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Negative outcomes have positive effects on Learning Transfer (sometimes)

The environment in which transfer is to take place has a strong influence on the likelihood of transfer occurring. An open and safe place to try new things will result in more learning transfer than an environment that tries to minimize challenges to the status quo. A learner's perception of the outcomes for them, personally, when applying learning to their role are related to learning transfer.

Will anyone notice, and will there be any repercussions for the learner if they do not apply their learning? This factor is closely related to Positive personal outcomes. See my article on that topic here. If learners do not perceive there to be any negative personal outcomes for not applying their learning, then chances of transfer are low (Bates et al., 2012).

A positive transfer environment is one that is supportive of attempts at transfer, but also features reprimands for incorrect skill use, or lack of use (Bates et al., 2012).

Rouiller and Goldstein (1993) surveyed 103 managers following a nine-week onboarding program and studied the working climate in which they attempted to transfer their learning. The authors report that environments which provide supportive social cues and reprisals from managers for incorrect or lack of skill-use positively influenced the degree of learning transfer.

In a meta-analysis of 32 studies focused on social support and its effect on learning transfer, Reinhold et al. (2018), propose that perceived supervisor reprimands for lack of transfer had less influence on learning transfer than supervisor support and peer support, but it was influential nonetheless.

Key takeaway:

For learning leaders, common sense suggests that the best environment for learning transfer is one of never-ending support and encouragement. However, the research in the area suggests that negatives need to be balanced with positives to ensure the healthiest learning transfer environment.


Check out the articles cited above for more information:

Bates, R., Holton, E. F., & Hatala, J. P. (2012). A revised learning transfer system inventory: Factorial replication and validation. Human Resource Development, 15(5), 549-569.

Reinhold, S., Gegenfurtner, A., & Lewalter, D. (2018). Social support and motivation to transfer as predictors of training transfer: Testing full and partial mediation using meta-analytic structural equation modelling. International Journal of Training and Development, 22(1), 1–14. doi: 10.1111/ijtd.12115

Rouiller, J. Z., & Goldstein, I. L. (1993). The relationship between organizational transfer climate and positive transfer of training. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 4(4), 377–390. https://doi-


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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