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