Posts Tagged ‘Training Transfer’

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.
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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.


Until next time….


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…..



Should you get certified?

February 4, 2013

I’m just back from ASTD’s TechKnowledge conference in San Jose – great conference and I’m pleased to say that my session on Making E-learning Stick was well received.  I found a couple of great new training transfer resources that I’ll share in a future newsletter, but in this newsletter I want to respond to a question that several trainers at the conference asked me:

Should I get certified?

Elearning! magazine did a survey last year on this topic and here are the results:

  • 89% of the HR and Learning and Development professionals surveyed said that a certification was important during the hiring process, and 92% said if two candidates had equivalent experience they would hire the person with a certification.
  • 93% said that an individual with a certification credential would earn more money.
  • 93% said it was important for a certification credential to be “portable”….that is, not industry-specific, so it would be useful to them regardless of industry or specific company.

That’s pretty impressive!

The next question of course is which certification is best?  This of course depends on your specific goals.  The ASTD CPLP certification is a rigorous, multi-faceted experience that includes study materials and requires testing as well as submission of work samples.  The cost depends on whether or not you are a member of ASTD National.

Kirpatrick Partners offer several levels – bronze, silver, and gold – certification in their evaluation ROE process.  

The Making E-learning Stick™ certification is the only certification for the transfer of technology-supported training.

Interestingly, few certifications except Making E-Learning Stick™ in the learning and development field address learning transfer!

What’s the difference between certification and a certificate program?  Certification is a demonstration of knowledge and competence.  The participant needs to demonstrate in some way – test, work sample, implementation plan, etc. – their learning.  On the other hand, a certificate simply indicates you have taken the class or series of classes.  If you want the career advantages mentioned in the survey, get certified, don’t just take a certificate program.

Over 900 people signed up for my ASTD webinar on Making E-Learning Stick last month.  This is a good indication that there’s a lot of interest in learning transfer, including but not limited to the transfer of technology-supported training.  Leaders in organizations focus on results, and the learning and development or HR professional who can show through a certification that they understand how to transfer training into business results, will likely get the nod when it comes to promotion, choice assignments, and new jobs.

Shouldn’t you get certified?

Until next time…..


Trainee Motivation to Transfer … What can you do?

June 26, 2012

Trainee motivation is a well-known and generally accepted predictor of training transfer.  But what exactly is meant by “trainee motivation” and how can we as instructors, designers, and HR professionals influence trainees to become more motivated to apply more of what they learn in training?

Recent research studies on training transfer point out there are two basic types of trainee motivation to transfer learning:  autonomous and controlled.  Autonomous motivation refers self-motivation.  Controlled motivation refers to requirements, conditions, and imperatives in trainees’ work environments.  Here are some illustrations:

Examples of autonomous motivation to transfer training:

  •  A trainee sees how a class and the skills learned will fit into their career plan and help them further their career
  • A learner is stimulated by new ideas and by trying out new approaches and skills
  • A trainee is currently experiencing a problem or challenge and they believe the training will help them solve it
  • A participant believes that they will not be punished for trying something new and possibly making a mistake, and in fact they will receive support for trying out new skills and behaviors

Examples of controlled motivation to transfer training:

  • A learner’s  performance review development plan has a particular class or skill listed and/or they want to receive a higher performance rating on a specific skill or skill set
  • A trainee knows that their peers and their manager will expect them to begin using new skills learned in training
  • A participant has an after-training action plan and will be held accountable by the trainer and/or their manager for specific  activities and deliverables

We usually can’t change work environments or performance review processes, but there are some actions that we as designers, instructors, and HR professionals can do to increase trainee motivation to transfer.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Ask, tell, or remind trainees how the knowledge or skills will help them in their careers.
  • Inform them how NOT learning the skills or knowledge could hurt their careers.
  • Let them know how NOT paying attention and learning the training could hurt the organization.  This is especially important for compliance training.  “Checking the box” should not be the goal of compliance training.
  • At the beginning of the training – or before – invite trainees to reflect on problems they may have had or are experiencing that are related to the training.  Point out how the training can or might help.
  • Communicate with trainees’ managers and ask them to have a post-training discussion in which they discuss what was learned and how it can be applied to their job.
  • Send an email to previous participants.  Provide the current trainee’s name and ask them to connect, offering support and suggestions.
  • Toward the end of training suggest that the participant remind their manager that they will be trying out “some new things” and to ask for feedback.
  • Provide an action plan form in the training – this includes e-learning.  Send the completed action plan (which can be captured in most e-learning systems) to their manager.  Send the completed action plan to the participant 1-3 weeks after training.

What are ideas do you have?  What do you do in your organization to encourage trainee motivation?  I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time….



P.S. Follow me on Twitter: @StickyTraining

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…


Did it stick? Easy level 3 evaluation.

August 10, 2010
Four Evaluation Levels

Donald Kirkpatrick's 4 Evaluation Levels: Reaction, Learning, Transfer (Behavior), & Results. Jack Phillips added a 5th level: Impact (also known as ROI)

Our last two newsletters have looked at how CEOs view learning and development and the metrics they would like to have available to them. There are some very interesting results of a CEO survey so if you missed either of these newsletter issues, take a look in my archives

I have conducted several workshops recently on Making Training Stick for experienced and seasoned trainers. When I talked about Level 3 evaluation the energy level in the room sank noticeably. The trainers began to whine: 

  “We don’t have time for evaluation” 

 ”Nobody cares about the results anyway” 

“Leadership doesn’t care about evaluation results, so why do them?” 

  “It’s too hard to isolate the impact of training” 

Over 90% of trainers conduct Level 1 evaluations, although only 36% agree this type of evaluation has value, according to a study on evaluation conducted by the American Society for Training and Development.  54% of trainers conduct Level 3 evaluations to some extent yet 75% believe this type of evaluation is valuable! 

Why should you evaluate on-the-job behavior changes that are the result of learning and development? 

  • The purpose of learning and development is to impact on-the-job performance.
  • A recent survey of CEOs indicated this level is important to them.
  • The information from a Level 3 evaluation can provide important feedback for revising training activities – before, during, and after the learning event – based on what is and is not producing changes in job performance. 
  • This type of evaluation must be done in order to conduct meaningful and accurate Level 4 or 5 evaluations.
  • It’s possible to do these types of evaluations with a minimum of time and effort. 

I agree it’s not always easy to measure on-the-job performance changes that are linked to participation in learning and development. Supervisors may not cooperate with observing and reporting on-the-job trainee behavior. Complicated metrics and/or case study write-ups can take up a lot of time, and few trainers have this kind of time. 

However, research shows that trainee reports – what they are using on the job, or what they plan to use once they return to work – provide useful information as to what has stuck. Electronic surveying technologies provide quick and easy ways to measure this feedback. Most training departments are using electronic surveys to conduct their Level 1 reaction surveys these days anyway, whether a part of their Learning Management System or a stand-alone, web-based system such as Survey Monkey. These survey systems are low-cost or no-cost. 

I’m not suggesting a 20-item survey here. Look back at the learning objectives for the training. Identify on-the-job behaviors linked to the learning objectives. (This should be quite easy, and if it’s not, revise the learning objectives for the next class.) Write 3-5 multiple choice questions that are variations of these: 

  • Are you using ___________ (what you learned)?

A. I’m not using it    

B. I haven’t had time or opportunity to use it, although I’d like to or plan to  

C. I don’t need to use this skill in my job   

D. I am using it 

  • If you have a need ________(to do something that would use the skill in question), how would you handle it, what would you do? (Be honest. Remember, this is anonymous.) 

A. Do it the way I’ve always done it   

B. Ask my supervisor   

C. Use _____(new skill) 

  • If you aren’t using _____(new skill), what would it take for you to start using it?

A. More practice     

B. Job aids that recap the steps    

C. Another class 

If the training has many learning objectives and/or includes many skills, develop and send more than one 3-5 question survey. 

Survey results in almost all survey systems can be downloaded into spreadsheet format and the responses translated into percentages or other simple metrics. You may be surprised at the results! 

 Until next time….