When we transfer, we are successful. When we don’t transfer, we fail.

Will Thalheimer, 2020

Author Will Thalheimer PhD (Work-Learning, Research) has provided a welcome addition to the start of 2020, Factors That Support Training Transfer: A Brief Synopsis of the Transfer Research.

The goal of the review was to distill validated transfer factors—learning design and learning support elements that increase the likelihood that learning will transfer, and ‘package’ the information so that it is most useful to those ‘in the field’ of learning design.

While the review found a distinct lack of rigorous research around many of the common approaches utilised for Transfer and their impact, the review did identify many testable hypotheses regarding factors for success. These are provided in the Synopsis in two categories (1) Those with strong support in research, and (2) Those research has identified have possible benefits.

Here are some of those identifiable factors in brief.

  • Learners who develop SKILLS during training will be more successful in transfer.
  • Learners who learn CONCEPTS during training will be more successful in transfer
  • Learners who are motivated to apply what they’ve learned to their work will be more successful in transfer.
  • Learners are more likely to achieve transfer success if they have early opportunities to take what they’ve learned and utilize it in their work.
  • A learner can learn poorly during training; but, if motivated and engaged in subsequent on-the-job learning, they can be successful in transfer.
  • Far transfer rarely happens; only near transfer happens reliably. That is, learning tends to transfer to only those contexts already experienced or practiced.
  • Learners who set goals to transfer what they’ve learned improve the likelihood they’ll achieve transfer.
  • Learners who utilize triggered action planning will be more likely to engage in application activities than learners who have goals alone.
  • Learners with supervisors who encourage, support, and monitor learning transfer are more likely to successfully transfer.
  • Learners who work where there is a supportive transfer climate are more likely to successfully transfer.
  • Transfer outcomes may take time to be realized. That is, they may not be fully realized right away.
  • The longer the time between training and transfer, the less likely that training generated knowledge create benefits for transfer.
  • The more success learners have in their first attempts to transfer what they’ve learned, the more likely they are to persevere in more transfer-supporting behaviours.
  • When learners rate both the factors affecting transfer and the transfer outcomes— especially when ratings are gathered in the same context—significant biasing occurs, making transfer effects appear larger than they are in reality.
  • It should not be assumed that learners will maintain the same level of motivation (to apply what they’ve learned) throughout the learning-to-transfer process
  • Transfer can be influenced at different times during the learning-to-transfer process—most notably before, during, and after training.
  • While many transfer interventions have shown limited or weak results in the research literature, a large majority of the interventions utilized less than two hours of time. With such limited learner engagement, the weak results may be expected.

To see the full Article including a list of ‘Possible Transfer Factors’, and Recommendations for Learning Professionals and Transfer Researchers, access it online here or visit the Work-Learning Research Site here.