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Evaluating Learning and Development

Evaluation theory can be used practically to help organisations measure the value of learning
interventions. This goes beyond the application of techniques and encourages you to drill down into
the key questions underpinning evaluation methods and approaches, especially in considering
political and stakeholder concerns in the evaluation process. You should feel confident enough about
interpreting the theory to come up with new ideas for and approaches to evaluation. This is also a
good opportunity for you to showcase any good practice in your own organisation in order to make

connections with theory and to aid others� learning.


Evaluating Learning and Development

Evaluation can be defined as an estimation of the entire value of a learning agenda.
During the examination of the value of a learning programme, Human Resource Developers
(HDRs) estimate how much the agenda has met the objectives and compare the benefit
achieved to the resources used for the learning process. There are several models and theories
involved in formulating Human Resource Development programmes evaluations. In this
paper, the focus will be towards analysing the theories, definitions and application of the
practices of evaluation in organizational set ups using examples. Learning, on the other hand,
can be defined as the permanent change in behaviour as a result of an educative process.
Learning programmes in organizations are usually conducted majorly with an intention of
improving the output of the stakeholders who benefit from the process (University of
Liverpool Management School, 2015).
Evaluation is usually done in organizations for several purposes. Easterby-Smith
(1994) supposes that there are four reasons for performing assessments. One of the reasons is
to prove the relevance and value of interventions by use of cost-benefit analysis. Another
reason is to facilitate learning by involving the process of the programme and its results in
estimating that learning has happened. Evaluation may also be done to a learning procedure
to better it by analysing the strengths and weaknesses. This ensures maximum gain from a
learning programme to the involved organization. In some cases, agencies may also evaluate
a learning plan to acquire control of its workers and concerned stakeholders. For example, a
government may design a learning protocol with the aim of controlling the stakeholders’
resultant behaviour.
There are several models of evaluation proposed for learning in organizations. One of
these is the chain reaction model proposed by Kirkpatrick in 1967. The model supposes that

there are four steps of evaluation to a learning process. This model theoretically assumes that
training causes a reaction which causes learning. The resultant learning influences changes in
individuals’ traits that, therefore, beget organizational change. This type of evaluation has a
problem when it comes to measuring the learning achieved. For instance, measuring the
knowledge from training without an apparent objective. It would be hard to test the level of
change on aspects such as the attitude of employees. Therefore, the model is considered
rather superficial and inapplicable on its own in an actual organization. More applicable and
helpful evaluation models have been proposed.
One of the more appropriate models for organizational learning programmes is the six
stages model. To apply the six stage model, the evaluator incorporates the evaluation in the
entire HDR process. The assessment begins with the goals making, it continues all through
the subsequent stages of learning like designing of the program, implementation of the
program, immediate results, intermediate results and finally the long-term outcomes of the
learning process. This model ensures that the process only continues if it is beneficial in
terms of cost-benefit analysis. In this process, analysis of the learning process depends on the
process itself rather than the results. An example is a case where training is done to improve
the attitudes of workers towards the implementation of a policy. The training can be
evaluated from the goal setting process to establish whether it is worthwhile before
implementing the training. This is because training may be done with the assumption that all
training are fruitful, and yet the cost of conducting the training outweighs the benefits
(Anderson 2010).
Organizations can know whether training has been successful be observing the
changes that come from the learning or by evaluating each stage of the learning process. The
hardness of establishing nonquantifiable effect can be solved by observing changes in
discursive practices such as the language used by attendees as part of the six stage evaluation

module (Brinkerhoff 1988). It would be more beneficial for organizations to include the
analysis of this change in discursive behaviour to improve evaluation strategies in place and,
therefore, know whether there is benefit from training programmes in HRD.


Reference list
CIPD (2014) Evaluating learning and development [Online]
Lisa Anderson (2010). Human Resource Development International: ‘Talking the talk’ – a
discursive approach to evaluating management development. Taylor and Francis
Group. 285–298
Robert O. Brinkerhoff (1988). Training and Development Journal: An Integrated Evaluation
Model for HRD.
University of Liverpool Management School (2015). Key Concept Overview: Evaluating
Learning and Development. Laureate Education, Inc

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