Learning Re-Imagined

Skillsoft Blog

On the Passing of Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick

By Laura Rexford

From all of us at Skillsoft, we offer sympathy to the Kirkpatrick family who are grieving the loss of its beloved patriarch, Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick. We also express our gratitude for Dr. Kirkpatrick’s thought leadership and contributions which we rely on daily to help organizations show the value of investing in learning.

While I never had the pleasure of personally meeting Dr. Kirkpatrick, I sorely wish I had the opportunity for many reasons; the worst of which is a story that illustrates how great thinkers and creators like Don Kirkpatrick often have no idea how far reaching their influence is. In the early 90’s I began my career on the frontline in financial services and quickly worked my way into field management.

After several years of success, I realized I was good at teaching others how to do the job, so I immigrated into the unfamiliar world of training. “Alien” does not begin to describe it. Hired for my abilities to lead a team and my functional expertise, the theory was it would be “easy” for me to learn the training business. The internet was new back then, so hard copy books, mentors, self-study and specialized certificates or degrees were essential to building expertise. I had a lot to learn, but needed to connect with my new peer group quickly. Being young and foolish, I felt I needed to impress my new colleagues, so when the conversation turned to training evaluation one afternoon I jumped at the chance to be “in the know.” A very experienced, well-educated peer spoke of the astute Don Kirkpatrick.

This was my chance! Wasn’t my lifelong best friend’s dad named Don Kirkpatrick? Yes! He was! Didn’t he have some sort of job I’d never heard of? Yes! He did! With wild abandon I made proclamations! You should have seen the look on the faces of my coworkers when I announced I not only knew Don Kirkpatrick, but he was a very close friend. Later that afternoon, I realized there was absolutely no connection to my Don Kirkpatrick and THE Don Kirkpatrick. I drove immediately to the bookstore and purchased The Four Levels. Three days and nights of study later, I was conversant and had learned a vital lesson in humility. And, from there my career evolved in exciting, positive ways I could have never predicted.

Dr. Kirkpatrick, I hope, would laugh at this story involving my over-exercised twenty-something insecurities and a case of mistaken identity.  He never meant to teach me the bigger lessons I learned from that experience or influence my path so greatly, but it happened. I am grateful to Dr. Kirkpatrick for many years of growth from that day forward. His legacy lives in the growing demand for evidence of learning’s impact, in the continued work of Kirkpatrick Partners, and in individuals worldwide like me whose professional practices include The Four Levels as a staple.

Rest peacefully, Dr. Kirkpatrick….and thank you.

Laura Rexford is a Manager, Client Loyalty at Skillsoft. Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauraRexford

Skillsoft Books24x7® BusinessPro™ users can access material by Dr. Kirkpartrick  with their subscription. Get more information on Skillsoft business training.

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