Transfer of Learning in to the workplace 2

 Learnerships offer opportunities for economically disadvantaged people to become qualified professionals in the ECD field. Learnerships challenge established ways of teaching methods. One of the biggest challenges is to ensure that the training is translated into performance in the working environment, namely the ECD sites.


Teaching for transfer is one of the most important goals in education. Learners should gain knowledge and skills that they can use and apply in the workplace.  Holton’s (1996) transfer of learning model suggests that three crucial factors affect transfer of learning: motivation to transfer, transfer design and transfer climate. Learning is expected to lead to individual performance change only when these three primary influences on transfer behavior are at appropriate or optimum levels. The question is firstly what motivates people to change their behavior and implement what they have learned, secondly which learning and teaching strategies or training design contributes to people’s ability to transfer learning  and thirdly what kind of organizational environment supports people and is conducive to the application of learning in the workplace.  


I plan on doing a research paper and will focus on the influence of the ECD sites (resources, support, etc) on the transfer of learning.  What is the influence of the workplace climate? The principles theory suggests that training should focus on the general principles necessary to learn a task so that the learner can apply them to solve problems in the transfer environment. The transfer climate influences the extent to which the person can use learned skills or knowledge in the workplace.  Organizational theory describes the type of organizational climate that will support transfer of training.

Share on Social Media

Leave a comment

2 thoughts on “Transfer of Learning in to the workplace

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    Ashwell, I am glad that you pointed out : “it is clear that effort is being directed in the wrong areas, considering that for workplace-based type programmes such as learnerships it is the application environment that really counts.”. 

    My own ‘theory’ is that the application environment plays a vital role and that will be my focus in my research paper.  I need to back this up with literature, because my ‘own theory’ will not be seen as valid!

    It would be interesting to hear what other members’ views are on this.

  • Ashwell Glasson

    Wilma, thank you for your interesting question. It is one that plagues me continuously. There seems to be a broad disconnect between class-room learning and the ability to apply it back in the workplace. A challenge which we are continuously trying to answer, especially when developing and designing learning interventions.
    Holton’s approach to the transfer of learning provides an excellent framework to interrogate this need.

    A key study that also really speaks to the heart of the issue for me (conducted by the University of Phoenix in 2004) has shown some interesting results when it comes to these realities. Realities which include challenging the prevailing status quo regarding the effectiveness of learning in different contexts and how do we harness those contexts to ensure learning transfers into performance.

    Where (a) does the most effective learning take place? In a contact or class-room mode? The workplace? before attending a programme? Then consider where most organisations invest their effort and budgets? Based on the research results below, it is clear that effort is being directed in the wrong areas, considering that for workplace-based type programmes such as learnerships it is the application environment that really counts.

    Source: Training on Trial, Jim and Wendy Kirkpatrick: (2010)

    The results are startling, as it questions many of our fundamental assumptions we make about the value that structured contact education and training programmes contribute to a learners overall learning experience and transfer of learning into performance in the workplace. It is not only about delivering a well-facilitated, resource-rich, interactive and learner centred learning programme in a contact-learning mode anymore.

    It is the way we link that quality learning into the application environment in the workplace. Well-designed learning programmes do not guarantee success on their own, they do contribute to it, but should not be viewed as the crown jewels, there are other key contributors such as the facilitation, assessment, enabling learning environments and our concept of what transfer of learning into performance actually means. That progression from the act of learning and then applying it, trying out the new skills and knowledge and reflecting on it, empowering once-self, taking it further.

    To sustain or enable that link we have found that part of the solution lies with the mentors and coaches and their contribution in enabling learners to transfer their learning into performance in the workplace. They (a) must be equipped to mentor and coach, (b) be supported by management in doing (also be recognised for it), (c) have standardized approaches and resources to coach and mentor and finally (d) the organisation should have a structured coaching and mentoring programme in place. Scheduling and describing the required coaching and mentoring activities between the learner and coach/mentor.

    Wilma, I would also ask whether they have the relevant job aids and an learning-friendly environment (not just for the young children) in which they can test and apply their learning. Which are other key linking and enabling toolkits which could assist the learners to transfer their learning into workplace performance.

    I would recommend reading Jim and Wendy Kirkpatricks 2010 edition of Training on Trial for some more insights into it, plus they do provide a list of references relevant to your research. 

    This topic is one of the key aspects that is often not accounted for in many education and training debates, where much of the focus is still on the role of the curriculum and its delivery, as well as the accuracy of the assessments used to determine the attainment of learner competency.