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Farewell Don Kirkpatrick

Farewell Don Kirkpatrick

Posted By: Irene James on May 13, 2014
For the hundreds of you who have completed the OD-ETDP NQF 5 qualification/learnership through Dionysus, you will recall the story Seth and I have often told – of the Godfather of Evaluation, Don Kirkpatrick, at the 2008 ASTD conference in San Diago. Seth and I attended this conference, and were treated to a rare presentation by Kirkpatrick, who died a couple of days ago at age 90.  The old fellow was presenting his classic “4 levels of Evaluation” model to an auditorium of about 2000 people, off an overhead projector (remember them?) with his transparency upside down. – and nobody said a word to correct him.

He eventually realised his mistake, brushed it off, and put a yellowing transparency up and scribbled his extended model – in the worst handwriting imaginable, and obscuring half his transparency projection with his body. He was famous for his model …. and breaking all the rules of presentation.

Don Kirkpatrick presenting at the 2008 ASTD conference in San Diago

Of course, during the presentation, he had to mention his “decades long” spat with Jack Phillips on occasion – which drew many chattering giggles from the audience. (Phillips famously added a fifth level of Evaluation to the Model – Return on Investment  (ROI), which Kirkpatrick always argued was there by implication in his model, anyway).

The man was a legend – he was attributed with the title “Industry pioneer creator of how learning and development is evaluated.”

Quoting from a tribute to him posted on the “Chief Learning Officer” publication yesterday:

“When [Kirkpatrick’s] model debuted in 1959 through a series of four articles in the ASTD journal, the reaction was swift and the effect long-lasting. Kirkpatrick was invited to speak at national conferences and consult with HR leaders at large American companies including Ford.

It used to be that trainers would feel, ‘If we get a good reaction and teach people the skills and knowledge they need, that’s all we can do. We have no control over them when they get back to their job,’” Kirkpatrick told Chief Learning Officer magazine in 2009 at the 50th anniversary of the model. “Yes, you have no control over them, but you must have influence on them, because unless that training gets used on the job, it’s really worthless.”

Often called the Kirkpatrick Model, the four levels measures the results of training in four areas: students’ reaction to training, knowledge they learned as a result, change in behaviour, and the effect on business results.”

He wrote his first book in 1994, followed by seven more.   In 1996, he was named as one of the ASTD’s four “legends”. This is how we remember him:

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