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Designing with the Kirkpatrick Model

The Kirkpatrick Model is one of the most recognized methods used to evaluate training programs. However, outside of evaluating training, applying Kirkpatrick’s four levels during the design phase can bring a lot of value and success to your development.

Let’s look at each of the levels individually to see how they can assist in the design process.


What are the key takeaways you want learners to walk away with?

This level is all about the learners' skills. Identify how you will be assessing or testing your learners at the end of training to see what they have retained. Is it a knowledge-based assessment? Is it a performance-based skill check? Thinking through what the requirements are for “passing” the training course is the perfect place to start with your design. Think about it like this: when you set out on a road trip, you don’t just start driving, hoping you’ll arrive at the desired location; you start with your destination and work backward to plan just how you will get there.


What kind of individual behavior change do you want to take place?

When thinking about using Kirkpatrick for design, this level is similar to Learning but takes it one step further. Behavior change is not only about learning the skills desired for that change, but it’s also the real-life application of those skills. For example, it may be straightforward to train an electrician on a new skill in a classroom setting, but what if that skill is one they’ll be performing in a bucket truck 50 feet in the air? This is why focusing on an ideal learning environment is key when designing for behavior change. This is also when modalities like augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) can be extremely beneficial.


What organizational change do you want to occur?

This level is all about your business outcomes. What key performance indicators (KPIs) do you want to impact with the training? Identifying those key metrics and working backward into the design of the training can help you integrate the behaviors and skills that impact those KPIs into your entire training plan. Let’s say that you are designing customer service training and the number one KPI the business wants to impact is increasing customer satisfaction scores. Thinking about that upfront allows you to identify any and all opportunities to weave in lessons, practice, and knowledge that directly relate to that goal.


What will be most effective for your learner group?

When thinking about training design, this level is all about what is best for your learners. What modality will be most impactful? What is the best way to engage your learners with the topic at hand? This step is where it’s important to understand the demographics and makeup of your target learner group. Combining a true understanding of the learners you are designing for and the strategies we discussed with the other three levels will help you create learning that meets the needs and objectives of everyone involved.


The Kirkpatrick Model is an indispensable tool in the world of training evaluation. But it can also be effective in helping lay the groundwork for successful training when applied during the design and development phases. Connect with our team and find out how Ardent can partner with you and your team to design training that produces the business results you want.

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