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CHAPTER 4

LEARNING: THEORIES AND PROGRAM DESIGN


To facilitate training effectively, it is critical to understand learning and how it occurs. In this
chapter, learning is defined and specific learning outcomes, e.g., intellectual skills and motor skills,
are described. Major theories of learning and motivation are presented and their applicability to
and implications for training are discussed. Goal orientation, mastery orientation, and performance
orientation are explained in the chapter. The basic learning strategies of rehearsal, organizing, and
elaboration are discussed. Learning processes are described as well as the implications of these
processes for instruction. Generational differences were explained in the chapter. Major
implications of andragogy or adult learning are explained in the chapter. Finally, this chapter
outlines considerations in designing effective training programs, in terms of facilities, seating
arrangements, and program design. Key terms are listed at the end of the chapter, as are
questions for discussion and application assignments.

Objectives

After reading and discussing this chapter, students should be able to


1. Discuss the five types of learner out comes.
2. Explain the implications of learning theory for instructional design.
3. Incorporate adult learning theory into the design of a training program.
4. Describe how learners receive, process, store, retrieve, and act upon information.
5. Discuss the internal conditions (within the learner) and external conditions (learning
environment) necessary for the trainee to learn each type of capability.
6. Be able to choose and prepare a training site.
7. Explain the four components of program design: course parameters, objectives, lesson
overview, and detailed lesson plan.

I. Introduction

A. The introduction provides an excellent example of training a Exelon Energy Delivery.


Exelon’s programs highlight a few conditions necessary for learning to occur: (1)
opportunities for trainees to practice, (2) meaningful content, (3) identifying any prerequisites
that trainees need to successfully complete the program, and (4) allowing trainees to learn
through observation and experience.

II. What is Learning? What is Learned?

A. Learning is defined as a relatively permanent change in human capabilities that is not a


result of growth processes.
B. Specific learning outcomes include
1. Verbal information, or names, labels, facts and bodies of knowledge, including
specialized knowledge employees need to know to perform their jobs.

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2. Intellectual skills, which include concepts and rules critical to solving problems,
serving customers and creating products.
3. Motor skills, involving coordination of physical movements.
4. Attitudes, include a cognitive component (i.e., beliefs), an affective component (i.e.,
feeling), and an intentional component (i.e., how a person intends to behave). Work
related attitudes include job satisfaction, organizational commitment and job
involvement.
5. Cognitive strategies, which regulate the learning process, determine what information
the learner will attend to, how he/she will remember and how he/she will solve
problems.

III. Learning Theories

A. The basic premise of Reinforcement Theory is that individuals are motivated to perform
or avoid behaviors because of past outcomes of those behaviors. In other words, behavior
is controlled by its consequences. Behavior modification is a training method that is
primarily based on reinforcement theory.
1. Positive reinforcement involves positively rewarding desirable behaviors.
2. Negative reinforcement means removing an unpleasant outcome to promote desirable
behaviors.
3. Extinction involves withdrawing positive or negative reinforcers to eliminate a
behavior.
4. Punishment involves decreasing a behavior by presenting an unpleasant outcome after
the behavior.
5. The training implications of Reinforcement Theory include the importance of the
trainer knowing which outcomes a learner finds positive and which are negative.
6. Behavior modification is a training method that is based on reinforcement theory by
reinforcing appropriate behaviors.
7. Different schedules of reinforcement (see Table 4-2, p. 128) include ratio schedules
and interval schedules. Ratio schedules include: fixed-ratio, continuous reinforcement,
and variable ratio. Interval schedules can be either fixed or variable.
B. Social Learning Theory suggests that people learn by observing other people (i.e.,
models) and attempting to emulate their behaviors.
1. Learning is also influenced by self-efficacy, which is an individual’s belief that he/she
can successfully learn knowledge and skills and is an important factor in the readiness
to learn. A person’s self-efficacy can be increased several ways:
a. Verbal persuasion means offering words of encouragement to convince others
they are capable of learning.
b. Logical verification means creating a perceived relationship between a new task
and a task already mastered.
c. Modeling is having employees who have mastered the learning outcomes
demonstrate them for trainees.
d. Past accomplishment means letting employees build a history of successful
accomplishments.

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2. The theory suggests there are four processes involved in learning:
a. Attentional processes must occur, for individuals cannot learn by observation
unless they are aware of the important aspects of the model’s performance. They
are influenced by characteristics of the model and the learner.
b. Retentional processes are involved so that the learner can remember the behaviors
or skills they observe and can recall them when appropriate.
c. Reproductional processes involve the learner trying to reproduce the behaviors or
skills observed.
d. Learners are more likely to adopt the modeled behavior if it results in positive
outcomes.
C. Goal Setting Theory suggests that behavior results from a person’s conscious goals and
intentions.
1. Goals influence behavior by directing energy and attention, sustaining effort over time
and motivating the person to develop strategies for goal attainment.
2. Specific, challenging, but not impossible, goals result in better performance than
vague, non-challenging goals.
3. Goals lead to high performance when one is committed to them.
4. In training, goal setting theory suggests that learning can be effectively facilitated by
setting specific, challenging goals and objectives with learners.
5. Goal orientation refers to the goals held by a trainee in a learning situation. This is
believed to affect the amount of effort a trainee will expend in learning (motivation to
learn). Goal orientation can include:
a. Learning orientation, relates to trying to increase ability or competence in a task.
b. Performance orientation, refers to a focus of learners on task performance and
how they compare to others.
D. A need is a deficiency that a person is experiencing at a given point in time. Need
Theories suggest that needs motivate people to behave certain ways to satisfy the need or
deficiency.
1. Maslow and Alderfer’s need theories focused on physiological or basic and safety
needs, relatedness needs, and self-growth needs. Both believed that individuals are at
first motivated to satisfy lower-level (i.e., physiological) needs, then progress up to
higher-level needs.
2. McClelland’s Need Theory focuses primarily on the needs for achievement, affiliation
and power, all of which can be learned.
3. Need theories suggest that trainers should attempt to understand learners’ needs and
explain how the training will help them meet their needs.
E. Expectancy Theory suggests that behavior is based on three factors:
1. Expectancy, similar to self-efficacy, is the link between trying to perform and actually
performing.
2. Instrumentality is the belief that engaging in a behavior (e.g., attending training) will
result in the desired outcome (e.g., mastering the behavior or skill).
3. Valence is the value that one places on that outcome.

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4. In a training context, expectancy theory says that learning is best facilitated when
trainees believe they can master the knowledge or skill, when learning is linked to
outcomes such as improved job performance or a pay raise, and when the trainees
value the outcomes they perceive.
F. Adult Learning Theory also called Andragogy, as opposed to pedagogy or the theory of
educating children, is the model of how adults learn.
1. The theory, most often linked to Malcolm Knowles, is based on the following
assumptions:
a. Adults have the need to know why they are learning something.
b. Adults have a need to be self-directed in their learning.
c. Adults bring more work-related experiences into the learning situation.
d. Adults enter into a learning experience with a problem-centered approach to
learning.
e. Adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.
2. This theory is particularly applicable to training because learning in the workplace
involves adult learners (see Table 4-3, p. 134).
G. Information Processing Theory (see Figure 4-3, p. 134) proposes that information taken
in by the learner undergoes several transformations in the brain: A message is received by
the senses; registered; stored in short-term memory; transformed to be stored in long-term
memory; and a response to the information is organized. This model highlights how
external events, such as the following, influence learning:
1. Changes in the intensity or frequency of the stimulus that affect attention.
2. Informing the learner of the objectives establishes an expectation.
3. Enhancing perceptual features of the material (stimulus) draws the attention of the
learner to certain features.
4. Verbal instructions, pictures, diagrams, and maps suggest ways to code the training
content so that it can be stored in memory.
5. A meaningful learning context (e.g., examples, and problems) creates cues that
facilitate coding.
6. Demonstration or verbal instructions help organize the learners’ response as well as
facilitate the selection of the correct response.

IV. The Learning Processes are depicted in Figure 4-4, p. 136.

A. The processes include:


1. Expectancy refers to the mental state, including motivation to learn, basic skills and
an understanding of the purpose of the instruction, that learners bring to the
instructional process.
2. Perception is the ability to organize messages from the environment to be processed
and acted upon.
3. In working storage, rehearsal and repetition of information occur so that material can
be coded for memory.
4. Semantic encoding is the actual coding process of incoming messages in preparation
for storage in long-term memory.

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B. Different learning strategies influence how training content is coded. Learning strategies
include rehearsal, organizing, and elaboration. Rehearsal is the simplest learning
strategy focusing on learning through repetition (memorization). Organizing requires the
learner to find similarities and themes in training materials. Elaboration requires the
trainee to relate the training material to other more familiar knowledge, skills, or
behaviors. Trainees use a combination of these strategies to learn. The “best” strategy
depends on the learning outcome. For knowledge outcomes, rehearsal and organization
are most appropriate. For skill application, elaboration is necessary.
1. Retrieval refers to the identification of learned material in long-term memory to
influence performance.
2. Generalizing is the ability to adapt what is learned to use in similar but not identical
situations.
3. Gratifying refers to the feedback the learner receives as a result of using what is
learned.
C. Kolb’s Learning Styles include: diverger, assimilator, converger, and accommodator.
The diverger uses concrete experience and reflective observation. A diverger tends to be
interested in people, culture, and the arts. An assimilator uses abstract conceptualization
and also reflective observation. An assimilator is good at inductive reasoning, creating
theoretical models, and combining disparate observations into an integrated explanation.
A converger uses abstract conceptualization and active experimentation, and prefers
dealing with technical tasks rather than interpersonal issues. An accommodator uses
concrete experience and active experimentation, and is good at implementing decisions,
carrying out plans, and getting involved in new experiences.
D. Age Influences on Learning – each generation may be characterized by certain
characteristics that can influence learning. These groups are: the Millenium or Nexters
(born 1980 - present), Gen Xers (born 1961 - 1980), Baby Boomers (born 1945 - 1960),
and the Traditionalists (born 1920 – 1943).
E. Implications of the Learning Process for Instruction (i.e., the characteristics of the
environment in which the learning is to occur).
1. The objectives refer to the purpose and targeted outcomes of the training activities.
Individuals learn best when they understand the training objective(s). Learning
objectives need to be measurable.
2. A Learning Objective has three major components:
a. A statement of what the employee is expected to do or know (i.e., performance).
b. A statement of the quality or level of acceptable performance (i.e., criterion).
c. A statement of the conditions under which the learner is expected to perform the
desired outcome (i.e., conditions).
3. Employees are more likely to learn when the training is linked to current job
experiences and tasks, for that has meaning for them. Also, the training context should
mirror the work environment. The training context refers to the physical, intellectual,
and emotional environment in which training occurs.
4. Employees need to have opportunities to practice for learning to “stick.”
a. Practice is the opportunity for the learner to demonstrate the learned skill or
behavior under the specified conditions and to the performance standard
determined. It must be related to the learning objectives.

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Pre-practice conditions can be used by trainers to enhance learners motivation to
learn and facilitate retention of training content. The trainer can provide
information about the process or strategy, encourage trainees to develop a strategy
(metacognition) to direct their attention to their own learning process, and also
provide advance organizers i.e., outlines, texts, diagrams, and graphs that help
trainees organize the information that will be presented and practiced. Trainers
should also help trainees set challenging mastery or learning goals; create realistic
expectations for the trainees by communicating what will occur in training, and
while training employees in teams, communicate performance expectations and
clarify roles and responsibilities of team members.
b. Overlearning involves continuing to practice the new skill or behavior beyond the
point at which the learner has demonstrated proficiency more than once. This
maximizes the likelihood that what is learned will transfer back to the job.
Research suggests that from a training perspective, errors can be useful. Error
management training refers to giving trainees the opportunities to make errors
during training.
c. Massed practice conditions are those in which individuals practice a task
continuously without rest. In spaced practice conditions, individuals are given
rest intervals within the practice session. Effectiveness of massed versus spaced
practice varies by the characteristics of the task. Task characteristics include
overall task complexity, mental requirements, and physical requirements (see
Table 4-6, p.143). After practice, trainees need specific feedback to enhance
learning.
d. One option with performing training is, all tasks or objectives should be practiced
at the same time (whole practice). Another option is that an objective or task
should be practiced individually as soon as each is introduced in the training
program (part practice). It is probably best to employ both whole and part
practice in a training session.
e. Practice conditions must involve the actions emphasized in the training
objectives, be completed under the conditions specified in the training objectives,
help trainees perform to meet the criteria or standard that was set, provide some
means to evaluate the extent to which trainees’ performance meets the standards,
and allow trainees to correct their mistakes.
5. Employees need to commit training content to memory. Ways in which trainers can
help employees store knowledge, skills, behavior, and other training in long-term
memory.
a. Make trainees aware of how they are creating, processing, and accessing memory.
b. To create long-term memory, training programs must be explicit on content and
elaborate on details.
c. Once trainees correctly demonstrate a behavior or skill or correctly recall
knowledge, it is often assumed that they have learned it, but this is not always true.

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d. Making trainees review and practice over multiple days (overlearning) can help
them retain information in long-term memory. Overlearning also helps to automize
a task. Automatization refers to making performance of a task, recall of
knowledge, or demonstration of a skill so automatic that it requires little thought
or attention.
6. Employees need feedback, or information about how well they are meeting the
predetermined objectives. The feedback should be specific and should follow the
behavior as closely as possible.
7. Employees learn by observing and interacting with others (see Table 4-7, p. 146).
a. Communities of practice are groups or teams of employees who work together,
learn from each other and have a common sense about how to get work
accomplished.
8. Employees need the training program to be properly coordinated and arranged.
a. Training administration is the coordination of activities before, during and after
the training program.
b. Training administration involves activities such as enrolling employees in courses
and programs, preparing instruction materials, arranging for the training facility,
and evaluating the program and learner outcomes.

V. Instructional Emphasis for Learning Outcomes

A. Internal conditions are processes within the learner that are necessary for learning to
occur (see Table 4-8, p. 149).
B. External conditions are processes in the learning environment, such as appropriate
physical equipment as well as opportunities for practice, feedback and reinforcement, that
are necessary for learning to occur.

VI. Considerations in Designing Effective Training Programs

A. The training site is the physical space in which the training will be conducted. An
effective training site
1. Is comfortable and accessible.
2. Is quiet, private, and free from interruptions.
3. Has adequate space for learners to move comfortably in; offers adequate work space;
allows learners to see each other, the facilitator and the visuals and materials well;
B. Details to be considered in the training room:
1. Seating arrangements of the training site should be based on the desired type of trainee
and trainee-trainer interaction (See Figure 4-5, p. 152).
a. Fan-type seating enables trainees to see the facilitator and each other from each
point, they can switch to group activities easily, and they can communicate easily
with each other.
b. A conference-type arrangement, on the other hand, is effective for total group
discussion with no small-group activities and limited presentation.
c. The horseshoe arrangement is appropriate when the training requires both
presentation and total-group instruction and interaction.

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VII. How Trainers Can Make the Training Site and Instruction Conducive to Learning

A. A trainer can take several steps to make the room and instruction conducive to learning.

1. Before choosing a training room, trainers must consider how the trainees are expected
to learn. Trainers must:
a. Determine the extent to which trainees decide when, where, and how they will
learn (self-direction).
b. Whether learning will occur by interactions with others (collaboration).
c. Think about the physical requirements of the training room (see Table 4.10, p.
153).
2. Trainers’ preparation should include mental and physical rehearsals to help build
confidence and to evaluate the pace and timing of material.
3. Trainers must be able to manage a classroom, and communicate the topics that will
be covered, the learning approach that will be used, and the expectations for trainees.
4. To ensure an even distribution of knowledge or expertise in groups, trainees need to
indicate whether they consider themselves novices, experienced, or experts on a topic.
Groups should be arranged so that they contain a mix of novice experienced, and
expert trainees. Group dynamics can be changed by changing learners’ positions in
the room.
B. Program design
1. Course parameters are the general pieces of information about the training program,
including the course title, target audience, statement of purpose, goals, location, time,
prerequisites and the facilitator’s name (see Table 4-11, p. 156).
2. Objectives
a. Program objectives are broad summary statements of the purpose of the program
b. Course objectives or lesson objectives are goals for the course or lesson and are
more specific than the overall program objectives.
3. The detailed lesson plan is a guide used by the trainer that includes the course title,
learning objectives, topics to be covered, the sequence of activities to be used, target
audience, session time, prerequisites, and the facilitator’s and learner’s roles and
activities. A sample appears in Table 4-12, p. 157 of text.
4. The lesson plan overview (For an example, see Table 4-14, p. 159.) matches major
activities of the training program with specific times to prepare a schedule for the
program.

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CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY

Training is the facilitation of learning in the workplace. Learning must occur for training to be
effective. Chapter 4 defines learning and highlights some major theories of learning, including
reinforcement theory, social learning theory, goal setting theory, need theories, expectancy
theories, adult learning theory and information processing theory. The learning process, involving
internal processes and external processes, was discussed as was the basic process of instructional
design. Important elements of instruction include making the learner aware of why he/she should
learn, making the content meaningful, providing opportunities for practice and feedback, a logical
program and an environment conducive to learning. Schedules of reinforcement, processes of
learning, external instructional events, and forms of instruction were also presented in the chapter.
Finally, the chapter addresses the preparation of the training site and program design, including
developing course parameters, program and course objectives, a lesson plan overview and a
detailed lesson plan.

Discussion Questions

1. Compare and contrast any two of the following learning theories: expectancy theory, social
learning theory, reinforcement theory, information processing theory.

Answer:
The answer will vary. See pages 127-135.

2. What learning condition do you think is most necessary for learning to occur? Which is least
critical? Why?

Answer:
Considering that individuals have different learning styles, this answer will vary depending on
the particular learner.

3. What value would it be to now that you were going to be training a class of persons between
the ages of 20 and 35. Would it influence the approach you would take? How?

Answer:
Yes, characteristics of the learner need to be taken into consideration. In general,
“millenniums” are optimistic, willing to work and learn, and technologically-literate and they
appreciate diversity. (p. 138)

4. Consider the ages of persons in the class mentioned in the previous question. What
suggestions would you make to the instructor or trainer as to how to better teach the course
given the generations represented in the class.

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Answer:
Trainers who are aware of trainees’ learning styles can try to customize instruction to match
their performance. This should maximize their learning. (p. 137)

5. How do instructional objectives help learning to occur?

Answer:
Good training provides a clear idea of what the trainess are expected to do at the end of
training. Training objectives need to be measurable. (p. 139)

6. Assume you are training an employee to diagnose and repair a loose wire in an electrical
socket. After demonstrating the procedure to follow, you let the trainee show you how to do
it. The trainee correctly demonstrates the process and repairs the connection on the first
attempt. Has learning occurred? Justify your answer.

Answer:
The answer will vary. Obviously some form of learning may have occurred, or the learner
may have already known how to accomplish this particular task.

7. Your boss says: “Why do I need to tell you what type of learning capability I’m interested in?
I just want a training program to teach employees how to give good customer service.
Explain to the boss how “good customer service” can be translated into different learning
outcomes.

Answer:
Answer will vary. The boss needs to first define what is meant by “good” customer service.

8. How does practice help learning? What could a trainer do in a training session to ensure that
trainees engage in metacognition?

Answer:
Practice refers to the physical or mental rehearsal of a task, knowledge or skill to achieve
proficiency in performing the task or skill or demonstrating the knowledge. For practice to
be effective, it needs to actively involve the trainee. (p. 141)

9. What learning conditions are necessary for short- and long term retention of training content
to occur?

Answer:
Various learning conditions including both internal and external are needed. See Table 4-8. p.
149.

10. Can allowing trainees to make errors in training be useful? Explain.

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Answer:
Error management training refers to giving trainees the opportunities to make errors during
training. In error management training, trainees are instructed that errors can help learning,
and they are encouraged to make errors and learn from them. (p. 142)

11. Under what circumstances might a traditional seating arrangement be superior to a fan-type
seating arrangement?

Answer:
If a large number of individuals are to be trained at one time, traditional seating may be more
appropriate. (p. 151)

12. You have a one-day classroom experience in which you need to help a group of engineers and
software programmers learn to become project managers. After training, they will have to
manage some significant projects. Discuss the instructional characteristics and activities you
will use to ensure that the engineers and software programmers learn project management.
Identify the course parameters and develop a sample lesson overview.

Answer:
Answers will vary. See pages 155-160.

13. Detailed lesson plans have important information for trainers. List the different types of
information found in a detailed lesson plan. Also indicate the importance of each type of
information for learning.

Answer:
Detailed lesson plans include a variety of information including: course title, lesson title,
lesson length, learning objectives, target audience, prerequisites, room arrangement, required
equipment and materials, room arrangement, and the method of evaluation. (p. 156)

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