Probably the most famous “steps of training” guidance is the one created by the instructional theorist Robert Gagne. Gagne’s ideas are justly well-regarded and we’ve already written an article about Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. So feel free to click that link you just passed up if you’re curious.
But in their 2003 book Writing Training Materials that Work: How to Train Anyone to Do Anything, Wellesley R. Foshay, Kenneth H. Silber, and Michael B. Stelnicki present their own, more updated steps. What makes these steps especially interesting (and I believe useful) is that they’re grounded in the field of cognitive psychology, the study of how people learn, including things like attention, thinking, memory, and problem-solving.
In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the steps, as you’d guess. And we’ll also present some additional ideas from the book. Of course, we encourage you to buy and read the book on your own, too.
The three authors list five steps that learners (not trainers–that’s still to come) must perform in order to learn. And then for each of those “learner steps” they give steps of what trainers have to do to help the learner at that phase.
We’re going to start by just listing the five steps that learners have to go through. We’ll add the corresponding trainer steps shortly.
Here are the five steps that a learner goes through when learning something new:
That’s it. Those are the steps that learners have to go through. As you can see by looking at the list, these are things the learner has to do in order, from top to bottom.
Next, let’s turn our attention to how trainers can help learners do this.
Now it’s time to look at how trainers can help learners through the five steps of learning new information.
It’s important to note that while the learners have to go through their five steps in order, there isn’t an exact order for what the trainers have to do, and this can vary in different circumstances.
So now you have seen (a) the steps the learners have to go through and (b) the steps the trainer should go through to help the learner through the learning process.
Remember that to help the learner through Learning Step 4 (help learner unify and reorganize information in memory), the trainer is supposed to present the information in the way that makes it easiest to understand. As we mentioned earlier, the authors take six or more chapters explaining how to do this, so that explanation is beyond the scope of this article. However, we’ll give you the basic idea and then we’ll give you a link to a summary of a related issue.
The authors follow a well-established line of thought in saying that training materials present information of different types, including:
They then use six chapters, one chapter per type of information listed above, showing how to apply the steps of training to each of these different information types. It may sound tedious and boring at first, and to be honest, that’s what I thought initially also. But after a while, I really began to appreciate their efforts, and I learned a lot. To truly “get it,” I strongly recommend reading the book, but know that we have a similar blog post that covers a lot of this in a much shorter form–here it is.
One L&D researcher/blogger that I respect quite a bit is Dr. Will Thalheimer. He’s created a list of what he calls “learning maximizers” that to some degree overlaps the lists above and to another degree extends the list.
If you’re feeling especially curious and studious today, and have a few extra minutes, you could do well by reading up on Thalheimer’s Learning Maximizers.
You might also enjoy some of these interviews we’ve held with Dr. Thalheimer:
The theoretical strength of this book is presenting a new model for designing and delivering training in a series of steps based on cognitive psychology. For that, we applaud. The practical (and no doubt time-consuming) strength of the book is that the authors gave very realistic examples of how to apply the steps to each of the information types described above. This really helped to make their steps more concrete in my own brain.
But even if you don’t go full-bore and use their entire method, I think there’s a lot of value in going over their steps of training and seeing which things you’re doing now and which you’re not. Even at that first level, their training steps serve as a nice checklist of things you should aim to do in all your training sessions.
Learn the importance of using differing training delivery methods and get some tips for selecting the right training method for each training need.