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The Theory Part

Learning about learning with Wali

Excerpted from Train the Trainer workbook

The Theory Part

Learning about learning with Wali
In my 20 years training and coaching experience, I have learnt this: We trainers are often at our best in training delivery, usually good at design and developing materials but generally poor at the theory part. From our TTT workbook: This is an attempt to make your theory part easy and fun!

Research into learning has been going on for more than a hundred years. There are many theories about the nature of learning and how people learn best. In one authors words: There are more theories on learning than hair on a horse! Although it is not necessary for learners to be aware of all these theories, as trainers we can often use the findings of such research to design and deliver more effective training programmes. Here are a few of the more useful theories and approaches for corporate trainers: Classical Conditioning Theory (Pavlov-Skinner) Kolbs Experiential Learning Theory Four Stages of Learning Blooms Taxonomy original and revised Sensory Learning Preferences (SLP, based on NLP) VARK learning styles (Neil Fleming) Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner)

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Classical Conditioning Theory

Useful in: Why people learn
Classical Conditioning theory actually incorporates many distinct ideas about how people learn. These ideas are grouped together because they all stress the overriding importance of rewards and punishments in learning. Watson, Pavlov and Skinner were some of the pioneers of classical learning theory. Animals and humans learn by responding appropriately to rewards and punishments. This works most clearly with rats in a laboratory, but it can be seen everywhere. Once a baby has touched a hot iron he quickly learns not to do so again (punishment). A chimpanzee can be taught to ride a unicycle if its trainer gives it enough bananas (reward). In the world of skills training, classical learning is now seen as rather old-fashioned, crude and simplistic. However, if we are honest, we see rewards and punishments at work in all training. Rewards - a smile from the trainer, a simple well done, recognition of ones point of view, the promise of future promotion Punishments a frown from the trainer, embarrassment, the threat of being passed over for promotion, cries of rubbish Classical learning theory describes the stimuli and responses, which we can use to direct learners. However, it doesnt tell us much about what goes on inside the learners heads, how memory works or how some people learn better than others. This being the case, it is only of limited use in the modern training environment.

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Kolbs Experiential Learning Theory

Useful in: How people learn by doing. Experiencebased learning
Kolbs 1984 model is based on the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT). The model outlines two related approaches toward grasping experience: Concrete Experience and Abstract Conceptualisation, as well as two related approaches toward transforming experience: Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation. According to Kolbs model, the ideal learning process engages all four of these modes in response to situational demands.

Kolbs Learning Cycle

Do You do something, say, make a cup of tea. Review/Reflect You reflect on it. Perhaps it tastes too bitter. Learn/Conclude You draw conclusions from the reflection. Maybe it tastes bitter because you let it brew too long, maybe because you didnt add enough sugar. Apply/Experiment You try adding more sugar next time.





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For learning to be effective, all four approaches must be incorporated. As individuals attempt to use all four approaches, however, they tend to develop strengths in one experience-grasping approach and one experience-transforming approach. The resulting learning styles are combinations of the individuals preferred approaches. The four learning styles are as follows: 1. Converger 2. Diverger 3. Assimilator 4. Accommodator

Convergers are characterised by abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. They are good at making practical applications of ideas and using deductive reasoning to solve problems.

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Divergers tend toward concrete experience and reflective observation. They are imaginative and are good at coming up with ideas and seeing things from different perspectives. Assimilators are characterised by abstract conceptualization and reflective observation. They are capable of creating theoretical models by means of inductive reasoning. Accommodators use concrete experience and active experimentation. They are good at actively engaging with the world and actually doing things instead of merely reading about and studying them.

Kolbs model gave rise to the Learning Style Inventory (LSI), an assessment method used to determine an individuals learning style. An individual may exhibit a preference for one of the four styles Accommodating, Converging, Diverging and Assimilating - depending on their approach to learning via the experiential learning theory model. Currently, version 4 of Kolb LSI is available with Hays.

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Honey & Mumford Learning Style Inventory

Useful in: How people learn differently

Just like Kolb LSI, Honey & Mumfords LSI is also popular. You can access 80-item questionnaire from their website.

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Four Stages of Learning

Useful in: How people learn stage by stage. Easy. Practice-based learning
1 Unconscious incompetence
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognise the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognise their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.

2 Conscious incompetence
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognise the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.

3 Conscious competence
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.

4 Unconscious competence
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become second nature and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

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Here is a simple formulation of the four stages of learning that is often used by trainers and educators.

Unconscious incompetence Conscious incompetence Conscious competence Unconscious competence

Say, someone was learning to drive a car. Unconscious incompetence means I know nothing about cars. Conscious incompetence means I am told how to drive a car but I cant drive yet. Conscious competence means I can now drive, but I need to think about it. Unconscious competence means I can drive without really thinking about it.

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Blooms Taxonomy
Useful in: How people learn stage by stage. Complex. Full spectrum of learning
In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behaviour important in learning. Bloom found that over 95% of the test questions students encounter require them to think only at the lowest possible level the recall of information. Bloom identified six levels within the cognitive domain, from the simple recall or recognition of facts, as the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order, which is classified as evaluation. Learning doesnt have to go through all these stages; but true, longterm learning is the learning that has moved right through the hierarchy.

Knowledge being exposed to information, facts, skills, etc. This might be through reading a manual, attending a lecture. Comprehension being asked about the information, facts, etc. This might be through an exam or informal questioning. Application applying the knowledge acquired to the real world and workplace. Analysis analysing how the knowledge was used and its outcomes. Synthesis building on the knowledge acquired to develop new skills and ideas about the same subject. Evaluation assessing how successfully the knowledge has been acquired. Deciding which areas need to be improved.

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Verb examples that represent outcomes at each level are listed here:

Knowledge arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorise, name, order, recognise, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, state. Comprehension classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognise, report, restate, review, select, translate, Application apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatise, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write. Analysis analyse, appraise, calculate, categorise, compare, contrast, criticise, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test. Synthesis arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, manage, organise, plan, prepare, propose, set up, write. Evaluation appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, compare, defend, estimate, judge, predict, rate, core, select, support, value, evaluate.

The word list above can help you in writing learning outcomes. Use a phrase like this: After the end of this task, learners will be able to (insert verb)

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Revised Blooms Taxonomy (RBT)

Useful in: How people learn stage by stage. Complex. Full spectrum of learning. Deciding on what stage your learning intervention will be. Designing tasks accordingly
During the 1990s, a former student of Blooms, Lorin Anderson, led a new assembly which met for the purpose of updating the taxonomy. Published in 2001, the revision includes several seemingly minor yet actually quite significant changes.

The new terms are defined as: 1. Remembering Retrieving, recognizing, and recalling relevant knowledge from long-term memory. 2. Understanding Constructing meaning from oral, written, and graphic messages through interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, and explaining. 3. Applying Carrying out or using a procedure through executing, or implementing. 4. Analysing Breaking material into constituent parts, determining how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose through differentiating, organizing, and attributing. 5. Evaluating Making judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing. 6. Creating Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing.

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In an effort to minimise the confusion, comparison images appear below:

New version


Applying Analysing Evaluating Creating

Old version

Application Analysis Synthesis Evaluation

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Sensory Learning Preferences (SLP)

Useful in: How people learn differently. Three types. Designing materials
In the 1970s, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) was developed as a way of looking at how people processed information, feelings, ideas and experiences. Some people seem happiest were perceiving things through the eyes, making pictures in their heads; they are known as visual learners. Others prefer to listen to information and talk about it; they are known as auditory learners. Still others seem to like physical feelings like movement, touch, smell or taste; these are known as Kinesthetic or tactile learners.

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Influence Environment

Visual Likes attractive surroundings and orderliness Likes pictures, diagrams, colours Takes notes, mind maps, plans or flow charts Stares around, looks out of window

Auditory Distracted by external noise Dislikes long descriptions, not interested in pictures Needs verbal repetition from self and others Talks

Kinesthetic Needs space to move about Not very interested in reading Remembers activity, likes hands-on learning Gestures and fidgets

Documentation and visual aids

Data collection

Symptoms of stress or boredom

Sometimes it is easy to spot a particular learners sensory learning preference. Someone who memorises dates, vocabulary and facts by repeating them aloud to herself is likely to be an auditory learner. A learner who is keen to move around and do things in the training room is probably kinesthetic. A typical visual learner demands to see new information written down, e.g. on the whiteboard or a handout.

Which sense you prefer? How can we make sure we accommodate all sensory learning preferences in the training course?

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VARK learning styles

Useful in: How people learn differently. Four types. Designing materials
In 1987, Neil Fleming developed a learning styles inventory, VARK, designed to help students and others learn more about their individual learning preferences. In VARK, learners are identified by whether they have a preference for visual learning (pictures, movies, diagrams), auditory learning (music, discussion, lectures), reading and writing (making lists, reading textbooks, taking notes), or kinesthetic learning (movement, experiments, hands-on activities).

Learning preferences
Visual Auditory Read/Write Kinesthe<c

15% 30%



* Based on 62,094 responses to the VARK questionnaire during October-December 2011

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Visual Learners
Learn best by seeing. Graphic displays such as charts, diagrams, illustrations, handouts and videos are helpful learning tools. You prefer visual rather than written form. If you think you might be a visual learner, you may answer the following with a yes: Do you have to see information in order to remember it? Do you pay close attention to body language? Are art, beauty, and aesthetics important to you? Does visualising information in your mind help you remember it better?

Aural (or Auditory) Learners

Learn best by hearing information. They tend to get a great deal out of lectures and are good at remembering things they are told. Are you an auditory learner? Consider the following questions: Do you prefer to listen to class lectures rather than reading from the textbook? Does reading out loud help you remember information better? Would you prefer to listen to a recording of your class lectures or a podcast rather than going over your class notes? Do you create songs to help remember information?

Reading and Writing Learners

Prefer to take in information displayed as words. Learning materials that are primarily text-based are strongly preferred by these learners. Could you be a reading and writing learner? Do these questions apply to you? Do you find reading your textbook to be a great way to learn new information?

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Do you take a lot of notes during class and while reading your books? Do you enjoy making lists, reading definitions and creating PowerPoint presentations? Do you prefer it when teachers make use of overheads and handouts?

Kinesthetic (or Tactile) Learners

Learn best by touching and doing. Hands-on experience is important to them. Not sure if youre a kinesthetic learner? Do these questions apply to you? Do you enjoy performing tasks that involve directly manipulating objects? Is it difficult for you to sit still for long periods of time? Are you good at applied activities such as painting, cooking, mechanics, sports and woodworking? Do you have to actually practice doing something in order to learn it?

Currently, version 7.1 of VARK questionnaire is available.

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Multiple Intelligences
Useful in: How people learn differently. Eight intelligences. Designing materials
In 1983 book, Frames of Mind, Howard Gardner of Harvard asserts there is not just one intelligence (IQ) but that there are at least eight intelligences that can be used to describe our individual learning style.

Intelligence type Linguistic

Description Words and language, explanation of ideas and information via language Logical thinking, analyse problems, perform mathematical calculations, handle chains of reasoning,

Preferred style clues Activities that involve listening, impromptu or formal speaking, reading Activities that involve numeric sequences, calculation, problem solving


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recognise patterns and order Musical Musical ability, appreciation and use of sound; sensitive to pitch, melody, rhythm and tone Body movement control, physical alertness and balance; eye and body coordination Visual and spatial perception; visual images; pictorial imagination and expression Perception of other peoples feelings; interpretation of behaviour & communications Self-awareness, the capability to understand oneself, ones relationship to others and the world Environmentalist, connected to the details in nature Activities that involve audio tape, music, environmental sounds, rhythmic patterns


Activities that involve role playing, sports games, physical exercise


Activities that involve, pictures, shapes, images, color schemes, active imagination Activities that involve human contact, group projects, collaboration skills



Activities that involve emotional processing, thinking strategies, concentration skills Activities that involve bringing the outdoors into the class, relating to the natural world, observing wildlife


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The implication of the theory is that learning/training focus on the particular intelligences of each person. For example, if an individual has strong spatial or musical intelligences, they should be encouraged to develop these abilities.

Gardner: This is work-in-progress. Three more: Existential (or Metaphysical), Moral and Spiritual intelligences, are being considered by Gardner as the next in line.

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Some useful readings

The Little Book of Impact: Measurable Results from Learning (2013) REED Learning and Talent Development Survey (2013). London: CIPD. Training Strategies (2012) HR studies. London: IDS. Butler and Leach (2011) Action Learning for Change: a practical guide for managers. Cirencester: Management Books Pachler and Daly (2011) Key Issues in e-Learning: research and practice. London: Continuum. Talbot, J. (2011) Training in Organisations: a cost-benefit analysis. Farnham: Gower. Beevers and Rea (2010) Learning and Development Practice. London: CIPD. Boudreau (2010) Re-tooling HR: using proven business tools to make better decisions about talent. Boston: Harvard Business Press. Smyth, K. and Mainka, C. (2010) Pedagogy and learning technology: a practical guide. Edinburgh: Napier University. Rosemary Harrison (2009) Learning and Development. 5th ed. London: CIPD. Roger Buckley, Jim Caple (2009) The Theory and Practice of Training 6th ed. Kogan Page. Sloman (2007) The Changing World of the Trainer. Oxford: Elsevier ButterworthHeinemann. Bee & Bee (2007) Learning Evaluation. 2nd ed. London: CIPD. Anderson (2007) The Value of Learning: From Return on Investment to Return on Expectation. London: CIPD. Kearns (2005) Evaluating the ROI from Learning: how to develop value-based training. CIPD Samuel Malone (2004) Learning about Learning London: CIPD. Martyn Sloman (2003) Training in the Age of the Learner. Frances and Roland Bee (2003) Learning Needs Analysis and Evaluation. David Simmonds (2003) Designing & Delivering Training. Tony Pont (2003) Developing Effective Training Skills: from personal insight to organisational performance. Peter Bramley (2003) Evaluating Training.

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Kess van der Heijden, Ron Bradfield, George Burt, George Cairns and George Wright (2002) The Sixth Sense: Accelerating organisational learning with scenarios. Honey & Mumford (1992) The Manual of Learning Styles. UK.

Training Journal Training and Development Management Learning

Training Video
Ten Training Tips by John Townsend, Video Arts 2001

Websites for high-value content

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About Wali Zahid

Wali is an international consultant, speaker, trainer and executive coach and CEO of SkillCity Bahrain. A native of Pakistan, he has spoken to audiences in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle East, East Africa, Western Europe, England and the USA Asian businesses have known Wali for 20-year work on C-Level business leadership and executive coaching Wali leads the longest-running Train-The-Trainer workshop | 13th year | 16+ Asian locations | 1,000+ trainers trained A disruptor and a future-trends watcher Team Leader of Prime Minister Quality Award in Pakistan, which assesses and awards top firms in Pakistan based on the international quality framework called Malcolm Balridge Quality Award in the USA One of the first 20 Asian consultants trained by ISO on new standard on Social Responsibility ISO 26000. Only one from Pakistan Was called by two ministers-in-waiting to consult on how to turn around state-owned enterprises in June 2013 (before their oath-taking!) Board of Governors at Pakistan Society for Training & Development Received training and education in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Taiwan, Austria and Singapore. Accredited leadership trainer Team Management Systems, Australia
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Taught pioneering courses at MBA level in premier business schools like IBA Karachi, CBM, Dow and Szabist Last job: Country Director Management Development Services, British Council Pakistan during 2001-2008 Formerly member of UKs Institute of Directors, Chartered Management Institute, Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, and American Management Association

About Train the Trainer workshop

The current pace of change in the workplace has brought about a great demand for learning. With this comes a demand for training that is geared to the employees needs and is creative and enjoyable. The job of a trainer is more vital and challenging than ever. The trainer who can effectively pass on knowledge and skills is highly valued by the organisation. Equally applicable to managers in the private, public and educational sectors, this practical workshop provides you with techniques for making learning enjoyable and memorable, relevant and personal. You will leave the course with a deeper understanding of the learning process, greater confidence and scores of tips for making the training effective and fun. Guaranteed: Your future training courses will never be the same!

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About SkillCity
Are you a fast-growing company looking for a learning solution that prepares your people to achieve world-class performance? And become a truly global player? Let SkillCity assist you. Skill City is a new-generation learning and coaching firm, providing answers to complex workplace issues facing the Asian leaders. Using up-to-the-minute research and best practice available, we bring you the insights, perspectives and tools you need to make your managers and organisations achieve world-class performance and become a truly global player.

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