance standards for instructors (Powers. Another important consideration is the degree of trainee involvement in the training activity. as well as each aspect of the total instructional activity. An instructional activity is a set of structured experiences designed to help trainees achieve one or more training objectives. Training action begins with this person. problemsolving. 1999. cooperative learning group. materials. and technology-based instruction (Davies.sequence was from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. there are 60 standards covering preparation. and attitude and be successful in using the strategies. content and sequencing. and instructional constraints. and equipment selected for a training program (Tracey. Sample questions about the instructor/facilitator dimension for reaction evaluation are as follows: • Did the instructor present content clearly? • Was the instructor responsive to participants' questions? • Was the instructor well-prepared? Instructional Activities. objectives. Performance standards for instructors are the backbone of instructor excellence. programmed instruction. skills. and constraints before selecting methods or technologies. Sample questions for program materials are as follows: • Were the materials consistent with the training objectives? • Were the program materials of high quality? • Was the level of difficulty of the materials appropriate? • Was the content of the handouts easy to understand? Delivery Methods/Technologies. the instructor/facilitator is one of the key components of an effective training program. 1992). role play. particularly for the use of class time (Dick & Carey. tutorial. The selection of instructional activities for a training program has significant implications for course management strategies. Heinich et al. and course evaluation. game. Volume 38 • Number 8 35 . visual. gaining participation. & Stevens. self-instruction. case study. Jolliffe. 1992). to ensure content understanding and performance change. training aids. written assignments. 1992). questioning techniques. Reaction questions should also cover how the instructors interpreted and used the training materials and whether they presented materials in a way that was stimulating. demonstration. explained concepts. training objectives. to multimedia-mediated instruction. or multimedia for a training program. & Stevens. and the quality of any performance tests or examinations. and enthusiastically answered questions (Forsyth. platform skills. simulation. 1996). Consideration should be given to whether the instructor encouraged active participation through the use of examples and illustrations. Choices of delivery methods/technologies are based on selection criteria such as whether the delivery methods are appropriate for the trainee.

This dimension of reaction evaluation is used to measure the participants' overall reactions about the usefulness of the course content. room temperature. acoustics. kinds of activities in which people are engaged. 1988). The place could be a classroom. Peterson & Bickman. Training participants' perceptions of classroom environments can have a significant influence on both cognitive and affective learning outcomes (Haertel & Walberg. Too little time or too much time can negatively affect training effectiveness. developers can use program time/length as an evaluation dimension. 1980. and overall flexibility in terms of training event demands. or car. reaction evaluation should include questions on planned actions and anticipated organizational barriers. Sample questions for the training environment dimension are as follows: • Was the training environment appropriate for the learning? • Were the environmental conditions-comfort. visibility-conducive to learning? • Did the arrangements-food. Sample questions for the program timellength dimension are as follows: • Was the amount of time in the program sufficient? • Was the length of the program appropriate for program objective(s)? • Was there enough time for practice of course content? Training Environment. Positive transfer is highly contingent on factors in the trainee's work environment. social and special events. These questions function as a type of administrative audit that assesses administrative aspects such as personnel practices. and program procedures and policies (Miringoff. To find and remove the barriers for planned action and transfer of training content. effectiveness of the instructor. 1988). 1995). When evaluators are considering questions in this area. Broad and Newstrom (1992) report that there is a positive relationship between favorable organizational climate and management support of training and the participants' ability to apply classroom learning to the work environment. To help the participants implement the results of the program on the job. the program evaluator could ask participants about their plans and expectations for applying the content of the program when they return to their jobs. heating. The quality of large training programs depends on how well the objectives and content of the program are marketed.• Were the group discussions helpful to participants in exchanging ideas with each other? • Was the homework helpful in understanding the course content? Program Time/Length. seating arrangements. and special events such as registration procedures. To ensure quality programs for performance improvement. The logistics and administrative sides of program planning are important. McVey. From this point of view. Questions related to this fact would focus on understanding and awareness of ergonomics as applied to the logistics and physical adequacy of the training environment (Faerman & Ban. Sample questions for this dimension of reaction evaluations are as follows: • Was the scheduling for this course efficiently administered? • Was the process of registration for this course easy? • Was the assistance with extracurricular activities helpful? Overall Evaluation. If participants have to report to their managers about their training experiences and their intended transfer actions. facilitator or coordinator. Time-on-task and the efficient use of time are important in planning a training session. and extracurricular activities associated with the program. accessibility. Sample questions regarding the planned action/transfer expectations dimension for reactionnaires are as follows: • Was the training content relevant to your job? • Do you expect the organization to support your use of the skills learned in this program? • What factors will encourage job transfer of the training content? • What factors will inhibit job transfer of the training content? Logistics/Administration. To improve future training programs. Environmental psychologists recognize the environment as a persistent and powerful influence on human learning and behavior. the evaluators of a training program can assess the length of sessions and/or entire training program and use the results for schedule changes and considerations of overall program length. An understanding of logistical and administrative support undergirds the effective team-building effort that is necessary in conducting successful programs. adequacy of the learning environment. living room. office. noise. 1993. and how well the program is managed once underway. computer lab. and the location of the placers) where learning occurs (Tessmer & Harris. 1988). division of duties and responsibilities. 1996). measuring participants' perceptions regarding the likelihood of their being able to transfer training content to the work environment may be particularly important (Baldwin & Ford. SEPTEMBER 1999 . Using this dimension. The facilities of the learning environment include the furnishings. it may be more likely that they will implement what they learn (Sanderson. arrangements. planned action/expectation for job trans- 36 Performance Improvement. 1992). they need to ask specific questions regarding learning space. how well pretraining enrollments are executed. travel arrangements. study facility-meet your needs? • Was there enough workspace for class activities? Planned Actionlfransfer Expectation. the conditions. patterns of work. sleeping accommodation. reaction evaluations can include questions about operations. lighting.

nature. and leisure facilities Recommendations for ProPlanned Action! To evaluate the participants' plans/expectations and anticipated barriers for gram Improvement. level. efficiency. (1989). but also when they should be assessed. 331-342. recognized as "customer satisfaction." Personnel Psychology. and timeliness of the program content To determine the effectiveness. Participant reactions may vary 42(2). At least program improvement are as follows: a portion of each evaluation should be specific to the program it is designed to evaluate (Robinson & Robinson. the training context. ventions for improving human performance. training (Patrick. lodging. E. it is best to use a series of open-ended questions that allow the aspects of these reactions are of interest. or feelings about a specific training program are complex. and effectiveness of the trainer or facilitator in leading the program To evaluate the appropriateness and helpfulness of in. as specified in the participants to express their own thoughts without being purpose of reaction evaluation. They are the results References of many factors. the training program. and quality of materials for the training program. Sample questions for recommending one reaction evaluation for all its training programs. The idea of selecting dimensions for the reaction evaluation of A total of 11 dimensions and their purposes are summarized training programs also can be applied to evaluate other interin Figure 2. Sample questions of this dimension for reaction evaluation are as follows: • Was the overall instructional environment conducive to learning? • Was there enough time to cover the program content? • Did the training program meet your intended needs? • Would you recommend this training program to others? Dimension Program Objectives/ Content Program Materials Delivery Methods/ Technologies InstructorlFacilitator Instructional Activities Program Time/ Length Training Environment Purpose To evaluate the program objectives with participants' expectations and the appropriateness. Dimensions of Reaction Evaluation. evaluators must decide not only what Performance Improvement. With appropriate dimensions. Questions Transfer Expectation applying the content of the training program on the job in this dimension collect useful information for conTo evaluate the smoothness and effectiveness of the scheduling. forced into a set of choices (Keller. Therefore. & Janak. other trainees. G. and other logistical and administrative matters Administration ment of the training program and provide an open forum To determine overall participant satisfaction and feelings about the training Overall Evaluation for the participants to share program their opinions. and usefulness of written material and other aids To judge the appropriateness and effectiveness of delivery methods. such as training content and methods. dining room.M. preparation. ing more effective in meeting customer requirements." is being used in the best-practice companies to make train• Please make any comments for changes that would improve the program. 1992).A. Logistics! tinuous quality improveregistration. 1996). some being transitory in American Society for Training and Development. When the Recommendations for To receive suggestions/recommendations for improving similar or future evaluator wants more sponProgram Improvement training programs taneous feedback about participants' attitudes toward Figure 2. 1989). This approach can produce very helpful information for program improvement and decisionmaking for future training.. "Kirkpatrick's levels of trainee's perceived success at achieving some of the goals of training criteria: Thirty years later. but it takes longer to It is a common mistake for a training department to create summarize the results.and/or out-of-class activities To assess the length of session and/or entire training program for schedule change and considerations of program length To evaluate the adequacy of the physical training environment. 11\ Each participant's reactions. • What would you suggest to improve the training program? Reaction evaluation. (1996). Volume 38 • Number 8 37 . structure. throughout the training program. reaction evaluation can be a more useful and valuable tool in the evaluation of training programs and perConclusion formance improvement programs in general. including classroom. including media/technologies To rate the ability.fer. and the Alliger. attitudes. training location.

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email: pershin@indianaedu.D. training evaluation. D. 2805 EastTenth Street.. New York: Longman. Program evaluation: Alternative approaches and practical guidelines (2nd ed. Plant.R (1992).... Educational evaluation: Alternative approaches and practical guidelines. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Instructional Systems Technology and Director of Education and Training Resources at Indiana University He teaches courses and conducts research in the areas of performance technology. M. Designing training and development systems (3rd ed. M. S.L. B. the Worthen. associations the American instruction/training. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.G. S.J. Flex: A flexible tool for continuously improving your evaluation of training effectiveness. & Brandenburg.D." In H. 42-47. & Glasgow. B. the International Society for Development. (1993). or fax: James A.. New York: AMACOM. New York: Longman. Sanderson.R. 201 North Rose Avenue. Wright Education Building #2230. This article was accepted for publication before James A. Sanders. IN 47405-1006. N. Haertel (Eds. D. Pershing was selected to replace Martha Dean as the new editor of Performance Improvement. G. "Program evaluation. G. Instructor excellence: Mastering delivery of training. B. B. Exercises in instructional design. "Objectives and evaluation. and the business impact of training and development.e. Worthen. Pershing. Powers.).). Handbook of training and development (znd ed. Cayer. Stolovitch & E. & Fitzpatrick.L. MA: HRD. 4(2). Training for impact: How to link training to business needs and measure the results.. Bloomington. Seels. Got a Performance Qu. Tessmer.. (1990). 18(5). is a Research Associate with Education and Training Resources at Indiana University.I§.).E. 27-30." Performance Improvement Quarterly. & Cook. & Ryan. Analyzing the instructional setting: Environmental analysis.R. Tracey. Smith Research Center. J. OH: Merrill. or fax: (812) 339-8792. for and and theory of instructional and performance technology. He has presented such as the Association Society for Training & Technology. and the International Federation of Training and Development Organisations over the last three years. & Sanders.R. Houston. IN 47408. London: Kogan Page. Room 101. PhD. computer-based several topics in professional Educational Performance Communications Improvement. Yelon. M. Handbook of human performance technology: A comprehensive guide for analyzing and solving performance problems in organizations. He may be reached at the Office of Education and Training Resources. Keeps (Eds. Wart. 383-411.). Volume 38 • Number 8 39 • . B. & Robinson. Truelove (Ed. Smith. RJ. New York: Pergamon.).J. (1995). (1994). Walberg & G. (1991). His research focuses on the fields of performance analysis. (1989). He may be reached at Wendell W.). He holds a PhD in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University. (1997). (1993). needs analysis.pn? • Check Out the ISPI Bulletin Boards at WWW. The international encyclopedia of educational evaluation.org Performance Improvement. 35-58.). D. J.R (1987). email suhlee@indiana. Schouborg. Amherst. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 113-14.edu.e. Bloomington. (812) 855-8545. "Who is evaluating training?" Journal of European Industrial Training. Z. Robinson. "Summative evaluation. "Classroom instruction. (1992)." In S." In H. (1992). PhD. training evaluation.surement methods: Proven models and methods for evaluating any HRD program (3rd ed. & Harris. J. Handbook of training and development for the public sector: A comprehensive resource. J. TX: Gulf. Worthen. J. W.V. Columbus. Sung Heum Lee. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Oxford: Blackwell.lspl.R (1990). RA. (1992). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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