Kaufman’s Learning Evaluation Model – Quick Overview

The field of corporate learning has a lot of different frameworks for evaluation. While not all of them are good or even necessary, some frameworks still provide good points of consideration and models for organising information. For instance, last week, we took a look at the Success Case Method which works best on capturing qualitative insights. This week, we decided to take a quick look at Kaufman’s learning evaluation model, and see if it still provides valid contributions.

Kaufman’s Learning Evaluation Model briefly explained

Instead of providing an entirely new framework, Kaufman’s model aims to improve the commonly used Kirkpatrick’s 4 levels. The allegedly improved version introduces some additional consideration by seemingly dividing Kirkpatrick level 1 into two and adding a fifth level. The levels and the respective questions and considerations for modern L&D professionals go as following:

  1. Input – what kind of resources and learning materials do we have at our disposal that we can use to support the learning experience?
  2. Process – how’s the delivery of the learning experience? Is it accepted? How are people responding to it?
  3. Micro level results – Did the learner or the learning group acquire the knowledge? Did they apply it on their jobs?
  4. Macro level results – Did performance improve due to this learning and application of new in the workplace? What kind of benefits arose from the learning on an organisational level?
  5. Mega level impact – What kind of impact did the learning have on society or larger external stakeholder groups?

Reflection on the Kaufman model

As the original author proposed the model as an improvement over Kirkpatrick’s, we’ll make the comparison accordingly. The separation of input and process might be a good one to make. Nowadays, we have access to vast pools of digital resources both in the public domain and sitting in corporate information systems. There are a lot of situations where organisations could leverage on a lot of this information and resources. For instance, curation-based learning content strategies might make more sense for some organisations. Hence, the introduction of inputs as a separate consideration might be a helpful change to some on the framework level.

Reversely, Kaufman also groups Kirkpatrick’s levels 2 and 3 together. While these are just semantic changes, it’s within this section that organisations have their L&D challenges. Often, learning is not the problem, and people may retain the newly learnt quite well. But the problem often comes in application, or learning transfer, as people fail to use these new skills or practices back at their daily jobs. Consequently, that’s something that modern L&D professionals should also focus more on.

Finally, Kaufman’s learning evaluation model introduces the “mega level”, or societal impact. While it may be a valid consideration for a select few, presumably this impact would go hand-in-hand with the business results analysed at the “macro level”. Or if not, we nevertheless encounter the immense difficulty of evaluating impact to external entities.

What’s in it for the L&D professional?

Like with any of the prevalent frameworks or models of evaluating learning at the workplace, it’s important not to take things too seriously. These models do provide a good basis for structuring one’s approach to evaluation, but L&D professionals should still adjust them to fit the context of their particular organisation. It’s also noteworthy that all these models were built on the conception of formal learning. Hence they may fail to address some more informal workplace learning. Regardless, the key takeaway from Kaufman’s learning evaluation model could be the notion of existing resources that can contribute to learning experiences. It’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel after all!

If you’re looking for new ways of evaluating learning, especially learning transfer or business impact, drop us a note. We’d be happy to help you co-engineer evaluation methods that can actually demonstrate L&D’s value to the business.

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