As the issue of accountability becomes more important in human resources development, the question of what training accomplishes becomes increasingly relevant. Of particular concern is the impact training programs have on individuals back on the job.
In other words, how much transfer of training or generalization (terms used synonymously here) took place? Transfer of training effects can be considered to occur when the relevant aspects of behavior altered under one condition or in one setting carry over in some form to nontraining conditions or settings. Transfer occurs, then, when trainees do what you trained them to do, where and when you hoped they would do it.
A system I believe can assist trainers in developing programs with more transfer elements in them is based on the Training, Resource, Assessment, Intervention and Network System, or TRAINS. A TRAINS analysis begins with a thorough examination of all elements connected with the training experience.
Training component analysis
The impetus for most training endeavors develops from the assumptions and models used in constructing a training experience. To analyze this component for transfer, the conceptual underpinnings of the training experience should be identified and assessed for their soundness in relation to achieving transfer objectives. A number of concerns related to this issue need be explored.
The first question to pose is whether the training is derived from a unimodal or multimodal orientation. A management training program derived from behavior modification principles would be considered a unimodal system, whereas one that was jointly predicated on humanistic and behavioristic concepts is developed from a multimodal orientation.
Unimodal systems are easier to deal with than those derived from a diversity of perspectives and viewpoints because of their greater theoretical integrity; also they usually have generated more extensive empirical evidence addressing the issue of external validity or generalization.
In unimodal systems, questions about what kind of discrepancies exist between the transfer procedures used to conduct a program and those im¬plied by the theory are of particular concern.
An important associated issue is how discrepancies, when they occur, might influence the magnitude of desired transfer effects. For example, using a behaviorally based personalized system of instruction, more generalization in the use of concepts is achieved if the concepts are first defined, then elaborated on and finally worked through by learners using a concept formation program.
Failing to incorporate these elements into this type of instructional system may compromise generalization. For example, a program designed to enhance the counseling skills of trainees may be consistently derived theoretically. But its ability to change actual behavior in the counseling situation could be limited if the theory was developed to influence cognitive structures and attitudes of the counselee toward others.
Training is an eclectic field, where diverse orientations, philosophies and activities are accepted, and it is not unusual to encounter training pro¬grams that combine elements in ways that might seem, from a single perspective, unusual or perhaps even discordant.
These multimodal systems pose vexing evaluation problems. When ideas from a social learning model, communication’s theory and humanistic philosophy are tied together with the inspirational intuition of a program originator, an experiential tangle can be the end result. This is not to suggest that such a combination does not work from a participant’s point of view, because it frequently does.
It simply implies that the diverse orientations will con-tribute unevenly to the production of generalization effects. Whatever benefits might be evidenced from using procedures derived from one source probably will be compromised by adding less effective or counter¬productive elements from another source. The synergism resulting from combining diverse theoretical orientations rarely enhances transfer effects, though the chicken-soup, or the-more-ingredients-the-better, theory of training asserts the opposite.