Celebrating Don Kirkpatrick’s Legacy

April 22, 2019

The 65-year history of the four levels has taken some twists and turns of late. As always, we take a moment to remember and recognize the late Dr. Don Kirkpatrick in the month of May.

The Kirkpatrick Model has evolved over multiple decades through the application by learning and development professionals around the world.

In 1954, Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on evaluation of training for industrial supervisors. Like most training and development professionals, he had a genuine desire to know if his training was making a difference for the supervisors he trained, their direct reports, and the organizations in which they worked. He applied four steps he learned from Dr. Raymond Katzell, a prominent psychology researcher at the time. He refers to Katzell’s four steps in a 1956 article on training evaluation.

In 1959, Don was contacted by the organization now known as the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and asked to write an article about the training evaluation work he did for his dissertation. He wrote four articles, entitled Reaction, Learning, Behavior and Results.

Over the next decade unbeknownst to Don, the articles circulated, and training professionals around the world used and adapted his ideas. Someone whose identity is unknown called the words levels, and someone dubbed it The Kirkpatrick Model. Don became aware of these things sometime in the 1970s. Since then, the Kirkpatrick Model has become the industry standard for training evaluation.

In the 1990s, Don was asked to write a book to expand on the original four articles. He went on to write two additional books on the topic.

In 2008, Dr. Jim Kirkpatrick and Wendy Kirkpatrick created the Kirkpatrick Business Partnership Model, an expansion of the original four levels, as discussed in their book Training on Trial. They created the Kirkpatrick Foundational Principles to explain the key beliefs underpinning Kirkpatrick evaluation.

In 2010, Jim and Wendy Kirkpatrick clarified the original intent of the Kirkpatrick four levels with the New World Kirkpatrick Model. Together they run Kirkpatrick Partners, with their main focus on teaching training professionals a realistic model for creating and demonstrating the value that training brings to organizations, and to the world.

Today we are taking a moment to thank you for using the four levels, and helping the training industry to credibly show the value it delivers to the world.

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