Posts Tagged ‘making training stick’

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,


**Read my white paper on new training transfer technologies!
Barbara Carnes, Ph.D.
Carnes and Associates, Inc.
Connect with me on LinkedIn
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888-35-STICK (888-357-8425)

Effective trainers help make training stick.

March 21, 2013

Most research on training transfer has focused on strategies to increase transfer of training such as: instructional design strategies, content reinforcement, manager/peer support before and after, opportunity to use, and trainee accountability.  All of these are certainly important strategies to increase transfer of training.  But one thing has been mostly missing from almost all research and models on training transfer– and this has always puzzled me: the interpersonal dynamics of the trainer and participants.

…Mostly missing until now that is. A recent study by Paul Donovan and David Darcy reported in the International Journal of Training and Development found that in addition to the usual factors that support high levels of training transfer, their survey of participants identified trainer effectiveness as having a strong link to transfer of training.  Participants responded positively to statements about trainer preparation, enthusiasm, commitment to training goals, relating training to participant job needs, and providing good feedback.  Participants also responded positively to statements about participants working well together in the training and engaging in free and useful information exchange. 

In my dissertation research some 15 years ago I found links between transfer of training and the trainer interacting with individual participants, modeling skills being taught, demonstrating empathy, and appearing “genuine” and competent. 

With this research in mind, here are reminders for trainer actions in face-to-face and live virtual training that research shows will help make the training stick well.  Which 1-2 things do you see that you can to do more/better?

  • Prepare well.  Don’t skimp on prep time or try to fake it.  It shows, participants notice, and it can affect how well they apply what they learn as well as how well they learn it.
  • Be enthusiastic about the learning content. If you don’t feel enthusiastic, fake it.  Consider using caffeine or energy boosters to help.
  • Commit to the goals of the training – not just the learning goals but the overall reason for the training.  Show your commitment by making sure you communicate the link between your organization’s strategic mission/goals/plan and the training.
  • Be sure you understand the job role of each participant in the training and how the training can be applied in their job.  Do your homework ahead of time on this if necessary.  If this isn’t possible, at the beginning of the training discuss with participants how the training can be applied to each specific job.
  • Provide specific, relevant feedback to each participant.  Don’t use practice time to take a break.  Walk around, observe each individual participant, and provide feedbackon their practice.  Be available to answer questions during this time.  Talk with individual participants during practice time and/or on breaks.    
  • Make sure you model skills being taught. This is an especially critical factor for soft skills training.  More than once I’ve had trainees comment to me about a particular trainer who was teaching participative management, active listening, consultative selling, or similar collaborative skills but the trainer was directive and unreceptive to participant questions and input.
  • Empathize with participants.  If you have had a job similar to theirs, let them know this andshare a few “war stories”.  If you haven’t had a job like theirs, get input from people with similar job titles prior to the training and use what you learn in these conversations to relate with participants. 
  • Demonstrate self-confidence – verbally and non-verbally – in your ability to teach the class and to perform the skills.

Until next time…..



Sticky objectives

July 20, 2012

I’ve taught several train-the-trainer sessions recently and the topic of objectives has figured prominently.  As most of us know, good instructional objectives are essential for effective training evaluation at all levels.  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 of a more general nature, such as “learn how to conduct an effective performance review” 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).

Now 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 jobsso 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, shouldn’t the objectives be written to describe what they 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 of “at the conclusion of the training”, 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.

Making 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….


P.S. Follow me on Twitter: @StickyTraining

**Read my white paper on new training transfer technologies!
Barbara Carnes, Ph.D.
Carnes and Associates, Inc.
Connect with me on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter
Check out our Facebook fan page
888-35-STICK (888-357-8425)

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Use Threaded Discussions to Make Training Stick Better

April 5, 2012

Whether your training is face-to-face,  live virtual (“webinar”), e-learning, or a blend, a threaded discussion can be a valuable add-on or an integral part of the training that adds an element of participant interaction and critical thinking.

Research on training transfer has found that trainee interaction, especially in e-learning, increases learning and transfer.  Threaded discussions are a relatively quick and easy way to provide opportunities for interaction.  The written discussion also makes it easier for non-native English (or any other language) speakers to participate.  And, people can participate at their convenience.

An instructor training class really opened my eyes to the value of threaded discussions.  Skeptical at first, I soon began to see that these types of online discussions provide opportunities for more thoughtful responses and discussion than I saw in face-to-face classes.  There was no competition for “air time” and no limit as to how many students could respond.

What is a threaded discussion and how do you set one up?  A threaded discussion begins when a question is posed which starts the thread.  When responses are posted, they appear under the question, like comments to a blog.  Unlike a blog or any other social media, when responses are posted to the response, they appear “threaded” under that response.  In an active discussion, you will see responses to the original question, responses to the response, responses to that response, and so on – several levels deep.

Types of questions which work best as threaded discussion starters are open-ended:

  • Questions that ask about participants’ experience with something
  • Questions that pose hypothetical problem for them to solve
  • Short case studies for them to react to
  • Socratic questions that ask for an example, why something is important, or how one idea or technique fits with another one.

To get started:

  •  Identify key concepts in the learning content that may need further clarification or can be expanded with discussion.  Think about how participants should apply the learning.
  • Locate the best software platform to host the threaded discussion.  Many LMS platforms have threaded discussion features, although many times they have not been activated.  A Linked In group can also be created for this purpose since it is possible to restrict groups to “by invitation only”.  The threaded discussion should be accessible via an internet link for best results.
  • Determine who will moderate and lead the discussions.  This person can be a training instructor, course designer, subject matter expert, or line manager.  Since most of the discussion will be done by participants, the leader simply needs to respond to questions, pose follow-up questions, and make sure the discussions stay focused on the topic.
  • Require participation in threaded discussions as part of the class.  For example, to complete the class, each participant must post at least 3 times on 3 different days.
  • If participants have not been in class together, post an Introductions thread and ask people to share something specific about themselves – favorite hobby, what they do on Friday after work, if they have a pet, etc.  Be sure to share something about yourself.
  • Post suggestions and guidance for discussion posts, for example:

– Show you are reading others’ comments by

referring to them in your own posts.

– Agree/disagree and say why

– Share links, books, articles on the topic

– Keep comments constructive – no griping!

Do you use threaded discussions in your training? Please drop me a short note and let me know how you’re using them.

Until next time…