Kirkpatrick and Open Badges: Can do better!

Ensuring that the competencies acquired during training are actually transferred to the workplace—what the “Kirkpatrick methodology” defines as assessment level 3-—is a classic human resource management problem. How to address it? And more specifically, how could Open Badges contribute to its resolution?

Open Badges according to Kirkpatrick …

In an attempt to address this question, I went to Kirkpatrick Partners where I discovered a whole range of badges, from simple participation badges (“Kirkpatrick Session Participant”), up to those issued after demonstration of the application of Kirkpatrick Methodology (“Kirkpatrick Certified Professional”).

The 4 levels of assessment according to Kirkpatrick

  • Level 1: Reaction – Did the participants find the training interesting, engaging and relevant to their work?
  • Level 2: Learning – Did the participants gain knowledge, skills, attitudes or self-confidence?
  • Level 3: Behaviour – Has the learning been transferred to a workplace?
  • Level 4: Results – Was there an impact on the organisation’s performance?

First, I find it outstanding that after a mere 3-hour training, participants receive a badge specifying that they are able, among other things, to “plan and deliver training programs with business value in mind.”  How is it possible to measure the acquisition of those skills within a 3 hours “interactive” training session? In addition to being experts in training assessment, would Kirkpatrick Partners also hold a secret recipe to boost the process of skills acquisition and assessment? Or is it mere marketing spiel?

But this is not the most interesting: several of the badges proposed by Kirkpatrick Partners do not correspond to any level of the “Methodology”. For example, “participation” badges do not measure the reaction of the participants (Level 1), as it would be for the participants to validate the criteria. Nor do they measure the acquisition of actual learning (Level 2) – how to demonstrate in 3h the ability to “plan and deliver training programs with business value in mind”?

So, either the badges issued are related to the “Methodology”, and in this case there is something missing, or they do not correspond to anything. My suggestion would be to define these badges as belonging to “Kirkpatrick Level 0” whose definition could be: “the invoice for the participation in the training has been settled”.

We would then have the following levels (of satisfaction):

  • Level 0: the accountant is satisfied
  • Level 1: the learner is satisfied
  • Level 2: the trainer is satisfied
  • Level 3: the line manager is satisfied
  • Level 4: the CEO is satisfied

Kirkpatrick Partners clearly have not (yet) grasped the real opportunities of using Open Badges to support the learning and assessment processes. Badges are treated as mere digital substitutes for paper certificates. The added value for the holders of these badges? Before one had to scan paper certificates to post them on LinkedIn, now one has to print the badges to display them on the office wall…

… to the “K3 Badges “

As an alternative to paperless certificates that are useless at assessing the transfer of learning to the workplace, and in an attempt at taking Donald Kirkpatrick’s teachings seriously, I propose to define what I coined as K3 Badges—’K for Kirkpatrick and ‘3’ for level 3.

What does a K3 Badge look like? To describe it, let’s go through the following scenario (other scenarios are possible):

  1. At the time of registration to a training session, the participant claims and signs the badge describing the competencies that will be acquired during the training intervention;
  2. At the end of the training programme, if satisfied with the acquisition of new competencies, the trainer signs the badge;
  3. When the participant returns to work and provides evidence of the transfer of the new competencies to the workplace, the line manager signs the badge.

The badge is used as an instrument supporting conversations between employees, managers and HR professionals, as well as between companies and training providers. Has a person returned from training several weeks ago with a badge not yet signed by the line manager? Is it because the training was not relevant or not good enough? Is it because the employee didn’t have the opportunity to practice what she learned? Did the line manager fail to provide such opportunities or is she waiting for more evidence?

The analysis of signatures collected via K3 Badges could inform in real time a dashboard on the state of personnel competency development, the commitment of the management to staff development, the quality of training providers, etc. The signature of the trainer could be replaced by that of an expert or mentor, internal or external. We can also imagine badges with 4 or 10 signatures, and even more if we take into account the endorsements collected from peers, clients, managers and professional bodies once a badge has been issued and validated by the line manager.

What is the difference between K3 Badges and Open Badges?

K3 Badges are based on the systematic use of cryptographic signatures, a technology not yet fully exploited by Open Badge platforms but that should be quickly adopted because of its flexibility and its many possible applications.

A demonstration of the power of this emerging technology will be proposed by bit of trust during the International Recognition Week and ePIC 2018 (Paris, 24-26 October).

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