I had a teacher when I was in high school who maintained that we had really learned something only when we could transfer that learning to other parts of the school curriculum and to other situations beyond the formal school setting.
As a training professional, I feel there is some real merit in her assertion. In fact, I often evaluate the success of training I’m conducting based on how much transfer happens.
In any mentoring, coaching, or training we provide we need to listen very carefully to observe participants making or trying to make applications of what we are teaching. This will help us more accurately access their grasp of the concepts or information we have been sharing. Helping participants transfer what they are learning to live beyond the training to life beyond the training room involves several tasks:
1. Making connections among the concepts and ideas within a give training situation.
Example: If you’re doing a training on the accounting process, you’d help participants see how the definition of terms which you taught in an earlier part of the training now fits in with learning how to do double entry bookkeeping.
2. Making connections between one training and its information and other training they have that has been part of their professional development in their business
Example: Continuing with our hypothetical accounting training example, here you might help them see how the accounting process is related to the marketing and sales training they received a couple of weeks ago.
3. Connecting current learning with other classes, workshops, and seminars of which they have been a part beyond their specific business.
Example: Here you would help participants understand how the accounting process you’re teaching is the same process they learned about in a class on managing their finances and their bank account.
4. Making connections with their personal life, family, and various community involvements.
Example: Help participants understand how they can use what you’ve been teaching to enhance the financial operations of a community project in which they’re involved or to help their kids learn about money.
In some instances, the transfer of what you’ve been teaching in a mentoring, coaching, or training session is obvious because it is close to the actual situation in which the information is used – for example, teaching people involved in marketing the difference between promoting the features and benefits of a product.
The transfer here is fairly simple because of the learning “hugs’ the real situation in which they work on a daily basis. The transfer is clear.
In other instances, however, what you are teaching may seem far removed or remote to the participants’ work situation and their life beyond the workplace, for example, teaching people about creativity, brain enhancement techniques, or even training them in using multiple intelligences.
Many participants would wonder how learning about these very interesting topics is useful in their daily lives. In these cases, the transfer is more complex. The transfer here is remote or obscure. Participants need explicit instruction in making connections to their jobs and to their lives beyond the workplace. In these situations, you need to help them make a relevant transfer by employing a variety of “bridging strategies”.
The model which follows (based on the research of Dr. Robin Fogarty presented in her book Teaching for Thinking, Teaching for Transfer) provides you with a set of “getting started” bridging strategies for five different levels of transfer. Your goal as a mentor, coach, or trainer should be to help people increase their transfer of learning by just one level.