Now I’m not hugely into models. They’re often convoluted and simply express one person’s opinion of a subject at a particular point in time.
Sometimes though there are models that just totally make sense to me, and this post is going to put two of my favourites together, to complement and help each other out.
If you’ve ever looked at evaluating the effectiveness of your training it’s likely that you’ve come across Donald Kirkpatrick’s four level evaluation model:
1: Reaction – the environment, learner experience etc. traditional happy sheets
2: Learning – the increase in knowledge or ability as a result of the learning
3: Behaviour – often referred to as the transfer of skills. How behaviour has changed following the learning.
4: Results – What the ultimate outcome has been due to attending the course.
It’s very easy when going through this model to get stuck in stages 1 and 2 and not make it to 3 and 4. This is often because the further down the levels you go, the harder and more time consuming it can be to gather and build the data you need. That’s why, in building a great course, it’s a good idea to “start with the end in mind”. What I mean by this is to look at the results that the course needs to prove first and then work backwards.
Using one of my other favourite models can really help you begin with the end in mind. Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping is a great method for building robust learning that addresses a real need and delivers great behavioural change as a result. Again, there are four stages:
1: Business Goal
2: Actions taken to achieve this
3: Activities to practice those actions
4: Knowledge needed as a minimum to achieve.
Immediately you can hopefully see some correlation between certain aspects of the two.
Here’s my take on putting them together.
Start with the end in mind.
In Kirkpatrick’s model, the end is around the results, the ultimate outcome. This could be financial or performance-based. Cathy Moore’s model starts right at this point – defining outcomes. Nothing vague or woolly. What do we want to achieve as a result of this learning? What’s the business goal? In other words, what results do we want to see? Either version of this could be a 5% sales conversion increase, or, a 10% reduction in Average Handling Times. It’s such a great starting point for your instructional design process because right away you’re getting into the gritty part of what we do – affecting change. Its pointless starting here though if you just have a woolly, vague goal about understanding something or other. It needs to be robust, real and tangible.
Working backwards in Kirkpatrick’s model has us looking at behavioural change, the transfer of skills into the workplace. In Action Mapping we have two ways of looking at this. The second step is to find out what activities the learners will carry out in order to achieve the business goal set out in step 1. Then, when we move to the third step, we look at what activities we can build in to the learning that helps the learners practice these actions. This for me is one of the most important aspects of learning – doing. It creates real life situations to help people learn. None of those impractical, pointless activities and quizzes that you just never do in your job role. This is where you get your learners to think about the actual role they will perform, the tasks they will be doing, and help them learn by actually doing them.
The final real correlation between the two is, for me, almost like for like. Stage two in Kirkpatrick’s is Learning – the increase in knowledge. Stage 4 in Action Mapping is about getting the minimum amount of knowledge needed to be able to carry out the actions and activities. Simple.
So there you have it. How to think about your design and evaluation strategy, beginning with the end in mind.
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on any aspect of this post in the comments below.