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2 Models for Measuring the Impact of Learning

January 17, 2018


Quick Backstory...

In 2012, Smeal College of Business adopted a new Sustainability Strategic Plan which presented an ambitious educational vision that every student would graduate “able to make the business case for sustainability.”  Many curricular and co-curricular initiatives have been put into place (we have won national awards, made sustainability required for all business students...good stuff!) but the outcomes of these interventions has never been measured.  To state the problem more broadly:


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How do we know our education in sustainability is making a difference in the lives of the students and the organizations where they work?


Clearly if we are to improve our efforts and meet this ambitious goal, we need valid measures of educational impact. It turns out there are proven methodologies and models for this very task. One must look at the fields of training and professional development.


Approaches to Measuring Impact of Learning

This is not my field, but a colleague in the College of Education saw my ignorance and took pity on me. He helped me understand there are two prevailing approaches to measuring the outcomes and impact of training: the Kirkpatrick and Phillips models. 


The Kirkpatrick Model was developed by Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick, now professor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin and past president of Association for Talent Development (ASTD). His book Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels is a seminal work in the area of evaluation.  The model considers four levels at which outcomes can be measured (see below; image credit).


The Phillips Model (see below;