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Jon Kennard


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Don Kirkpatrick: Evaluation loses a founding father

Don_Web Use 2014

On 9 May 2014, the world of L&D said goodbye to one of its most important and well-known figures, Donald Kirkpatrick.

There are certainly popular alternative methodologies to the Kirkpatrick Four Levels, the sequential analysis of learning evaluation he developed in the mid-20th Century, but few have had such an influence on so many businesses across the world. We contacted a few industry thought leaders to get their thoughts on the legacy he will leave behind.

"From a 1959 series of articles in the Journal of the American Society of Training Directors, Donald Kirkpatrick initiated an interest in evaluation that spread across the entire L&D industry. Times have moved on, and we are now using a range of evaluation methods, and we owe this gentle man a debt for starting it all off." - Donald H Taylor, chairman, Learning and Performance Institute

"Don Kirkpatrick’s legacy is that his name is almost synonymous with learning evaluation. Without always agreeing with his analysis, there is no doubt that he was a major figure - perhaps the major figure - in learning evaluation over more than half a century since his seminal work in the 1950s. I never met Don, but I corresponded with him during research for my 2011 book, 101 L&D Tools, and he was generous with his time. He will be greatly missed." - Kenneth Fee, founder, Airthrey

"The Kirkpatrick evaluation model is as timeless as the rock ‘n’ roll anthems that also came out of the 50’s. Don will be remembered, and revered, as an icon in training circles as much as Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry are icons to rock fans." - Paul Matthews, MD, People Alchemy

"I love the expression 'necessity is the mother of invention' – mainly because it’s so true! In the case of evaluation, the late Donald Kirkpatrick invented the Kirkpatrick model because at the time, nothing else existed. But, as with so many truly great people, he seemed humble about his achievement and amazed at his international recognition – as if what he had created had taken on a life of its own. And perhaps it did. Many of us dream of creating something that lives way beyond us - Donald Kirkpatrick achieved that, and what he created was definitely a seed for change that will continue to flourish.” - Susie Finch, journalist and former editor of TrainingZone

"In 1954 Don Kirkpatrick completed his dissertation for his PhD on a four-stage course evaluation model. It became public five years later and ever since the name Kirkpatrick has become synonymous with learning measurement and the focus of great debate. But 60 years ago he put his finger on something that is more important today than ever before - L&D professionals need to concentrate on results not just reaction. As we start to embrace new models of learning for new ways of working, it is important to remember Don's legacy - our focus should be on delivering value rather than delivering courses." - Laura Overton, MD, Towards Maturity

Donald Kirkpatrick. March 15, 1924 - May 9, 2014.

One Response

  1. Thank you

    On behalf of the Kirkpatrick family, I want to say thank you for all of the kind words that are being shared about Don. Jim and I are touched as well by the number of people who have reached out to us to share their sympathy, both publicly and privately. We really appreciate the wonderful support of this community. 



Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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