How do you ensure the transfer of training from the classroom to the workplace? As the saying goes, “Learning is a process, not an event.” In this three-part series, we’ll look at three stages of the learning process:

  1. Before training begins: “The transfer of training: Class begins before it starts
  2. On the job
  3. After training

Part 2 examines the importance of classroom activities. Trainers should always be looking for new, creative ways to make the training experience memorable. By using a variety of approaches, you’ll help your students retain information because they enjoyed learning it.
Your students—or their employers—are investing a lot of money in the training you’re providing for them. For that investment to pay off, it’s up to you to make sure they remember what they’ve learned once they return to work. Here are some strategies for helping your students retain and use their new skills on the job.

Provide focused, on-the-job examples
Incorporate on-the-job examples into your training programs as often as possible. Talk to the department managers or supervisors of your students to find out how they expect their staff to put the training to work back on the job. What types of tasks and projects do they typically handle? To reinforce the skills you’re teaching, consult with subject matter experts (SMEs) to target the information you should address in training. Plan to have these SMEs come into class and discuss their on-the-job experiences with the class. The material will be far more relevant and meaningful if your students can hear real-world examples from someone with practical knowledge.

Arrange job-related practice exercises
Practice exercises give students a supervised opportunity to use the concepts they just learned. You might even arrange a field trip to a business where some of the skills you’re teaching are in actual use. Students can either observe or spend a certain amount of time performing tasks themselves. Again, this activity will break the monotony of training by giving them an opportunity to get out of the classroom and into a real-world setting.

Use learner’s contracts
At the beginning of class, ask the students to write their own learner’s contract, which details the skills and work practices they hope to master by the end of the session. Once they finish writing their contract, have them put it in their books and add to the list as class goes forward, if they like. This is a tool for students to measure their initial expectations against what they learned in the end. At the conclusion of the training, instruct them to indicate on their evaluation forms whether they met the personal goals they established at the beginning of training in their learner’s contracts.

Create “bright idea” lists
To add some spunk to a training session, provide your students with bright-colored paper or sticky notes at the beginning of class. Then, encourage the students to write down any “bright” ideas, important tips, warnings, and so on that they want to remember. Ideally, these will be notes with personal relevance—things they know will come into play when they’re back on the job. This is an activity that should be done throughout the training course.

Launch team discussions
Plan to have the students hold team discussions on how they will apply a skill they just learned. After teaching a new skill, give the students a few moments to work within a group or with a partner and list ways they can use the skill on the job.

Maintain motivation and action
Keep the students motivated throughout the training course. Hold their attention and make learning fun with activities that keep the students focused and involved. For instance, you might conduct a session of “show-and-tell” that allows students to share a particular frustration or war story that reflects their experiences with the skill you’ve been working on in class. When possible, use props and visuals to explain key concepts.

Use commitment statements
At the end of training, have the students write a commitment statement that identifies what they plan to do during the next two weeks—and the next two months. They should describe how they’ll put their learning goals and bright ideas into action. Collect the statements and then mail them to your students in two weeks as a reminder of their action items.

Looking ahead
These are just a handful of ideas for helping ensure the transfer of learning from the classroom to the job. The final part in this series will discuss activities trainers can use after training to further reinforce the students’ retention of the knowledge and skills they’ve learned.
We all have our own bag of tricks for helping students retain what they learn in class. What are yours? If you’d like to comment on this article or add to the list of activities above, please post your comments at the bottom of the page or send usa note .