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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
interviews observations. 1992). or Fitzpatrick. Although these two distinctive roles call for difsent a comprehensive set of dimensions. supported by internal evaluators in unique cases Convincing information decisionmaking for observations. 1996. Worthen & Sanders. they may not use what they have learned and will probably advise others not to attend the training program. but in how. expansion. or quality To make decisions about a program's future or adoption Program impact Post-tests. is a judgment about the quality. training materithe instructor alone. tive or summative. Figure 1 summarizes the and make constructive feedback about what they do rather basic differences between formative and summative evaluathan who they are. 1987). The kinds of questions to be addressed in to program evaluators. or redesign termination. Consequence such cases. termination. questionnaires. termination. This is crucial information. Reaction questionnaires amount of information and require the minimum amount of should be designed to supply valid and reliable information time to complete. Sanders. or quality To improve training program and correct errors Program process Tests. or efficiency of a training program (Smith & Brandenburg. or adoption (Worthen. In Diagnostic for program modification. there are few differselecting reaction evaluation dimensions that are valid ences in how trainers collect and analyze the data. howabout a program's worth or merit (Worthen. not instructors or facilitators (Cangelosi. The evaluation of a training program. The responsibility of an evaluator of tion. 1990. The tion.is specific enough to help make revisions and improvements in the training program. training programs is to evaluate a training program. the goal of reacrevision. Kirkpatrick (1994. questionnaires. 1997). Summative evaluations provide program uation focuses on the course instructor or facilitator decisionmakers and potential customers with judgments (Phillips. impact of the training activity. be linked with the Performance Improvement. and by whom it is used (Beer & In writing about level 1 evaluation. of course. Reaction evaluations provide program designers with insights about participants' degree of satisfaction with a program's design and implementation. 1991).1996) Bloomer. Keller. and even the training facilities. The main difference is not in the information. timing and use determine whether an evaluation is forma1991). 1997). effectiveness. expansion. Formative Evaluation Purpose Use Focus Tools Time Audience User Major Characteristics To determine program's worth. 1986. He indicates for reaction evaluations and for the rigorous design and that ideal reaction evaluations provide the maximum development of reactionnaires. Summative Evaluation To determine program's worth. 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. Identifying and ferent uses of the evaluation results. Worthen & In some organizations the primary purpose of reaction evalSanders. however none of the citations preterminated. a reaction evaluation will. not to trainee. value. Both forand applicable presents a formidable problem for corpomative and summative evaluations are essential because rate training evaluation practitioners (Mattoon. 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. 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. supported by external evaluators Timing and control for program improvement Reaction evaluations can also be summative in nature. and improvement (Grove & Ostroff. when. & ever. or adoption tion evaluation is to deterFigure 1. effectiveness. mine the value. Therefore. value. value. 1991) and to make decisions Dimensions to Evaluate concerning program continuation. 1987). Instructors are far more likely to accept als. If participants are not satisfied with the training experience. Volume 38 • Number 8 33 . modification. presents a few sample reaction forms but does not suggest This difference calls for the careful selection of dimensions guidelines for selecting reaction dimensions. instructor. merit. instructional strategies. merit. Basic Differences Between Formative and Summative Evaluation. Judgment for program continuation. During training program Program designer or team Primarily internal evaluators. interviews After training program Stakeholder or potential consumers External evaluators.
1992. gaps in content. The results of material evaluation can be used to revise the training materials and to make the materials as effective as possible (Dick & Carey. trainee. duration. program materials. (1995) suggest some guidelines for selecting dimensions of reaction evaluation. 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. or textbooks-performed for participants. and helpfulness. In addition. and planned improvements. and relevance to the job or to intended changes. Based on the results of an extensive literature review on reaction evaluations. Robinson and Robinson (1989) indicate that reaction evaluations should include some questions that are specific to the particular program being evaluated. technological materials. The selection of training objective(s)/content depends on the purposes of the training program and is largely a judgment procedure (Tracey. 1993). and delivery methods. Keller. Program designers select procedures. training environment/facilities.information requirements of program designers. and reaction evaluations can identify these weaknesses. adaptability. etc. Forsyth et al. level. allowing for more precise information about a program's content and process. Designing a training program starts with these factors. 1994). However. discrepancies are bound to occur. 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. comprehensive dimensions for reaction evaluations can be summarized as follows: • Program objective(s)/content • Program materials • Delivery methods/technologies • Instructor/facilitator. instructional activities • Program time/length • Training environment • Planned action/transfer expectation • Logistics/administration • Overall evaluation • Recommendations for program improvement Program Objective(s)/Content. The content of a training program should be identified with recognition of some significant variables. and any conflicts in concepts and terminologies used. and the learner's belief as to the overall effectiveness of the event. such as the quality of classroom environment. Instructional materials include published and unpublished print materials such as textbooks. overall evaluation. The reaction questions should consider how well training materials-tutorial guides. A performance objective is a detailed description of what trainees will be able to do when they complete a training program. developers should make every effort to avoid unnecessary duplication of content. 1993. handouts. or decisionmakers (Payne. Schouborg. trainers. and recommendation for program improvement (Basarab & Root. methods. effectiveness of the instruotorls). individualized instruction packages. Answers can verify the consistency of the materials with the program objectives. Considerations include how well the training materials matched the real world of the trainee. 1996. Faerman & Ban. reactionnaires inquire about participants' reactions to and interest in the usefulness ofthe program content. and value (Hellebrandt & Russell. 1993). Sanderson (1995) advocates dimensions such as the participants' opinion of the precourse briefing. and methods that are relevant to the training objectives. content. They also suggest that the reaction evaluation of a training program should not only focus on the program itself. Some reaction forms might be very simple. content. such as the size and comfort of the room and the tests or other performance measures (Wart. the course materials. 1989. SEPTEMBER1999 . program value. and general comments. During the design and development stages of training program materials. 1992). 1996). quality of materials. objectives. ease of use. Cayer. 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. level of difficulty. The purpose of evaluating the training materials is to determine their effectiveness. the appropriateness. whether the content was organized into manageable amounts. such as objectives. or approaches. helping to improve future programs. instructor. the trainer. whether the 34 Performance Improvement. Other areas incorporate logistical concerns. administrative details. laboratory manuals. trainer. There are areas to assess during a reaction evaluation. the use of media. resources. communication medium. participatory materials. & Cook. program coordinator/facilitator. quality of the program materials. while others might be detailed and require a considerable amount of time to complete. Phillips (1996) enumerates the most common dimensions of reaction evaluations as being program content. facilities/accommodations. efficiency. manuals. techniques. Robinson & Robinson. program relevance to job/work area. Program materials are the objects the trainer and instructor use in the training environment. manipulable materials. class handouts. 1993). The most important concept associated with program content is that of a performance objective. and timeliness of the content presented can be judged by the participants' reactions. various delivery methodologies. Typically.
laboratory. the evaluator can evaluate the appropriateness and helpfulness of the delivery methods in helping learners understand the content of a training program. role play. there are 60 standards covering preparation. Another important consideration is the degree of trainee involvement in the training activity. The selection of instructional activities for a training program has significant implications for course management strategies. 1995). Reaction evaluation of program materials should also include gathering data regarding the relevance of reading materials. Consideration should be given to whether the instructor encouraged active participation through the use of examples and illustrations. cooperative learning group. Classroom instruction has two distinct attributes: the teaching of groups of trainees and the physical separation of the classroom from the workplace (Yelon. drill and practice. simulation. After using delivery methods such as audio. training objectives. 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. and helpful. 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. As a manager of the training situation. 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. & Stevens. Performance standards for instructors are the backbone of instructor excellence. skills. ranging from listening to the instructor. and enthusiastically answered questions (Forsyth. The designers of training programs strive to be effective in creating each element of classroom instruction. the instructor/facilitator is one of the key components of an effective training program.sequence was from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. tutorial. 1992). gaining participation. 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. 1995). materials. interesting. written assignments. 1992). programmed instruction. Heinich et al. demonstration. or multimedia for a training program. particularly for the use of class time (Dick & Carey. An instructional activity is a set of structured experiences designed to help trainees achieve one or more training objectives. The instructors must possess the required technical and pedagogical knowledge. To evaluate the appropriateness and helpfulness of instructional activities. Physical separation from the workplace distinguishes classroom instruction from on-the-job training. The designer can choose from delivery methods such as lecture. Seels & Glasgow. and attitude and be successful in using the strategies. 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. and constraints before selecting methods or technologies. participant evaluation. 1992). 1990). To be effective in using instructional activities to enhance job performance. case study. and technology-based instruction (Davies. the training situation. 1999. In this sense. visual. Several of these standards can be assessed using reactionnaires. to group-based activities. and the quality of any performance tests or examinations. Jolliffe. game. problemsolving. and whether the training materials were presented in a way that was both interesting and stimulating (Forsyth. and equipment selected for a training program (Tracey. designers adhere to many instructional principles derived from learning and instructional theories (Yelon. the evaluation might ask questions such as the following: • Were the course exercises relevant to the program objectives? Performance Improvement. objectives. and course evaluation. self-instruction. to multimedia-mediated instruction. 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. 1994). questioning techniques. 1996). content and sequencing. to ensure content understanding and performance change. platform skills. Based on the performance standards for instructors (Powers. Choices of delivery methods/technologies are based on selection criteria such as whether the delivery methods are appropriate for the trainee. discovery. explained concepts. & Stevens. Volume 38 • Number 8 35 . They must identify trainee characteristics.. Group teaching distinguishes classroom instruction from individualized instruction. Training action begins with this person. discussion. and tutorials. Developers should consider several factors in selecting delivery methods/technologies that will help trainees reach objectives. 1981. training aids. and instructional constraints. 1992). 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. Jolliffe. as well as each aspect of the total instructional activity. Various instructional activities can take place in a classroom. The instructional designer determines method/technology options to achieve the objectives of a training program.
and the location of the placers) where learning occurs (Tessmer & Harris. visibility-conducive to learning? • Did the arrangements-food. The place could be a classroom. If participants have to report to their managers about their training experiences and their intended transfer actions. it may be more likely that they will implement what they learn (Sanderson. 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. and program procedures and policies (Miringoff. Environmental psychologists recognize the environment as a persistent and powerful influence on human learning and behavior. they need to ask specific questions regarding learning space. To improve future training programs. sleeping accommodation. The logistics and administrative sides of program planning are important. 1992). 1988). To find and remove the barriers for planned action and transfer of training content. 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. To ensure quality programs for performance improvement. The facilities of the learning environment include the furnishings. or car. adequacy of the learning environment. 1988). computer lab. 1988). kinds of activities in which people are engaged. 1995). patterns of work. measuring participants' perceptions regarding the likelihood of their being able to transfer training content to the work environment may be particularly important (Baldwin & Ford. These questions function as a type of administrative audit that assesses administrative aspects such as personnel practices. 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. Using this dimension. accessibility. Sample questions for the training environment dimension are as follows: • Was the training environment appropriate for the learning? • Were the environmental conditions-comfort. Too little time or too much time can negatively affect training effectiveness. facilitator or coordinator. SEPTEMBER 1999 . 1996). living room. and how well the program is managed once underway. travel arrangements. To help the participants implement the results of the program on the job. room temperature. From this point of view. Positive transfer is highly contingent on factors in the trainee's work environment. heating. reaction evaluation should include questions on planned actions and anticipated organizational barriers. lighting. and extracurricular activities associated with the program. This dimension of reaction evaluation is used to measure the participants' overall reactions about the usefulness of the course content. how well pretraining enrollments are executed. McVey. study facility-meet your needs? • Was there enough workspace for class activities? Planned Actionlfransfer Expectation. 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. seating arrangements. When evaluators are considering questions in this area. division of duties and responsibilities. office. 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. reaction evaluations can include questions about operations. 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. the program evaluator could ask participants about their plans and expectations for applying the content of the program when they return to their jobs. 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. arrangements. An understanding of logistical and administrative support undergirds the effective team-building effort that is necessary in conducting successful programs. developers can use program time/length as an evaluation dimension. and special events such as registration procedures. effectiveness of the instructor. 1980. Peterson & Bickman. and overall flexibility in terms of training event demands. noise. the conditions. Training participants' perceptions of classroom environments can have a significant influence on both cognitive and affective learning outcomes (Haertel & Walberg. acoustics. social and special events. planned action/expectation for job trans- 36 Performance Improvement. Time-on-task and the efficient use of time are important in planning a training session. 1993.
or feelings about a specific training program are complex. They are the results References of many factors. (1989). attitudes.A. dining room. Therefore. some being transitory in American Society for Training and Development. 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. 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. including classroom. This approach can produce very helpful information for program improvement and decisionmaking for future training. 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. as specified in the participants to express their own thoughts without being purpose of reaction evaluation. evaluators must decide not only what Performance Improvement. Volume 38 • Number 8 37 . (1996). it is best to use a series of open-ended questions that allow the aspects of these reactions are of interest. efficiency. lodging. nature." is being used in the best-practice companies to make train• Please make any comments for changes that would improve the program.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. training (Patrick.fer. & Janak. but also when they should be assessed. 1996). E. G. 11\ Each participant's reactions. • What would you suggest to improve the training program? Reaction evaluation.M. and timeliness of the program content To determine the effectiveness. and the Alliger. including media/technologies To rate the ability. forced into a set of choices (Keller. and effectiveness of the trainer or facilitator in leading the program To evaluate the appropriateness and helpfulness of in. other trainees." Personnel Psychology. 331-342. Logistics! tinuous quality improveregistration. training location. throughout the training program. structure. With appropriate dimensions. and usefulness of written material and other aids To judge the appropriateness and effectiveness of delivery methods. ing more effective in meeting customer requirements. "Kirkpatrick's levels of trainee's perceived success at achieving some of the goals of training criteria: Thirty years later. 1989). reaction evaluation can be a more useful and valuable tool in the evaluation of training programs and perConclusion formance improvement programs in general. 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. and quality of materials for the training program. and leisure facilities Recommendations for ProPlanned Action! To evaluate the participants' plans/expectations and anticipated barriers for gram Improvement.. recognized as "customer satisfaction. preparation. the training program. but it takes longer to It is a common mistake for a training department to create summarize the results. level. Dimensions of Reaction Evaluation. the training context. 1992). ventions for improving human performance. such as training content and methods. 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. 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.
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Powers. He holds a PhD in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University.e. (1993). Truelove (Ed. (1992).L. G. D. Z. B. 4(2). Tracey. Haertel (Eds. J. Room 101. the International Society for Development. Got a Performance Qu. Stolovitch & E. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. S. (1997). Smith Research Center.D. & Robinson. (1995). Seels. & Fitzpatrick. & Brandenburg. Program evaluation: Alternative approaches and practical guidelines (2nd ed. training evaluation. (1993). Instructor excellence: Mastering delivery of training. PhD. email: pershin@indianaedu.).R. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. and the International Federation of Training and Development Organisations over the last three years.." In S.surement methods: Proven models and methods for evaluating any HRD program (3rd ed.J. (1994). Worthen. Columbus. B. the Worthen.e.R. The international encyclopedia of educational evaluation.. He has presented such as the Association Society for Training & Technology.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. training evaluation. 42-47.E.). Designing training and development systems (3rd ed. "Program evaluation. RA. B. Handbook of human performance technology: A comprehensive guide for analyzing and solving performance problems in organizations. "Summative evaluation. Pershing. He may be reached at Wendell W. (1989).). Sung Heum Lee. New York: Pergamon. J. 2805 EastTenth Street. He may be reached at the Office of Education and Training Resources. New York: Longman.). IN 47408. is a Research Associate with Education and Training Resources at Indiana University. & Cook.R (1987)." Performance Improvement Quarterly. RJ. W. New York: AMACOM.). "Objectives and evaluation. Handbook of training and development for the public sector: A comprehensive resource. Training for impact: How to link training to business needs and measure the results. Wart.. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.J." In H. Worthen. Handbook of training and development (znd ed. 383-411. Amherst. D.lspl. computer-based several topics in professional Educational Performance Communications Improvement.G. 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. N. "Who is evaluating training?" Journal of European Industrial Training. S.I§. Volume 38 • Number 8 39 • . TX: Gulf.V. or fax: James A. & Glasgow. G.. and the business impact of training and development. 113-14. J. Flex: A flexible tool for continuously improving your evaluation of training effectiveness. This article was accepted for publication before James A.L.. Houston.D. Bloomington. London: Kogan Page. Analyzing the instructional setting: Environmental analysis.. Robinson. (1991). Wright Education Building #2230. & Harris. 201 North Rose Avenue. Sanders.R. email suhlee@indiana. for and and theory of instructional and performance technology.). OH: Merrill. Cayer.R (1992). Bloomington. His research focuses on the fields of performance analysis.R (1990). MA: HRD. Yelon. & Ryan. (1992).org Performance Improvement. (812) 855-8545. Exercises in instructional design. M. associations the American instruction/training. & Sanders. Pershing was selected to replace Martha Dean as the new editor of Performance Improvement. J.." In H. B. Smith. Keeps (Eds. 18(5). 35-58. J. "Classroom instruction. Oxford: Blackwell. IN 47405-1006. or fax: (812) 339-8792. Walberg & G. Tessmer. D. M. needs analysis. Plant. (1990). New York: Longman. (1992).edu. Sanderson. 27-30. M. B. Educational evaluation: Alternative approaches and practical guidelines. Schouborg.pn? • Check Out the ISPI Bulletin Boards at WWW. PhD.
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