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Optimizing Learning Process
The following learning principles should be undertaken to increase the success of training:

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Setting the Stage for Learning

Clear Expectations. If task instructions are unclear or imprecise, learning is hampered. Employees must know what is expected in order to perform as desired. Clear instructions establish appropriate behavioral expectations. Training expectations should be stated in specific terms. The conditions under which performance is or isn't expected should be identified, along with the behavior to be demonstrated. It's also useful to specify up front what the reward will be for performing as desired.

Behavioral Models. Even when instructions are clear, the desired behavior still may not occur if the trainee does not know how to perform it. This problem can be overcome through behavioral modeling, which is a visual demonstration of desired behavior. The model can be a supervisor, coworker, or subject matter expert, and the demonstration can be live or videotaped. The important thing is to show employees what needs to be done before asking them to do it.

Increasing Learning During Training

Active Participation. Individuals perform better if they're actively involved in the learning process. Organizational help in this area can range from encouraging active participation in classroom discussions to establishing a set of programs to assist managers in a major strategic change.

Self-Efficacy. Even with modeling, learning may not occur if people have feelings of low self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a trainee's beliefs about a task-specific ability. If individuals dwell on their personal deficiencies relative to the task, potential difficulties may seem more formidable than they really are. On the other hand, people who have a strong sense of self-efficacy are likely to be motivated to overcome obstacles.

Enactive Mastery. Self-efficacy increases when experiences fail to validate fears and when competencies acquired allow for mastery of once-threatening situations. This process is called enactive mastery. To facilitate task mastery, trainers should arrange the subject matter so that trainees experience success. Whereas this may be easy when tasks are simple, it can be quite difficult when tasks are complex. Solutions include segmenting the task, shaping behavior, and setting proximal goals. Task segmentation involves breaking a complex task into smaller or simpler components. Shaping includes rewarding closer and closer approximations to desire behavior. The setting of proximal goals, or intermediary goals, also increases mastery perceptions.

Feedback. For individuals to master new concepts and acquire new competencies, they must receive accurate diagnostic feedback about their performance. When feedback isn't received or is inaccurate, the wrong behaviors may be practiced. Feedback can be provided by a supervisor, coworker customers, computers, or the individual performing the task. It must be specific, timely, based on behavior and not personality, and practical.

Practice. The goal of training is to ensure that the desired behavior occurs not just one time but consistently. This is most likely to occur when trainees are able to practice and internalize standards of performance. Even mental practice appears to help improve performance. Practicing the wrong behaviors is detrimental; therefore, practice must follow specific feedback.

Maintaining Performance After Training

Learning Points. New skills and information are more likely to be retained when learning points are developed. Learning points summarize key behaviors?particularly those that aren't obvious?and serve as cognitive cues back on the job. Although learning points can be written by trainers, trainee-generated learning points ?even if they're of lower quality? enhance recall and lead to better skill acquisition and retention.

Specific Goals. Without goals, people have little basis for judging how they're doing. Specific goals for subsequent performance should be challenging but not so difficult as to be perceived impossible. They also shouldn't be set too early in the learning process.

Reinforcers. Learning new behaviors is difficult and threatening. To ensure that trainees continue to demonstrate the skill they have learned, behavior must be reinforced. Reinforcement can be positive (e.g., praise and financial rewards) or negative (e.g., "If you perform as desired, I will quit screaming at you."), but it must be contingent on performance.

Significant Others. Trainers must also teach significant others to look for and reinforce desired changes. If a person labeled a troubled employee continues to be viewed as such, the person has no incentive to display new behavior. If, however, a supervisor or coworker responds positively to a positive change in behavior, the frequency with which the new behavior will be displayed is likely to increase.

Self-Reinforcement. Because it isn't always possible for significant others to reinforce an individual worker, a long-term objective should be to teach employees how to set their own goals and administer their own reinforcement. When people create self-incentives for their efforts, they're capable of making self-satisfaction contingent on their own performance. The challenge here is to ensure that personal goals are congruent with organizational goals, which leads to self-management.

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Longer-Term Follow-up. All too often, even when training has been successful, participants who want to change their behavior get back to work and then slowly slip back into their old patterns. This results in a significant loss of effectiveness of the training program. One approach to help prevent this from happening is a post-training action plan or post-training contract.

Source of Reference:
Susan Jackson and Randal Schuler, Managing Human Resources : A Partnership Perspective, South-Western Publishing. You can obtain this fine book here