Tip #821: Design in Transfer Factors

“Because we invest time, effort, and resources to create learning interventions, we hope to get a return on those investments in the form of some tangible benefit-usually some form of improved work outcome. Transfer, then, is our paramount goal.”  Will Thalheimer

Will Thalheimer recently conducted research to identify the factors that support training transfer. Most of these factors are common knowledge or common sense. However, if we design our learning experiences to incorporate these factors, we will increase the likelihood of successful transfer of learned concepts and skills to their use in work situations.

Here is what he found:

  1. Skill Development. Learners who develop skills during training will be more successful in transfer.
  2. Concept Learning. Learners who learn concepts during training will be more successful in transfer.
  3. Learners who are motivated to apply what they’ve learned to their work will be more successful in transfer.
  4. Early Application. Learners are more likely to achieve transfer success if they have early opportunities to take what they’ve learned and utilize it in their work.
  5. Post-Training Success. A learner can learn poorly during training; but, if motivated and engaged in subsequent on-the-job learning, they can be successful in transfer.
  6. Realistic Practice. For transfer to occur, give learners practice on tasks that are similar to those they will have to perform in the future.
  7. Transfer Goals. Learners who set goals to transfer what they’ve learned improve the likelihood they’ll achieve transfer.
  8. Triggered Action Planning. Learners who utilize triggered action planning  (identifying the goals, the situations when the need for a goal-related action will arise, and the specific actions to be taken when in that situation) will be more likely to engage in application activities than learners who have goals alone.
  9. Supportive Supervisors. Learners with supervisors who encourage, support, and monitor learning transfer are more likely to successfully transfer.
  10. Supportive Transfer Climate. Learners who work where there is a supportive transfer climate are more likely to successfully transfer.
  11. No Immediate Results. Transfer outcomes may take time to be realized.
  12. Short Learning to Transfer Time. The longer the time between training and transfer, the less likely that training-generated knowledge will create benefits for transfer.
  13. Transfer Success. The more success learners have in their first attempts to transfer what they’ve learned, the more likely they are to persevere in more transfer-supporting behaviors.
  14. Reinforce Motivation. It should not be assumed that learners will maintain the same level of motivation to apply what they’ve learned throughout the learning-to-transfer process.
  15. Transfer Influences. Transfer can be influenced at different times during the learning-to-transfer process- most notably before, during, and after training.
  16. More Time. While many transfer interventions have shown limited or weak results in the research literature, a large majority of the interventions utilized less than two hours of time. With such limited learner engagement, the weak results may be expected.

Transfer success is affected by what happens before, during and after a learning experience. We need to educate supervisors about the importance of their involvement, since almost half of the factors (4,5, 9, 10, 12, 14, and 15) fall under their control. Armed with knowledge of these factors and partnered with the supervisors, we should (eventually) see improved work outcomes.

May your learning be sweet.


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