In This Article Training Evaluation

  • Introduction
  • General Overview
  • Training Evaluation Models
  • Training Results
  • Training Impact
  • Technical Aspects of Training Evaluation
  • Building Support for Evaluation

Management Training Evaluation
Kurt Kraiger
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0100


Training evaluation is the systematic collection of data to better manage training programs and training systems. There are two broad forms of evaluation: summative and formative. Summative evaluation addresses the question of whether training “worked”—did trainees master the knowledge and skills covered in training, did training result in improved performance back on the job? Summative evaluation tends to be primarily quantitative in nature, and is usually (but not always) conducted after training. Formative evaluation is typically (but not always) done during training, and is more qualitative in nature. Formative evaluation will often focus on the design and delivery of training and is oriented to improving the quality of the learning experience and the learning outcomes for participants. It is interesting to note that training evaluation was rarely discussed and likely rarely done prior to about 1950. Most industrial training was done on the job by the trainer, and training continued until the trainee could perform effectively; hence the need to evaluate that training was nil. However, as organizations grew in complexity and became more hierarchical, immediate supervisors became less knowledgeable about work tasks, and thus less capable of training subordinates to proficiency; with the emergence of training professionals in the 1940s and 1950s came the recognition of new methods. Through much of the 1960s and 1970s, the development of Training Evaluation Models and methods was guided by training practitioners. However, since the late 1980s, training researchers have advanced new taxonomies of training outcomes, new models for training evaluation, and new ways of linking training evaluation results to organizational planning and decision making. Throughout this entry, taxonomy will be used to refer to the classification of a set of variables (i.e., different ways in which learning in training can be measured). Model will be used to refer to an approach for measuring training outcomes (i.e., a method for deciding which outcomes are the most important to measure for a particular training program). Note that a particular source can include both a taxonomy (a classification of learning outcomes) and a model (an approach to choosing and implementing learning outcomes).

General Overview

The topic of training evaluation can be subdivided into the areas of evaluation models, training outcomes, evaluation design, and statistical analysis. While each topic area deserves a deep dive, an evaluation novice would be bested suited by broader treatments that tie the topic areas together. A good starting point is either chapters in Noe 2013 or Saks and Haccoun 2013. Both works thoroughly discuss all aspects of training evaluation, with Noe emphasizing applications to business and Saks and Haccoun the underlying research. Cascio and Aguinis 2011 can be read either as an overview or as a foundational article with regard to topics on research design. Finally, Salas, et al. 2003 provides an overview of evaluation methodology that is well supported by research, but stated more in terms of principles and best practices.

  • Cascio, W. F., and Herman Aguinis. Applied Psychology in Human Resource Management. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2011.

    E-mail Citation »

    This is a graduate-level textbook on human resource management, not training. However, two chapters are devoted to training, and one to training evaluation. The evaluation chapter focuses more on research design, but has a very thorough section on measuring the financial impact of training.

  • Noe, R. A. Employee Training Development. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2013.

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    This is one of the best selling research-based books on training. It is appropriate for graduate students and advanced undergraduates. It also provides a collection of numerous brief case studies, which is a distinguishing feature. The book contains one chapter on training evaluation and covers both classic and more modern approaches.

  • Saks, A. M., and R. Haccoun. Managing Performance through Training and Development. 6th ed. Toronto: Nelson Education, 2013.

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    This is perhaps the most comprehensive (and deep) overview of Training Evaluation Models and methods. It is appropriate for both undergraduates and graduate students. The authors devote one chapter to training evaluation, and a second to the “Costs and Benefits of Training Programs,” which is simply a more detailed analysis of training evaluation.

  • Salas, E., L. M. Milham, and C. A. Bowers. “Training Evaluation in the Military: Misconceptions, Opportunities, and Challenges.” Military Psychology 15.1 (2003): 3–16.

    DOI: 10.1207/S15327876MP1501_01E-mail Citation »

    This is an easy read, geared more for practitioners, which provides a high-level overview of evaluation myths (e.g., “training evaluation is not needed; we know that it works”) as well as a straightforward overview of what to assess and how to design effective evaluations.

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