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- Scenario: You have been asked by your boss to design a two-hour training program on harassment for a group of predominantly Millennial employees.* Which learning theory would you use to design it and why would you use that one? Describe two or three specific actions would you take to make help employees transfer their learning back to the job.
*For more information, including a definition of Millennial employees, visit this report from the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (2012) and scan down to the Workplace section (about a third of way down); it begins with a Workplace Summary and includes Key Findings.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. (2012, November 12). The Millennial generation research review. Retrieved from https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/reports/millennial-generation-research-review
- There are more learning theories than we discussed this week. Research one that we did not cover in the lecture; write a summary of it; and tell us how you would apply it in developing training.
The ‘Teaching Guide for GSIs’ article on Learning Theories gives us an overview of most of the major learning theories that trainers use in designing training. For a more comprehensive explanation of the theory, please review the article.
Below are some examples of how learning theories impact the development of training.
Behaviorist Theory assumes that the learner is passive and their behavior can be shaped through positive or negative reinforcement in the training. In this type of training, the trainer identifies the benefits of the training to the individual. Some of these benefits might include increased work competency and efficiency, safety, or rewards like promotion or salary increases. During the training, the trainer focuses on reinforcing positive behaviors through memorization and testing assignments. Assignment feedback that both focuses on and reinforces the behavior is an integral part of this theory.
Cognitivist Theory, or human information processing theory, assumes that new information can be transformed in a particular way during training which will enable trainees to store it in their memory. Trainers use the learner’s experience as a basis for the construction of new knowledge. During training, the trainer connects the new material to the trainee’s experience and conducts discussions and review exercises where the trainee has an opportunity to explain the new material in relationship to what the trainee already knows.
Social Learning Theory (SLT). Another influential theory in adult as well as childhood education is social learning theory. This theory assumes that behavior is learned from the environment through observation. Hence, trainers should use or serve as positive models in the classroom to help people learn. Many trainers use ‘behavior modeling’ in the classroom. Behavior modeling includes a) showing the trainee how to do something, b) allowing the trainee to ask questions, c) letting the trainee do it, d) and giving the trainee feedback. This process can be used in several types of training from on-the-job (OJT) training to leadership training. In OJT training, the trainer can model the behavior in a one-on-one situation. In leadership training, the trainee can watch a positive scenario on a video and then ‘role play’ it in small groups – – and receive feedback.
Adult Learning Theory. In the readings this week is an article about Malcom Knowles. Knowles spent a lifetime studying how adults learn. He was convinced that adults learned differently than children. He saw adults as more self-directed, more experienced, more problem oriented, and more application oriented than children. As a professor and researcher at Boston University and North Carolina State between 1959 and 1979, Knowles wrote about a difference between what he referred to as pedagogy, or the practice of teaching children, and andragogy, or the practice of teaching adults. The distinction Knowles was trying to make is that adults needed a more learner-centered approach to learning. Having a more learner centered approach to learning could change the roles of the teacher and the student. The teacher could become more of a participative facilitator of learning rather than a lecturer. (https://www.td.org/Publications/Newsletters/Links/2009/11/The-Fundamentals-of-Adult-Learning .
The impact that Knowles had on training profession was evident when he received an ATD (formerly ASTD) Award for Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance.
The next question becomes how have trainers adapted Knowles’ work over the years. Here are some adaptions of Knowles that are driving the learning in this class.
- Adult learners want to know why they are attending the training.
- Adult learners want to know practical information that helps them on the job – – and they want to use the information immediately.
- Adult learners are self-directed, active learners with a need to participate in their learning. They like to solve problems and ‘discover’ knowledge.
- Adult learners are highly experienced with a lot of knowledge to contribute. Their input into discussions is valuable to the overall learning of the group.
- Adult learners want a learning environment that is respectful and does not attack their self-esteem.
Here is an example of how OSHA trainers have applied adult learning theory to their train-the-trainer program:
- This week’s tool is an action plan for transferring learning. It was developed by Interhealth International, which also developed the interactive transfer of learning matrix mentioned in the Required Reading-Transfer of Learning. The first attachment is an example of a completed action plan; the second is a copy of the action plan in a Word format that can be completed using a computer.
Think about training that you have taken. If you had completed this action plan before, during, or after the training, do you think your transfer of learning would have been positively affected? Would you recommend this tool to T&D professionals?
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