Archive for the ‘Training Transfer’ Category

Making Training Stick and Bloom’s Action Verbs

May 18, 2016

Action verbs can be a handy tool to help make your training stick.  I’ve discussed sticky objectives in a previous newsletter and in my white paper on transfer technologies.

As I suggest in these publications, “sticky objectives” should replace traditional instructional objectives for trainees and for their managers. Instructional objectives can be helpful for trainers to use for instructional design; however, before-training and beginning-of-training objectives should specify what the participant should know how to do and be able to do after training, in their job.  These “sticky objectives” signal to the participant what they should do with what they are learning.

 

Transforming instructional objectives into sticky objectives usually involves just a few subtle yet specific changes in wording.  The action verbs below which are linked with Bloom’s Taxonomy** application level can help to transform your instructional objectives into sticky objectives that your participants, their managers, and senior leaders see before, during, and after the training.  Naturally, the specific wording will depend on the skills/information being learned.

Start by taking each instructional objective for your training.  Delete “at the completion of this class” if this phrase or a similar one is there.  Replace it with “In your job” or “on the job”.  Then add an action verb from the list below, and complete the sentence with a description of the skill the participant should use on the job:

For example:  Upon  completion of this training   In your job, you should be able to identify the most appropriate leadership style for a particular employee and use it to obtain desired results.

Note: In some cases you may want to customize some objectives for particular groups of participants.  For example, in a management training program a group of supervisors on the shop floor may have slightly different objective(s) than a group of sales supervisors.

If you start with action verbs like these, the rest of the objective will usually fall into place.

Action Verbs based on Bloom’s Taxonomy application level

Apply

Calculate

Compute

Balance…..by…..

Demonstrate….by….

Determine….by…..

Decide

Employ…..to…..

Illustrate…..by…..

Identify…..and…..

Indicate

Measure…..with…..

Operate

Schedule

Solve…..by…..

Use…..to…..

Utilize…..to…..

Special thanks to Julie at the Association for Iowa Continuing Nursing Education Fall Conference for suggesting this topic.

Until Next Time…

          

**P.S. Where did Bloom’s Taxonomy come from?  In 1956 a team of faculty members at the University of Chicago under the leadership of Benjamin Bloom were seeking to help educators move beyond rote learning of facts.  They developed a taxonomy, or levels, of learning.  These levels of learning are frequently used in educational settings including workplace learning.  The levels are: knowledge (recall), comprehension (understand), application (use), analysis (analyze), and evaluate (judge or assess).  Bloom and his team also identified three domains of learning:  cognitive (thinking and evaluating), psychomotor (physical and perceptual), and affective (feelings and preferences, values).  For more information from a variety of sources, Google Bloom’s Taxonomy.

A Retention Aid – Interleaving

July 14, 2015

I recently went on a hiking vacation in Utah with a group of like-minded people. Our guide was a professional wildlife conservationist and geologist.  As we hiked along trails, he pointed out many different species of birds and trees as well as geology formations.  This information was interesting but a lot to take in as I concentrated on breathing and avoiding boulders on the steep paths.  When we encountered something we had seen previously, he would ask us if we could recall the name or something about it.  Sometimes he would also use the opportunity to ask us a few questions about other things we had seen.

By the end of the trip I was able to identify 5 different types of pine trees, 3 type of hawks, and many different desert mountain flowers and plants.  Pretty cool….considering that my goal was to hike and enjoy the scenery and I really didn’t care whether or not I learned the names of the flora and fauna.

Why was I able to have such good recall?  Our guide, a former teacher, used a technique called “interleaving.”  This teaching/learning technique involves mixing up recall and practice nonsequentially.  It is the opposite of “block practice”, where lesson, practice, and recall are done all at once.  Think about it this way:   If you want to teach 3 learning points, A, B, and C, a block practice session would look something like this:  AAABBBCCC.   An interleaved practice session would look like this:  ACBABCB AC (randomized).

Numerous studies support the effectiveness of interleaving vs block practice to achieve long-term learning and retention.  (Interestingly, many people in studies who used interleaved practice performed worse than their counterparts using block practice during the practice session, but performed better when tested at a later date.)

Here are some suggestions for how to use interleaving in your training.  Detailed descriptions of how organizations such as Farmers Insurance and Jiffy Lube use it in their training are in the book Make It Stick (good title!) by Brown, Roediger and McDaniel.

  • Begin your teaching – whether live, virtual, synchronous, or asynchronous – with a story or two that illustrates the application of several learning points.
  • As you present each learning point, relate it back to the story and point out how it was used, could have been used, and so on.
  • As the learning module(s) progresses and you go on to other topics, randomly ask questions about one or more of the previously-presented learning points and relate back to the application story. 
  • After the learning event (class or elearning module) is finished, continue randomly quizzing via occasional emails.  For more information about after-training technologies to do this, see my white paper Training Transfer Technologies.
  • Consider using hard copy aids such as flash cards (digital versions could be created in PowerPoint) to randomize quizzing.

While my hiking guide used this technique intuitively (I asked him), many of us should do it intentionally.  I have made some adjustments to classes I have designed to accommodate this technique.  I’d like to hear from other trainers who use who or are trying interleaving.

 

Note:  The term interleaving is also used in computer disc storage.  Here it refers to rearranging blocks of digital information on storage discs to improve speed of access.

Until next time…

Barbara

How do you know training has “stuck”?

February 27, 2015

Assessing whether learning is really being used on the job is challenging for many trainers.  End-of-class level 2 evaluation is easy enough to do:  the participant demonstrates skill or knowledge acquisition at the end of the training.  We might also assess pre-training  learning and compare.  But determining  whether skills and knowledge are actually being used on the job is another matter entirely.

The most straightforward way to do this is to simply ask participants if they are using what they learned and to what extent.  But are we actually getting an accurate measure of whether a participant is using their learning?  In a previous Sticky Note I mentioned neuroscience research that points out people often think they know, have experienced, or are experiencing something when in fact they have not.  This illusion calls into question the practice of assessing on-the-job use of skills learned in training, by asking participants if they are using it.  The key issues are:

  • Are participants actually aware of how and in what ways they are using what they learned in a training class?
  • Can participants distinguish between what they are applying from a particular class and what they are doing for other reasons such as another previous training, intuition or trial and error?
  • How much are these self-reports tempered with wanting to provide the appropriate response, to please the trainer, the boss, the organization?
  • Studies on these types of self-reports indicate they are unreliable.  One study found that self-reports produced positive responses that were 35% more positive than reports by participants’ managers.

What’s a trainer to do?  What are more accurate ways to test whether learning is being applied?

  • In post-training reaction level 1 evaluation, ask participants about their “intention to transfer”, that is, whether they plan to use what they have learned, and how they plan to use it.  Studies show there is a strong link between intention to transfer and later actual transfer.
  • After training at a point in time when participants should have had an opportunity to use the training, ask their managers (a quick survey, or more detailed focus group) whether their employee is using the skills learned in training and how they are using them.  Six weeks and three months post-training are popular times.
  • To reduce the tendency to give the desired positive response, ask managers and participants specific behavior-based questions, known as a Behavior Observation Scales (BOS).  Assessing on a 5 point scale (1 = Almost Never,  5 = Almost Always), specific behaviors linked to class objectives are addressed.  For example, for a class on coaching, one behavior observation scale item is “Provides feedback regularly”.  A BOS item for a sales training class: “Reviews individual productivity results with manager”.
  • Instead of – or in addition to – asking participants and their managers, poll a select group of individuals, perhaps one level above participants’ managers,who are in a position to see many participants’ on-the-job behavior.   One study paired an HR rep with each of these individuals, and the role of the HR rep was to assist the manager with completing the Behavior Observation Scales.
  • Instead of assessing the learning application for every participant, assess a sample of participants.  In general, 30% of the total number of participants should provide a reasonably accurate representation of all trainees in a particular training program.

Don’t rely on your “gut feelings” about whether trainees are using what they learn in training.  Use popular, free survey software or features of your LMS to find out how much of your training is sticking!

 

Until Next Time…

 

 

PS:  Join me at ATD (formerly ASTD) International Conference and Expo May 17-20.  I will be presenting on Evidence-Based Techniques for Training Transfer.  

Sticky Objectives

December 11, 2014

I’ve been working recently converting training/learning objectives to “sticky objectives,” and I’d like to share a few thoughts with you. As most of us know, good instructional objectives are essential for effective training and evaluation. A couple of points about instructional objectives before I continue:

  • A good instructional objective should include 3 things: 1) the performance (what the trainee should be able to do after the training, 2) the condition (when, ex. “when conducting a performance evaluation”), and 3) the criteria (how well). If the objective does not contain all three of these elements, it can’t effectively indicate the desired result of the training.
  • Most instructional objectives are preceded by the this phrase: “at the conclusion of the training, the participant will be able to:”
  • It may not be useful to share the instructional objectives with the trainees. It may be more helpful to develop instructional objectives for use in the design process with trainers, program sponsors, and other “insiders,” and to write and publish objectives that are focus on specific job performance, such as “conduct an effective performance review,” “use the 6 key functions in Excel,” and “use the Situational Leadership model to identify the appropriate mix of direction and support for an employee”…. for use with trainees in the learning events. In my experience, many trainees are intimidated or just don’t relate well with instructional objectives (some trainers too, but that’s a different issue).

take-a-lookNow that I’ve commented on instructional objectives, I’d like you to consider this:

  • What is the purpose or point of the training and of the training objectives? Is it to demonstrate knowledge or a skill or possibly even an attitude change at the end of the training? In most cases, the answer to this question is “no.” The purpose of most training is for trainees to apply certain knowledge, skills or attitudes to their jobs so that their performance is more effective in specific, targeted ways.

So if the purpose of the training is for trainees to use certain skills in their job performance,

  • The objectives should be written to describe what trainees should be able to do, on the job, after the training. If we look at instructional objectives from this perspective, the performance, conditions, and criteria may not change. What will change, though, is the statement that precedes the objectives: “at the conclusion of the training, the participants will be able to….” Instead substitute “in their job performance, the participants will….” Remember, our focus should be on what they will do, not what they can or will be able to do.yearend-book-bundleMaking these simple adjustments in the wording of instructional objectives – and in the more general objectives shared with trainees – can keep trainer and trainee focused on the true goal of the training – on-the-job performance.

    Until Next Time…
    Barbara

The Illusion of Learning

September 19, 2014

Are your participants guilty of the illusion of learning?

I came across an interesting concept as I was reviewing recent studies in neuroscience related to Making Training Stick®. It’s called the Illusion of Knowing and refers to people’s errors in perception. For example, we seem to be hearing more in the news about individuals who have been convicted and incarcerated for crimes that later DNA testing proves they didn’t commit. Eye witness accounts have identified the individual as the perpetrator only to be proven wrong years later. These memory distortions arise out of our discomfort for ambiguity and our desire to “have the right answer”.

recent-booksSo in a level 1 evaluation when participants are asked “what did you learn?” their responses may well be shaped more by this illusion of what they would like to have learned and what they know they should have learned, than by what they have actually learned.

Another illusion is called Imagination Inflation, which is the tendency of people who when asked to imagine an event, will sometimes begin to believe, when asked about it later, that the event actually occurred. For example, if a level 3 post-training survey asks a participant how they are applying their learning, they may believe that they have applied it or are applying it when they actually have not or are not. This is particularly troublesome with complex learning of tasks/behaviors where application is less than straightforward such as soft skills: customer service, management, communication.

How to overcome these illusions of learning? Feedback. Studies show that when students have an opportunity to reflect on their demonstration of learning and on their performance, their perceptions of their learning and performance become more accurate. This is called metacognition, the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes and learning. If you are one of the many individuals who, based on the notion that adults do not want to be tested, have shyed away from testing (as I have), I urge you to reconsider. Testing and then providing participants with correct answers is one way to provide feedback and reduce their Illusions of Knowing regarding what they have learned. This of course also serves as level 2 evaluation of learning.

Another feedback tool is the Behavior Observation Scale (BOS). This can reduce participants’ possible illusions about what they are applying or have applied. Develop a set of behaviors that demonstrate successful application of the skill(s) during or prior to the design phase. This can be done by the designer and/or other interested stakeholders in the training. Provide a Likert 5-choice scale for each behavior. This BOS should then be used by the participant and/or their manager to assess their on-the-job application. This of course may double as a level 3 evaluation.

mels-burstHere’s what you can do to reduce illusions of learning and improve course feedback from level 1, 2, and 3 evaluations:

  • Review your end-of-training level 1 evaluation form and eliminate questions that ask participants what they learned. Consider instead asking a question or two about how they intend to apply their learning. (Research studies have found a strong relationship between reports of intention to apply and actual application.)
  • Consider adding testing to all training. If you currently use tests, incorporate opportunities for participants to review their answers vis a vis the correct answers.
  • Develop Behavior Observation Scales for complex learning. Distribute these to participants and their managers post-training, when they are most likely to have had an opportunity to apply their learning.
  • Consider ways to “motivate” them to respond. (My favorite is to withhold credit for the class until post-training feedback has been received.)

Until next time…

Barbara

Opportunity to Perform

May 1, 2014

I was forced to take an online class recently to learn skills that I will not need to use for at least three months.  A gun wasn’t placed at my head so maybe “forced” is a bit strong, but I certainly felt forced.  The situation was this:  a university for which I teach occasional online classes is in the process of changing over to a new technology platform.  The change-over schedule was announced and the area where I teach will be one of the last to implement the new technology, which will be several months away.  However, all instructors must take the five-day new technology orientation class now. Will I remember what I’ve learned when it is time to use it?  I doubt it.  Fortunately a lot of the instruction is via text documents that can be saved, so I have tucked them away in a digital file for future reference when needed.

Research has consistently shown that transfer is limited when trainees do not have the opportunity to perform, sometimes known as opportunity to practice, newly acquired skills.  In many studies, the opportunity to perform was rated as the highest form of support for learners, and the lack of opportunity to use training was rated as the biggest obstacle to transfer of the training.

Here are some suggestions and reminders to help support trainees’ opportunity to practice and perform newly learned skills:

  • Before training, communicate with trainees’ managers and ask them to plan time and assignments for when training is completed, so trainees can immediately try out their learning.  This communication can be auto-sent to managers at the same time class registration is confirmed.
  • During training, provide opportunities throughout the training – whether live training or self-paced elearning – for the trainee to plan when and how they will begin using what they are learning.  Encourage them to discuss this with their manager.
  • After training, send follow-up reinforcement messages to trainees reminding them to find opportunities to practice their new skills.
  • Training Transfer Technologies - Free White PaperFor certain types of training such as management or compliance training, follow up after training byemailing short “what if” scenarios and case studies and asking or requiring participants to respond.  Note:  several new training transfer technologies are well suited for such follow-up.  My Training Transfer Technologies white paper provides a n overview of them.  Request your free copy.
  • Prepare participants who aren’t able to practice or perform right away.  Provide a manual, short documents and/or web-based support tools for them to refer to when they have the opportunity and the need to use what they have learned.
  • Set up social media communities to provide support and learning at the moment of need.  Send periodic reminders to visit the communities to give and get assistance and advice.

Often there is not a choice as to when training is offered and when new skills can be practiced.  We should all do our best to try to reduce the time between training and performance.  And when it’s not possible to narrow the gap, provide support tools to narrow the gap.

Until next time…

Barbara

Making training stick with positive expectations

February 12, 2014

Training transfer studies have consistently found that participants’ positive expectations – or not having negative expectations – have an impact on whether they apply their learning.  Now we have some proof that participants’ expectations can be influenced by other people such as their trainer and their manager.

Neuroscientists devised an experiment where they manipulated positive and negative expectations of students while their brains were scanned and then tested their performance on cognitive tasks.  To induce expectations of success they were primed with positive or negative descriptors just before asking them to perform a test.  When they were primed with positive words, they performed better than when primed with negative words.  Even more interesting, they responded differently to mistakes depending on whether they had been primed with the positive or the negative terms.  When the mistake followed positive words, the region of the brain involved with self-reflection and recollection was engaged.  When they were primed with negative words there as no heightened activity after the wrong answer.  It appears that when primed with negative descriptors their brains expected to do poorly (“self-fulfilling prophecy”) and did not show signs of surprise or conflict when an error was made.  However, when primed with positive descriptors, their brains reflected on what they did wrong and, presumably, worked to figure out how they could have done better.

What can we do to increase positive expectations so participants have better transfer of training to their jobs?

  • Communicate with trainees’ managers prior to the training.  Ask them to communicate with their employee and provide talking points about the reason for the training, how they will apply it to their jobs AND to express their positive expectations with words and phrases (descriptors) such as “I know you will pick it up”…and “a sharp person like you”….etc.
  • In the class announcement, registration confirmation, and other pre-class communications, include “can do” encouraging messages with positive descriptors such as “our talented employees”…..”you clever participants”….”quick, knowledgeable”…etc.
  • Pair each trainee up with a buddy.  As an introductory activity either before or during training, have the buddies spend a few minutes getting to know one another.  Then ask each in turn to share 3 positive adjectives or descriptors about the other.
  • As an initial activity whether live or self-paced, ask the participant to think about a time when they were successful at something – at work or personally.  Instruct them to think about how they felt at that time and to come up with 3 positive adjectives or descriptors about themselves.  This could be recorded in the notes section of an elearning program or typed into the chat of a live virtual session.
  • At the beginning of live training, in introductions or early in the training, the instructor should make an active effort to use positive descriptors for class members individually and/or as a group using phrases such as “you are a bright group of trainees”…”brilliant idea”…”I can see we have a class of excellent performers.”

By priming participants in these ways, we can increase their positive expectations and help to make their learning stick.
Until next time,

Barbara

**Read my white paper on new training transfer technologies!
Barbara Carnes, Ph.D.
Carnes and Associates, Inc.
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Tips for Using Action Plans

January 13, 2014

The beginning of every year brings media features on resolutions for the new year and plans of action targeting new behaviors.  Whether an action plan is developed personally or it is part of a company-sponsored training, it may be helpful to review some ideas and suggestions to make action plans more effective, so they accomplish their purpose.

Action planning as a formalized practice can be traced back to the 1950s, and the practice has been linked through numerous research studies to higher levels of training transfer.  These written plans can be quite detailed and specific or brief and general.  Action items or steps may be dictated or suggested by the trainer (or elearning content), or participants may be asked to develop their own.

Most commonly the action plan is introduced toward the end of training as an activity for the participant to identify steps they will take to implement their new learning.  In some cases their supervisor is involved in after-training follow-up using the action plan as a focal point.  More often, however, after training the action plan soon becomes forgotten.

Here are some suggestions to increase the effectiveness of action plans.  They can be used in live training (face-to-face or live virtual) and in e-learning.  Use them also as part of your own individual development.

  • Provide a copy of the end-of-training action plan to participants’ supervisors.  If they are participating in a mentoring or coaching program, provide or suggest they provide a copy of the action plan to their mentor or coach also.
  • Introduce elements of the action plan at the beginning of training.  Invite them to complete parts of it at various points in the training – not just at the end.
  • Provide several action items in the action plan to help the participant “get the ball rolling.”
  • Use first-person questions in the action plan form to provide a more compelling experience.  For example:

o   “What will I do to implement what I have learned in this training?”

o   “What results can I expect to get by doing this?”  “When?”

o   “Who should I share this plan with, for support, encouragement, and accountability?”

o   “What obstacles may stand in my way?”  “How can they be overcome?”

  • Provide follow-up messaging that encourages participants regarding some aspects of the action plan.  For example, send an email, text message or instant message at one-week, two-week, six-week, and three-month intervals with each one focusing on one or two items or questions in the plan.
  • Request action plan results from each participant at an appropriate point after the training.  Use these results for level 3 (behavior) evaluation of the training.
  • Use social media such as a web page or Facebook -type page for participants to share their results, challenges, and successes.

Incorporating some of these action plan enhancements will increase participants’ transfer of training and help to make their training stick.

Isn’t the beginning of a new year a good time to make your own action plan for increasing the effectiveness of action plans in your training?

Until next time…..

Barbara

Generational Differences in Making Training Stick

December 9, 2013

I’m often asked if there is any research on generational differences related to making training stick.  In other words, do certain transfer strategies and techniques “work better” with Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y?

There isn’t any research that I’m aware of (and I think I would be, if there were) that links training transfer strategies and techniques with different generations.  There is, however, some interesting research on generational differences that we can use as we consider ways to increase training transfer.  Keep in mind as you read below that we need to be careful to avoid over-generalizing, and a person’s birth year is only one of many characteristics that describe an individual.

Most of us are familiar with the characteristics of generational groups.  For interesting articles and background information on this, here are some helpful articles:

http://rtc.umn.edu/docs/2_18_Gen_diff_workplace.pdf

http://www.fdu.edu/newspubs/magazine/05ws/generations.htm

Baby Boomers and Making Training Stick.  In a study of European managers, researchers found that organizational commitment is significantly higher among older generations – Traditionalists and Baby Boomers (although there are not many Traditionalists that remain in the workforce these days).  Organizational commitment is one of the characteristics that training transfer research has linked with higher rates of transfer, and is in the Training Transfer Process model I propose in my book,Making Learning Stick. This commitment to the organization suggests that Boomers are more inclined to want to transfer learning to their jobs because of their commitment to the organization, so we just need to make the connection for them.

Another characteristic of Boomers is that they tend to prefer the structure of a formal classroom, whether face-to-face or virtual.  Transfer strategies should involve completing and returning forms such as pre-work assessments, action plans, and post-training assignments and discussions.  While many Boomers are comfortable and highly skilled with computers and the internet, others are not.  Consider whether to use digital, hard copy, or both versions of the tools.

Value of Learning and Gen X/Gen Y.   In the study of European managers I mentioned earlier, researchers found that younger generations (late Gen X and Gen Y) tend to place a higher value on learning than older generations do.  This is indeed good news and may well be an indication that these younger learners are more self-motivated to participate in learning and maybe also more self-motivated to apply it.  Other research and information about generational differences poins to the fact that while both Gen X and Gen Y tend to place a high value on learning (higher than their older cohorts), they tend to differ in the types of learning they prefer.  This is probably also true for the types of transfer strategies that surround the learning.

Generation Xers and Making Training Stick.  Gen Xers value personal interaction such as coaching and mentoring.  Training transfer strategies that capitalize on the trainee’s manager and post-training follow up with the instructor are likely to be most effective with this group.  While they may participate in e-learning to learn key concepts, you should see the best training transfer with pre- and post-training in-person and/or virtual discussions on Facebook-type portals, coaching, mentoring, and other interactions with their manager, with peers, and with their instructor.

Generational Y and Making Training Stick.  As digital natives, members of this generation are most comfortable with virtual learning – formal and informal.  Transfer strategies that may be most effective with this group might include e-learning modules, program-specific websites, collaborative wikis, threaded discussions, just-in-time expert systems, and Twitter-type reinforcers and reminders, all that can be accessed 24/7, as needed.

Keep these generational differences in mind along with generational mix of your participants as you develop multiple techniques and strategies for making the training that you do, stick.

Until next time…

Barbara

 

 

 

Upcoming events:   Training Mag webinar Technology Tools To Make Training Stick, January 8 Register here

Sheldon Teaches Penny Physics (Big Bang Theory)

November 6, 2013

I enjoy the TV sitcom Big Bang Theory.  Apparently a lot of other people do too because reruns seem to appear often – on several channels in different time slots.  Recently I saw a segment where Sheldon teaches – or tries to teach – Penny physics.  His teaching is a great example of how not to engage a learner as well as many other mistakes some instructors make.

The six-minute version on YouTube provides an opportunity to apply the before-during-after time periods related to transfer and also to apply some of my Training Transfer Process model.

Click here to watch the excerpt of the episode.  While you’re watching I hope you’ll think about what Sheldon should have done differently and what he could have done before and after the session with Penny that might have helped her apply her learning.

When you’ve finished viewing, read my comments about how Sheldon could have applied aspects of my Training Transfer Process….and share your comments too.

Enjoy!

Until next time….

Barbara