Learning Evaluation

Conventional wisdom dictates that a company should conduct learning evaluation if it is investing large sums in training and development .  

Unfortunately too often that means “happy sheets” sprayed about at the end of a training programme as the participants are leaving that provide low quality data with a half- life of about 3 hours.

Related Learning Measurement Pages

Measuring Learning
The ROI methodology was developed by Dr Jack Phillips and provides a step by step approach for detemining the business results of a program and measuring learning.Calculating the ROI of a learning initiative is a very positive thing to do but shuld not be undertaken lightly.

Training Evaluation and Kirkpatricks Model Measuring Learning
Donald Kirkpatrick's originally published his ideas of learning evaluation in 1959. His book “Evaluating Training Programs” 1994 defined his theories more clearly so that his 4 levels theory’s of criteria or impact is now considered an industry standard across the HR and training communities.

How much longer can many training and learning professionals get away with spending money with little or no accountability?

It is also generally accepted fact that the management of a company’s learning and development resources (L&D) and its ability to align them towards strategic objectives plays a key part in a company’s level of business success.  



learning evaluation

So “people” are definitely on the strategic agenda of most organisations surely that means most organisations are conducting learning evaluation?

After all you would expect some measurement or a ROI on any other significant investment wouldn’t you?

Let’s look at it from another perspective: w hat about the consequences of not doing learning evaluation?

Consequences of not doing learning evaluation

  •     A lack of influence with the Executive
  •     A process instead of an outcome results orientation
  •     Operational HR with a tenuous linkage with business strategy
  •     Decisions based upon opinions and influence not identified needs
  •     Poor understanding of impact of people activities on the organisation
  •     Poor continuous improvement

Which ever way you look at it there is a need to focus beyond mere acceptance that learning and training is good practice and common sense, and instead conduct learning evaluation to measure the actual value it brings.

L&D practitioners face the challenge of quantifying just what this contribution is and the worth of training and development to a company. 

More on Kirkpatrick and training evaluation here

I have got to say that I have found a lot of self –limiting beliefs around training evaluation and learning evaluation.

The most common misconceptions I come across are:

•    Evaluation is “nice to have” but the Senior team isn’t demanding it right now
•    Evaluation is something you can “bolt onto” an intervention after you have designed it
•    Evaluation is complex and expensive
•    There is a skepticism about the results obtained from using evaluation methodologies

I have found the use of learning evaluation as a means of adopting more of an outcome orientation to be hugely beneficial. In fact I can say with confidence:

“To start to consider measurement and outcomes upfront in your scoping and design phases will have a profound impact on the final design and implementation of the learning intervention.”

Let me show you what I mean:

More on measuring learning here

Traditional Approach


Results Based


  • New programme initiated by request or suggestion of any significant manager of a group
  • L&D viewed as cost centre
  • A multitude of programmes in all areas
  • Existing programmes are rarely, if ever, eliminated or changed
  • Limited management involvement in the learning and development design  process
  • L&D staff are unfamiliar with strategy and operations issues
  • L&D staff lack of knowledge of finance and business concepts



  • New L&D programmes are initiated, developed, and implemented with the end in mind
  • A measurement and evaluation system is in place for each programme
  • L&D programme participants and managers understand their responsibility to make L&D programmes successful
  • A variety of approaches are used to measure the L&D contribution, representing a balanced perspective
  • ROI evaluations are developed for some critical programmes
  • L&D results are routinely reported to a variety of target audiences


Impacts of Learning Evaluation

  1. To design evaluation into your programme requires that you talk extensively and in a specific way with the stakeholders about the desired outcomes
  2. Assuming the desired outcome is a change in demonstrated behaviours and business then you will need to carefully build into your programme design how the new knowledge and behaviours will be transferred and reinforced back in the workplace.
  3. Doing a learning evaluation requires the collection of feedback data and gain you will need to plan ahead what you will collect how you will collect it and when sand build that into your design

Great information on training evaluation here