Do not confuse Kirkpatrick level 1 results with workplace performance!


Not-so-happy sheets?

Kirkpatrick’s much adopted 4-stage model has at Level 1 a participant’s
reaction to learning, which asks whether the participant valued the experience.

Research actually shows very little positive link between reaction to training and higher levels of evaluation (Hamblin 1974; Clement 1982; Campion and Campion 1987, Dixon 1990; Warr and Bunce 1995).

Clearly reaction’s one thing; but results are another!

Take away

Participant reactions are an important measure, but not as a means to evaluate effectiveness of training.

Clarify the purpose of ‘reaction’ testing. Use it to assess the engagement and the enjoyment of the learning process, and to help assess how positive word of mouth will be. Getting a positive reaction is definitely good for internal marketing of training.

Do not fall into the trap of conflating these results with specific training outcomes: keep the evaluation schemes for measuring on-the-job performance completely separate.


Campion, M. A. and Campion, J. E. (1987) ‘Evaluation of an interview skills training program in a natural field setting’, Personnel Psychology 40: 675–91.
Clement, R. W. (1982) ‘Testing the hierarchy theory of training evaluation: an expanded role for trainee reactions’, Public Personnel Management Journal 12(2): 176–84.
Dixon, N. M. (1990) ‘The relationship between trainee responses on participant reaction forms and post-test scores’, Human Resources Development Quarterly 1(2): 129–37.
Hamblin, A. C. (1974) Evaluation and Control of Training, London: McGraw-Hill.
Warr, P. and Bunce, D. (1995) ‘Trainee characteristics and the outcomes of open learning’, Personnel Psychology 48(2): 347–75.

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