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Leveraging Modeling Research to Improve Learning Transfer in L&D Programs

As Learning and Development professionals, it is important to ensure that our training programs not only engage our learners but also produce meaningful and measurable results. One key factor in achieving this goal is maximizing learning transfer, which refers to the application of knowledge and skills learned in training to the workplace. In this article, I will explore the most influential research in learning transfer, specifically with regard to modeling, and provide tips on how L&D professionals can leverage this research to improve the learning transfer of their programs.

Modeling is a powerful teaching method that involves demonstrating how to perform a task or skill to a learner. Research has consistently shown that modeling can improve learning transfer by providing learners with a clear example of how to perform a task and the confidence to apply their learning in the workplace.

One of the most influential studies in modeling research was conducted by Bandura, Ross, and Ross (1963). Their study found that children who observed a model behaving aggressively towards a Bobo doll were more likely to imitate that behavior than children who did not observe the model. This study introduced the concept of observational learning and demonstrated the importance of modeling in shaping behavior.

Since then, numerous studies have explored the impact of modeling on learning transfer.

Based on the research, here are some tips on how L&D professionals can leverage modeling to improve learning transfer in their programs:

  1. Use modeling to demonstrate complex skills and processes. Research has shown that modeling can be an effective way to teach complex skills and processes, especially when learners can observe the step-by-step process of an expert (Bandura, 1986). L&D professionals can use modeling to demonstrate best practices in a particular area or to provide examples of successful behaviors or outcomes. This can be done through video demonstrations, case studies, or live simulations. This also provides an opportunity for learners to ask questions about the task or skill being demonstrated.

  2. Use peer modeling to enhance self-efficacy. Research has shown that observing peers who are similar in age, gender, and ability can increase learners' confidence in their own ability to perform a task (Schunk & Hanson, 1985). L&D professionals can use peer modeling to build self-efficacy by providing opportunities for learners to observe and learn from peers who have successfully completed a task or program.

  3. Provide opportunities for learners to practice modeling. Research has shown that providing learners with opportunities to practice can increase the likelihood of behavior transfer (Salas, et al., 2000). L&D professionals can provide learners with opportunities to practice modeling by asking them to demonstrate new skills or behaviors to others, or by providing them with structured opportunities to observe and provide feedback on the modeling of others.

In conclusion, modeling is a powerful teaching method that can significantly improve learning transfer in L&D programs. By incorporating modeling into their training programs and providing learners with opportunities to practice modeled behaviors, L&D professionals can enhance learning transfer and improve the effectiveness of their training programs. By leveraging the insights provided by research in learning transfer, L&D professionals can ensure that their training programs are designed to maximize the transfer of learning from the classroom to the workplace.


If you are interested in reading more, see the research cited below:

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1986(23-28).

Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1963). Vicarious reinforcement and imitative learning. The Journal of abnormal and social psychology, 67(6), 601.

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.

Salas, E., Burke, C. S., & Cannon-Bowers, J. A. (2000). Teamwork: Emerging principles. International Journal of Management Reviews, 2(4), 339-356. doi:10.1111/1468-2370.00043

Schunk, D. H., & Hanson, A. R. (1985). Peer models: Influence on children's self-efficacy and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 77(3), 313-322.


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

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