All trainers want what is learned in a workshop to “transfer” out of the classroom back into the participants’ lives. What trainers overlook is that the participants’ previous learning and experience will also “transfer” into the classroom. It is imperative that a trainer consider whether this previous learning and experience can have a positive or a negative impact on new learning. A trainer can build on “positive transfer”- but should do everything possible to avoid “negative transfer,” which can derail even the most well-designed and effectively presented training program. In a basic computer skills class, the trainer can ask “common ground” questions* to see how many of the participants have had previous success in typing and in using a microwave oven. If most of them answer in the affirmative, the trainer can correlate typing to “keyboarding” and programming the microwave to “programming” the computer, and build on that “positive transfer.” In essence, their previous success will lead the participants to expect that they will have similar success in the computer skills class. However, the trainer should probably avoid asking the participants “How many of you can successfully program a VCR or DVD?” because it will create unnecessary “negative transfer.” If they have previously failed in this endeavor, their negative experience with “programming” will transfer into any discussion regarding computer programming- and chill their ability to learn.
May your learning be sweet.