Learner characteristics, training design, and work environment predict training effectiveness. Training factors that have the strongest, most consistent relationship with learning and application of knowledge and skills in the workplace is known as transfer of learning.

Learner Characteristics

Motivation:  The level of intensity and persistence the learner directs toward learning and the application of learning. Motivated learners are more likely to apply their knowledge and skills in the workplace.

Perceived Utility or Relevance of Training:  Learners who see the training as useful and beneficial to their job are far more likely to apply their knowledge and skills in the workplace.

Training Design

Behavioral Modeling:  Learners are more likely to apply their knowledge and skills in the workplace when the instructor clearly defines desired behaviors, demonstrates these behaviors, and gives learners opportunities to practice needed behaviors.

Error Management:  Learners are better equipped to handle on-the-job challenges when instructors allow them to practice problem-solving that involves anticipating, experiencing, and managing issues in the workplace.

Realistic Practice or Realistic Training Environments:  Learners are more likely to engage in active learning and transfer knowledge and skills to the workplace when instructors conduct training and practice in environments that resemble the workplace.

Work Environment

Supportive Environment:  Peers and supervisors enhance transfer of learning by reinforcing and supporting learners’ newly acquired skills. It is especially helpful when peers and supervisors work with learners to develop action-oriented goals for applying these skills.

Opportunity to Perform: Learners need resources and opportunities to apply their new skills and abilities in the workplace.

Relapse Prevention Strategy:  Follow-up (such as job aids or reminders) increases the likelihood that learners will apply their new knowledge and skills in the workplace.

Evaluate Learning Transfer

Your data collection methods and timing will depend on your evaluation questions. Determine what information you need while considering what is feasible. Your time, resources, and training scope should drive your evaluation approach.

Before and After Training

The best way to evaluate any change in learning is through assessment before and after the training. Conduct a pretest before and a posttest after your training and then compare the results.


  • The test can include a demonstration to assess skill in addition to knowledge, if needed.
  • Using only a posttest, without a pretest, can provide an assessment of skill or knowledge proficiency. This allows you to know if learners achieved a certain level of knowledge or skill by the end of the training, but you will not know if there was a change in learning. Learners might have already had the knowledge or skill at the start of the training.
  • If you are unable to assess learning through a pretest and posttest, consider using a retrospective pre/post assessment that asks learners to self-assess their knowledge before and after the course as part of a post course evaluation. See questions 1 and 2 of the Recommended Training Effectiveness Questions for Post Course Evaluations.

Immediately After Training

In many situations, you might only be able to gather information from your learners immediately after the training ends. You can design your post course evaluation to assess learning and predict learning transfer immediately after the course ends, while learners are available to respond.

Spencer-SHE has been providing Safety, Health, and Environmental Compliance Guidance and training since 1980, offering clients cost-effective, turn-key solutions.  We can customize your training and optimize the learning process.

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