I stumbled on this fantastic comparison of two methods of evaluating learning in the workplace. Most of us are already more than familiar with the Kirkpatrick approach: difficult to manage levels, quantitative, isolated to the learning intervention itself, based on a reductionist method exposing 'averages'. Please believe me when I say I'm not against Kirkpatrick in some contexts. It is important to recognise the limitations of one of the most common models being used in the industry however.
Gram compares this with the success case method. We have Robert Brinkerhoff to thank for this alternative. As soon as I started reading about this approach to evaluation I was attracted to it because of the loose links to appreciative inquiry. I'm a big believer in appreciative inquiry, and although the success method is definitely focused on evaluation (and therefore not just observing but placing conclusions on research), I can see connections. The success method places more value on qualitative evidence and recognises that learning as an 'intervention' cannot be isolated from the context it takes place in.
Keen to get a little more detail on the success case method, in case it could help in your organisation? I'm about to start reading The Success Case Method (and maybe follow up with Telling Training's Story).
I still think there is a case for the Kirkpatrick model evaluation. It's still necessary to demonstrate the impact of learning in businesses, and get data in front of decision makers. How we collect that data, present that data and tell the story about that data, is more and more a part of the role of the in-house L&D professional. Just another set of abilities being added to the changing role of the learning practitioner.