Research-driven approaches to Learning Transfer: Learner Perception of Outcomes

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

A learners perception of the outcomes of training; positive or negative, greatly influences learning transfer. What can we do to improve in this regard?


Learner motivation is intertwined with learning and learning transfer. In the context of corporate learning, very few employees learn just for the sake of learning. A learner's perceptions of the outcomes that result from learning are a key driver of learning transfer.


Positive outcomes:

If learners believe that there will be positive outcomes as a result of learning, it results in higher learning transfer. Facteau et al. (1995) explored this topic by researching the perceptions of 967 managers. They found that perceptions of personal benefits, such as receiving recognition, or opportunities for growth, greatly influenced their motivation and resulted in higher learning transfer. 


Intrinsic motivation: Kontoghiorghes (2001) notes that training can result in learning transfer if learners perceive the training to link to things they found intrinsically motivating, like being recognized by their peers and supervisor. 


Extrinsic motivation: Kontoghiorghes also found that the perception of extrinsic rewards, e.g., the learner believes that applying their learning may result in promotion or higher pay increases transfer. Taylor et al. (2005) support this finding, noting that application of learning being noted in employee performance reviews also increases learning transfer. 


Key takeaway:

For learning leaders; the key message here is that understanding your learners is key. Getting to know what drives your learners, what gets them out of bed in the morning, what ways do they like to be recognized, etc can lead to richer learning experiences that pay-off in increased learning transfer. 


If you want to dive deeper into the studies they are listed below:


Facteau, J. D., Dobbins, G. H., Russell, J. E., Ladd, R. T., & Kudisch, J. D. (1995). The influence of general perceptions of the training environment on pretraining motivation and perceived training transfer. Journal of Management, 21(1), 1-25.


Kontoghiorghes, C. (2001). Factors affecting training effectiveness in the context of the introduction of new technology: A US case study. International Journal of Training and Development, 5(4), 248-260. doi:10.1111/1468-2419.00137


Taylor, P. J., Russ-Eft, D. F., & Chan, D. W. L. (2005). A meta-analytic review of behavior modeling training. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(4), 692-709. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.90.4.692


About Fergal:

Fergal is a learning transfer expert who shares his evidence-based learning transfer approaches with the learning community. Fergal holds an MSc in Education and Training, and a BSc in Psychology. Contact Fergal for speaking engagements, writing opportunities, or learning transfer consultancy by visiting www.fergalconnolly.com.

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