It is a commonly held belief that the Kirkpatrick Model starts with Level 1 Reaction, and then moves sequentially through levels 2, 3, and 4. This tradition has been developed and solidified over five decades. The truth is that when used properly, the four levels begin with Level 4. This is the first of the Kirkpatrick Foundational Principles, entitled “The End is the Beginning.”
Here is why to start with Level 4. When an external client or internal business leader asks you to develop and deliver a training program, it is most unwise to do a cursory pulse check of their expectations, and then jump to the DDD process (Design, Develop, Deliver), followed by some evaluation. This could lead to great waste of resources if the desired end result is not accomplished.
Instead, particularly for mission critical programs, interview the client and sponsor to find out as much as you can about what prompted the request, what is the overall intent, and specifically what will success look like from a strategic level.
Once you uncover or (more commonly) negotiate the answers to those questions, you have the structure for your Level 4 Results. Then, work backwards through determining Level 3 Behavior, and, if necessary, Level 2 Learning and Level 1 Reaction. In this way, you will know exactly where you are going. You will then be able to direct training, reinforcement, and evaluation efforts towards accomplishing mission-critical results with a minimum of wasted time, money and resources.
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