Reconceptualizing the Learning Transfer Conceptual Framework: Empirical Validation of a New Systemic Model

  • Constantine Kontoghiorghes
  • Published 2004


In recent years the topic of learning transfer has become very popular among HRD researchers. Aside from being a relatively new topic that provides numerous research opportunities, its popularity can also be attributed to its importance in terms of HRD practice, as well as the failure rates many ascribe to it. As it has been widely reported in the literature, training investments often fail to deliver the desired and expected outcome. It has been reported that despite the vast amounts of money organizations spend on employee training, only about 10 % to 15% of it is actually transferred back to the workplace (Baldwin & Ford, 1988; Broad & Newstrom, 1992; Burke & Baldwin, 1999; Facteau, Dobbins, Russell, Ladd, & Kudisch, 1995). Hence, through different approaches researchers have attempted to offer better explanations of the learning transfer phenomenon and thus provide answers with regard to what factors can facilitate or impede the learning transfer process. In general, the majority of training transfer research relies on mostly two conceptual models when explaining the learning transfer process. These two conceptual models are based on Vroom’s (1964) expectancy theory and the Baldwin and Ford (1988) transfer of training model. Expectancy theory, as applied to training transfer, suggests that employees will be motivated to attend HRD programs and try to learn from them if they believe: a) their efforts will result in learning the new skills or information presented in the program; b) attending the program and learning new skills will increase their job performance; and, c) doing so will help them obtain desired outcomes or prevent unwanted outcomes (DeSimone, Werner, & Harris, 2002). Baldwin and Ford’s model asserts that the effectiveness of a training intervention is contingent upon many variables. Training design, trainee characteristics, and work-environment characteristics are considered to be the most important sets of variables. Under the training design dimension one is concerned with principles of learning, sequencing of training content, and training content. Trainee characteristics refer to such personal traits as ability, personality, and motivation. The work environment under the Baldwin and Ford model is viewed in terms of the level of support the trainee receives from his or her supervisor and coworkers when acquiring and using new skills, knowledge, and behaviors. Further, under the work environment dimension one is concerned with the extent to which the trainee has the opportunity to use and practice what he or she has learned in training. In terms of research, the following factors have been found by researchers to facilitate the learning transfer process: self-efficacy (Ford, Quinones, Sego, & Sorra, 1992; Tannenbaum, Mathieu, Salas, & Cannon-Bowers, 1991); principles of learning used (Decker, 1982); ability (Robertson & Downs, 1979); supervisory and coworker support for training (Clark, Dobbins, & Ladd, 1993; Facteau, Dobbins, Russell, Ladd, & Kudisch, 1995; Kontoghiorghes, 2001a; Tharenou, 2001); the similarity of training content with actual task performed (Axtell, Maitlis, & Yearta, 1997; Kontoghiorghes, 2002; Rouiller & Goldstein, 1993); intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for using the newly learned skills and knowledge (Rouiller & Goldstein, 1993; Kontoghiorghes, 2001a; Tracey, Tannenbaum, & Kavanagh, 1995); training accountability (Kontoghiorghes, 2002); job utility—the perceived usefulness of training for attainment of career goals (Clark et al, 1993); career utility--the perceived usefulness of training in facilitating the attainment of job goals (Clark et al., 1993); job involvement (Mathieu, Tannenbaum, Salas, 1992; Noe & Schmitt, 1986); organizational commitment (Facteau et al., 1995; Kontoghiorghes, 2002); motivation to learn (Holton, Bates, & Ruona, 2000; Kontoghiorghes, 2002; Mathieu & Martineau, 1997; Tracey, Hinkin, Tannenbaum, & Mathieu, 2001); and, motivation to transfer (Facteau et al., 1995; Kontoghiorghes, 2002; Ruona, Leimbach, Holton, Bates, 2002;Tannenbaum et al., 1991; Warr, Allan, & Birdi, 1999). Schematically, the conceptual framework that has traditionally governed learning transfer research is displayed in the non-shaded area of Figure 1 (Kontoghiorghes, 2002). A close look at the diagram will reveal most factors studied under the traditional conceptual framework pertain mostly to trainee characteristics, and attributes that are directly related to the training context or training related outcomes. Furthermore, the work environment is defined

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@inproceedings{Kontoghiorghes2004ReconceptualizingTL, title={Reconceptualizing the Learning Transfer Conceptual Framework: Empirical Validation of a New Systemic Model}, author={Constantine Kontoghiorghes}, year={2004} }