The Three Words Your Customer Must Know

Before I dive into the three words I need to clear up two more misconceptions about training first. Why? Because its one of the words.

Jay includes "training" in his of 8 Dirty Words and gives the following reason, "Training is something you do to someone. Learning is something people do for themselves."

Some of the roughest, toughest people in the training profession are U.S. Marine Drill Sergeants. One of their mottos is that they will not give up un a new recruit as long as he or she does not give up on themselves. Even though their training is some of the best in the world, it is not a one-size-fit-all solution, and they realize they can't "do it" to others; but rather the learners must be willing to learn it themselves. They adjust as long as the learners are willing to learn. I cannot "do it" to you; you must be willing to learn yourself.

Daniel Spira commenting on Jay's post (How Not To Sell Learning / Performance / Training & Development Projects), writes

On the flip side, the term “training” does suggest a strong one-way orientation, as in, “Here is the process.  Follow it.”  and in that way, appears to presuppose how a given solution will be delivered, which may or may not fit with the client’s needs. 

Just because I offer training as one solution, does that mean it is the only solution I am allowed to offer? If I am presented with a performance problem and if it is decided that learning is part of the solution and if the learning meets certain requirements, then yes, training just might be the solution.

OK, on to the three words, Training, Education, Development. These three words are important because they tell the customer when they are going to see a payoff (impact or result) and what must be done to achieve the payoff.


Training is learning that is provided in order to improve performance on the present job. This means training is orientated towards the present. And workplace performance is the only measure to determine its success.

Why must your customer know this? If it is decided that training is the solution, then it has to be carried over to the workplace. It does not require fancy ROI's or other fancy measurements but rather that the agreed upon performance is actually being accomplished once the training is performed. This means there must be an immediate impact once the training has occurred and if this impact is not seen then the training failed. Two quick examples.

I trained forklift operations in manufacturing and distribution centers. Note that these forklifts operate differently than cars in that they have no steering wheel but rather joysticks, their braking system is backwards in that you step on it to make it go and release it to make it stop, etc. Once we have completed the training in a safe place the learners are then certified in the actual workplace. I ascertain that the performance is carried over to the workplace. If I don't ensure the impact occurs then that means I did an half-a** job. Its that simple.

I have also trained SQL on AS/400 systems. The training is important because if they fail to do it correctly they can not only get an incorrect solution but may also bring the system to a crawl. Once we have completed the classroom training, the learners return to the workplace and within a set period of time they are required to build three SQL solutions. Before running each solution they send it to the instructional staff to ensure it is correct. If they fail to complete the assignment their SQL privileges are revoked. We ensure performance carries over to the workplace.


Education in organizations differ from education in schools so don't let the following definition confuse you. Education is training people to do a different job. It is often given to people who have been identified as being promotable, being considered for a new job either lateral or upwards, or to increase their potential. Unlike training, which can be fully evaluated immediately upon the learners returning to work, education can only be evaluated when the learners move on to their future jobs or tasks.

Why must your customer know this term? Since there is a delay between the learning solution and the actual performance, then reinforcement has to occur. If no reinforcement is provided then there is a very good chance that performance will decline (we loose what we do not use). Learning professionals and their customers often get themselves into trouble when they provided training solutions to educational learning problems.

For example, an organization is implementing a new system. Sixty-four days before the new system is to be implemented the learners receive their "training." On the day of the new system implemention things turn into a disaster because the workers forgot what they had learned. The only way a training solution would work is if for example the learners are trained on a weekend and the new system is implemented on Monday. Another method is to provide a performance support solution. If it is decided that the only solution is classroom learning and for some reason the learners will not be able to put their new skills and knowledge to immediate use, then it has to be treated as educational learning, which means reinforcement must be be provided during the delay.


Development is training people to acquire new horizons, technologies, or viewpoints. It enables leaders to guide their organizations onto new expectations by being proactive rather than reactive. It enables workers to create better products, faster services, and more competitive organizations. It is learning for growth of the individual, but not related to a specific present or future job.

Why must your customer know this term? Most development solutions require a lot of involvement from everyone involved, to include the leaders and the learning specialists. In addition the payoff (impact or result) is normally not going to be seen for some time.

For example, during my talks with my last three customers (all large organizations) I discovered that they all had wikis, but that that they were all basically barren wastelands. And they all implemented them in basically the same way — a training solution was provided. Again, wrong learning solution for the problem. Development solutions that get solved with training solutions is probably the biggest reason that training gets it bad reputation. For example, in my last post I noted that such programs as spirit-building, inculcation of company history and philosophy, and individual growth were identified as training, thus they failed to provide the proper impact when measured against Kirkpatrick's Four-Levels of Evaluation. The reason they failed does not mean they are bad programs, but rather they were treated as training problems rather than development opportunities.

So do yourself and your customers a favor — know the three terms and know when to use them


How Learning Professionals Made Training a Dirty Word

"Training is what you do to dogs."

Yea. Right. Tell that to the U.S. Armed Forces who used it correctly to become the finest warriors the world has ever seen.

An author writing for a training magazine pens, "How many times have you heard training directors say: "I need to find a way to assure that what I teach in the classroom is effectively used on the job?" "I would estimate that only 10 percent of content which is presented in the classroom is reflected in behavioral change on the job." Shortly after his article appeared, a peer-reviewed journal cites the magazine and article that the "rhetorical question" appears in as "research has shown that only 10% of training transfer to the job." Not too long after that books and speakers are citing the peer-reviewed article (and each other) as proof that training does not work. Learning professionals applause and are awed by this amazing piece of "research."

Yea. Right. If I knew that only 10% of my efforts paid off I would follow Beck's advice, call myself a looser, and go shoot myself.


Two researchers show that Kirkpatrick's Four-Levels of Evaluation is not effective for evaluating "training." However, rather than actually examining "training" programs, they exam such "learning" programs as spirit-building, inculcation of company history or philosophy, and individual growth. And of course the Four-Levels prove ineffective in evaluating these "training" programs. The learning community is happy — the research has not only shown that "training" does not transfer, but also that our methods for evaluating it are ineffective.

Yea. Right. Kirkpatrick never said that his method was valid for evaluating all learning programs, but rather training programs.

The world is becoming so complex that training is no longer a useful concept, besides past "research" has shown that it is pretty much ineffective. It only works with dogs.

Yea. Right. The aerospace industry is perhaps one of the most complex industries around, yet they are able to survive in this complexity through set processes, which of course must be trained.

Great work learning community! We can now forget about "training" and simply do pure "learning" programs. To show that we are still advancing our profession, what word are we going after this decade?


Leading Through a Rear-View Mirror

Shortly after posting Metalearning and Learning Styles I glanced through the latest edition of Chief Learning Officer and came to an interesting quote, "Many CLOs believe podcasting is oversold because few people are auditory learners and its no different than cassettes or CDs from the past 15 years." You can read the article at, A Look at the Industry in 2010 (the quote is on the last page, top paragraph).

I find this quite interesting as CLOs should be the thought-leaders in our profession and yet they are following Marshall McLuhan's quote spot on:

The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the recent past. We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future. - The Medium is the Massage.
Looking Backwards in Time

Rather than looking backwards through a rear-view mirror, they should be looking at McLuhan's tetrad: four laws for looking at our culture and framed as questions:

  • Enhancement or extend: what improved performance does it provide over the old
  • Obsolescence: what does it make passe
  • Retrieval: what new media is pulled from our cultural inventory
  • Reversal: we tend to over-do the new until we run out of benefits and into detriments

Thus, the four questions that should be asked about podcasting are:

What does the technology extend or enhance?

It extends the benefits of dL (distance Learning) by providing the best medium for delivering lectures. See The effectiveness of m-learning in the form of podcast revision lectures in higher education and Turn on your iPod and learn. Note that lectures are an effective means for departing subject matter knowledge and is just as effective as discussions (Dunkin & Barnes, 1985; Kulik & Kulik, 1979; McKeachie, 1962; Ryan, 1969). In addition, the CLOs in the survey are guilty of placing too much stock in learning styles. The question is not "what media should we use for a learning style," but "what method of learning is best for the knowledge or skill that must be acquired.

Podcasts also enhances the device itself in that it is digital and a more versatile package than cassette or CD players.

What does it make obsolete?

Time spent in the classroom can now be spent on interactions and activities rather than listening.

Podcasting, part of the audio digital file family, is already eliminating the need to keep track of extra media, such as cassettes and CDs.

What is retrieved?

Subject matter knowledge.

What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?

It reverts into classroom training that is composed of nothing more than lectures. Thus while podcasts may be used strictly on their own in a few select instances, they should normally be used to train the subject knowledge required for a task, in addition to being used with classroom or elearning activities that will actually give the learners the skills to use the knowledge gained with the podcasts.


Metalearning and Learning Styles

First, I'm sorry for the long delay between postings but I got tied up with a couple of complex projects. Hopefully future postings will be more timely.

One of the elements in the Periodic Chart of Agile Learning is metalearning — being aware of and taking control of one's own learning (Biggs, 1985). However, since most educational and training activities normally teach learners what to learn, rather than how to learn, this is one task that does not come easily for some learners. One method that can help learners increase their metalearning skills is by giving them an insight into the use of perceptional channels (DeSimone, Werner, Harris, 2002).

Perceptional channels are often referred to as "modalities" — a channel by which human expression can take place and is composed of a combination of perception and memory. It is often used in Learning Style theory. While Learning Styles has been written and blogged about a lot lately, normally in response to two papers, Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence and Learning Styles and Pedagogy in Post-16 Learning, I believe it is going in the wrong direction. Note that the two papers do NOT disprove learning styles as scientific studies can normally only prove what exists, not what does not exist. For example, in one study of verbal and visual learners, magnetic resonance imaging technology actually shows that the brain processes information differently, depending upon a person's learning style.

photo by iStock

Now I'm not advocating that using one's learning style promotes learning, because so far the evidence does not support this, but rather the opposite — the use of one's learning style often hinders or prevents learning. For example, one study found that visual presentation through the use of pictures was advantageous for all adults, irrespective of a high or low learning-style preference for visual images. In addition, it was especially advantageous for those with a strong preference for verbal processing (Constantinidou, Baker, 2002).

This also apples to other types of learning styles. For example, while verbal learners may like to read about something rather than actually try it, they do much better when they actually apply the skills (kinesthetic), rather than reading about it (Matching Teaching Style to Learning Style May Not Help Students).

Rather than teaching learners that knowing and using their personal learning style is best for them, we should be showing them how an over-reliance on one's learning style is actually harmful, thus they need to select the best style or modality for the task on hand. The meta-analysis of educational interventions conducted by (Hattie, Biggs, Purdie, 1996) can help us put metalearning in context with other interventions, which allows us to put our limited resources and efforts into the interventions that have the largest effect sizes:

Intervention Effect size
Reinforcement 1.13
Student's prior cognitive ability 1.00
Instructional quality 1.04
Direct instruction 0.82
Student's disposition to learn 0.61
Class environment 0.56
Peer tutoring 0.50
Parental involvement 0.46
Teacher style 0.42
Affective attributes of students 0.24
Individualization 0.14
Behavioral objectives 0.12 (interesting?)
Team teaching 0.06

While the above chart does not include metalearning, we can use the research of Marzano (1998) who found that approaches that were directed at metalearning, such as setting goals, choosing appropriate strategies, and monitoring progress are more effective in improving learning outcomes than those which simply aim to engage learners at the level of presenting information for understanding and use. Interventions targeted at improving metalearning produced an average gain of 26 percentile points. While there are a few of ways of calculating effect size and percentile points, I believe 26 percentile points would roughly equal an effect size of 0.80. This would place metalearning in the top five interventions:

Intervention Effect size
Reinforcement 1.13
Student's prior cognitive ability 1.00
Instructional quality 1.04
Direct instruction 0.82
Metalearning 0.80
Student's disposition to learn 0.61
Class environment 0.56
Peer tutoring 0.50
Parental involvement 0.46
Teacher style 0.42
Affective attributes of students 0.24
Individualization 0.14
Behavioral objectives 0.12 (interesting?)
Team teaching 0.06

In addition, as we begin placing more emphasis on informal learning, rather than formal and nonformal, metalearning's importance would probably rank even higher in the chart. Using learning styles as a tool to help learners learn-to-learn, rather that an instrument for stereotyping them into using a particular style, could help them to target one or more styles to fit a strategy for a particular learning need. If you are interested, here are two free learning style surveys to help you: VAK and the Learning Style Survey.


Biggs, J. B. (1985). The role of meta-learning in study process. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 55, 185-212.

Constantinidou, F. and Baker, S. (2002). Stimulus modality and verbal learning performance in normal aging. Brain and Language, 82(3), 296-311.

DeSimone, R.L., Werner, J.M., Harris, D.M. (2002). Human Resource Development. Orlando, FL.: Harcourt, Inc.

Hattie, J., Biggs, J., and Purdie, N. (1996). Effects of Learning Skills Interventions on Student Learning: A Meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 66, 99-136.

Marzano, Robert J. (1998). A Theory-Based Meta-Analysis of Research on Instruction. Mid-continent Aurora, Colorado: Regional Educational Laboratory. Retrieved May 2, 2000 from http://www.mcrel.org/PDF/Instruction/5982RR_InstructionMeta_Analysis.pdf