Competency-based Training and Learning Transfer

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Providing learners with access to training does not guarantee post-training behaviour change. Even the most engaging piece of learning content won't inspire a change in the thoughts or actions of learners.

The goal of all vocational training is for learners to turn their lessons into action. But it is surprisingly rare, with some estimates suggesting that as much as 80 percent of all training is ineffective, not only considering compliance indicators, but also employers and students’ post training feedback.

The process of taking information from a training session and using that information in the work environment is known as learning transfer. There are multiple factors that contribute to effective learning transfer. Internal learner characteristics such as the learner’s self- efficacy and motivation to learn, as well as the combination of peer support, manager support, workplace culture, and other environmental factors where the training organisation (RTO) has usually very limited control and impact, but all contribute to making learning transfer happen.

Designing for Learning Transfer

What can trainers, instructional designers, and content developers do to maximise the chance that learning transfer will happen? The design of the learning experience falls directly on the Training and Assessment Strategy. Following are some best practices when designing learning solutions that are backed by academic research.

If we design training that makes it easy for learners to see the link between learning and workplace performance, this increases how much learning is applied on the job.

Mirror the Workplace by having a systematic effective industry consultation

The similarity of the tasks and materials in the learning session and the learners’ work environment has an effect on transfer rate. When the physical characteristics of the tasks and the learning environment match the performance environment, learning transfer increases. Interestingly, only the perception of the similarity needs to exist; the learning and performance contexts do not need to be identical for benefits to be seen. In other words, simulated environments can be as effective as on-the-job training.

Model the Way

Modelling is a technique shown to increase learning transfer, as it provides a demonstration of how to apply learning on the job. Effective demonstrations from industry current trainers, along with allowing learners to practice how they will apply learning in training, increase learning transfer.

Active Versus Passive Learning

Active learning techniques like error management—where learners are encouraged to anticipate issues they might encounter in their role, and then supported while they solve these problems—also increase learning transfer.

Space It Out Learning transfer is impossible if learners forget what they learned in the training. Use spaced repetition in your training program to minimise the forgetting curve. For example, send snapshots of learning content before the main training event, and follow up with detailed summaries of key topics after training.

Plan Your Actions, Act on Your Plan

Action plans are learner-generated plans to implement learning. They increase learner accountability post-training, are linked with increased goal achievement across a number of domains, and increase attention in training and improve performance scores on trained behaviour post-training. Action plan templates are incredibly easy to create and can be used again and again across training events.


When learners reflect on what they’ve learned, they augment the information they have received and encode the information into long-term memory. Action plans prompt learners to think about what they will do with what they have learned. Another, more complex form of reflection involves asking learners to prepare a lesson plan for the topic covered in training, as if they were to train someone else on that topic. This level of reflection brings the language processing centres of the brain into play, leading to deeper encoding in memory.

Each of these approaches makes it easy for learners to see the link between training and job performance and increase the likelihood of learning being transferred to the job.


There are many elements that influence learning transfer, and each element must work in harmony for the training to be a success. As a trainer, you play an important role in promoting learning transfer. Through the identification of learner’s needs and an effective industry consultation, you can bridge the gap between learning and performance by making it easier for learners to see the connections between training and the work environment. Add these evidence-based learning design methods to your training and assessment strategy (TAS) to maximize the chances of your learning designs leading to learning transfer.

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