Posted: October 27th, 2022
Reflect on which approach suits you best when retaining knowledge—cognitive or behavioral. Explain your choice. How do you think organizations can apply the cognitive and behavioral approaches when designing and delivering training to meet the needs of more employees?
62 TD | October 2015
LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT
These basic training design
strategies will enhance your
presentations and entice
learners to participate in
the learning process.
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October 2015 | TD 63
Every year, the selection of appropriate training methods, learning materials, and instructional formats becomes more challenging because organizations demand to see a return on their investment.
Trainers need to understand why and how to design and develop instruc-
tional strategies and should be knowledgeable in how to use the most
widely accepted instructional formats.
BY GERI E. MCARDLE
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64 TD | October 2015
Training variables and instruction
Designing training requires planning and or-
ganization skills. The best way to achieve an
organized and structured training program is
to design training while considering the train-
The term training variables covers various
essential components that need to be included
in training design and delivery. The word vari-
able means an element that plays a specific
role at a specific time. There are three distinct
variables trainers need to include in design
strategy: training purpose levels, learner levels
and trainer roles, and trainer roles.
Variable 1: Training purpose levels
The purpose of this variable is to force train-
ers to think about the type of training they
are designing and delivering. There are four
training purpose levels: awareness, knowl-
edge, motivation, and skill or behavior change.
By incorporating the four levels in the design,
trainers can be confident that they have solid,
successful training events.
Awareness training enlightens learners and
improves their awareness levels and attitudes
on a specific subject. This level of training does
not seek to change the learners’ behaviors. An
example of this is a new organization benefits
Knowledge training is designed to give learn-
ers improved knowledge about a specific issue.
The amount of knowledge gained in the training
program can be specific and tested. An example
of this is a new product training.
Motivation training is designed to move
learners to take specific actions that have
specific benefits to someone or something.
An example of this is an organizational change
Skill or behavior change training is de-
signed to give learners the tools to perform
differently on the job. Specific skill changes
are taught, and the results of the training
can be tested. The skills can include either
personal (for example, time management or
keyboard skills) or group (for example, team
problem-solving processes) activities. An ex-
ample of this is a social skills training.
Each training presentation should be cre-
ated to fulfill one of the purpose levels. Once
the training topic and instructional strategy
are defined, trainers build on the road map
using the other variables. The training pur-
pose levels variable provides the focus for
Variable 2: Learner levels
and trainer roles
To explain this variable and how to use the
concept to design and deliver training, train-
ers should remember that two dynamics are
involved in teaching adults. The first dynamic
is the relationship that trainers have with
the training concepts they are delivering, the
learner, and the instructional process trainers
are using (that is, the trainer role).
The second dynamic is the content that is
delivered (that is, the amount of data learn-
ers need to know, or learner level). The most
important factor for this dynamic is the train-
ers’ judgment, because they decide how much
information and direction the learners receive
about the learning situation and the learning
cycle. This is best determined based on results
of a needs assessment.
When trainers design their training material
and develop their instructional strategies, they
should keep in mind that some learners need
a lot of information (written, spoken, and mul-
timedia), whereas others have mastered the
content and need only to occasionally check in
with the facilitator. The degree to which train-
ers emphasize lecture and content and the
amount of learning activity is an instructional
Variable 3: Trainer roles
There is no one way to design and deliver
training; however, there is an instructional
design strategy that trainers can use to
define their role. The four roles that trainers
can play are instructor, coach, facilitator, or
consultant. These roles apply to both face-
to-face and virtual learning environments.
Each trainer role requires the trainer to make
a decision as to what is required during the
learning event (see sidebar on page 65).
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October 2015 | TD 65
The appropriate choice of role is based on
the trainer’s assessment of the learners and
the amount of content and direction required
to achieve the training outcome as defined by
the lesson’s learning objective statement. For
example, if a trainer is introducing new mate-
rial, and learners need a substantial amount of
direction to understand and master the mate-
rial, the trainer role assumed would be one of
instructor. As the learners become more famil-
iar with the learning content, and require less
direction, the trainer assumes a different role.
Learning style preferences
Although there is no one comprehensive
learning style theory that all researchers and
trainers agree on, they do agree that indi-
viduals learn differently and learners exhibit
preferences for processing the information to
The preferences most often identified have
been classified as processing preferences,
perceptual preferences, and other learning
preferences that relate to the environment and
emotions. This information is helpful when
trainers make decisions about instructional
strategies, the levels of the learners, and the
role of the trainer.
Processing preferences. There are two ways
that people process information. Global pro-
cessors want to comprehend the big picture
first and then work on comprehending the
details that support the big picture, whereas
analytic (or linear) processors want to compre-
hend the details first and work systematically
toward grasping the big picture. The terms
global and analytic also have been described,
respectively, as right brain and left brain, se-
quential and simultaneous, and deductive and
Perceptual preferences. There are three
preferences that people use to involve them-
selves with information presented: visual,
auditory, and kinesthetic. According to Rita
Dunn, director of St. John’s University Center
for the Study of Learning and Teaching Styles,
the learning style distribution in an average
group is 30 percent to 40 percent visual, 20
percent to 30 percent auditory, and 30 per-
cent to 50 percent kinesthetic.
Other learning preferences. Other prefer-
ences identified are the learning environment
(for example, noisy versus quiet) and the emo-
tionality of the learner, such as motivational
elements and psychological factors.
around learning styles
Gathering information about an audience can
be an important step in developing effective
instructional strategies. To determine how the
• provides guidance although not
involved in the process
• helps learners gain knowledge
from experience and each other
• acts as an adviser
• provides subject matter expertise
• provides guidelines, help, and
• watches from the sidelines
• observes, practices, and gives
• provides detailed directions,
foundational material, and
structured learning events for
learners to master the topic
TRAINERS SHOULD UNDERSTAND MORE THAN ONE LEARNING STYLE
MODEL SO THEY CAN EMPLOY THE MODEL THAT IS MOST APPROPRIATE
FOR EACH LEARNING SITUATION.
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66 TD | October 2015
audience will learn best, trainers should as-
sess the various learning styles of the training
participants to help them design appropriate
Most researchers believe that trainers
should understand more than one learning
style model so they can employ the model that
is most appropriate for each learning situation.
Whichever learning style assessment approach
is used, trainers should consider how to in-
corporate the information they gather about
their audiences. Researchers have focused on
three areas in which to apply learning style in-
formation: self-awareness, course design, and
Self-awareness. Several researchers recom-
mend that trainers and learners go through
assessment exercises so they have a greater
self-awareness of their own learning styles.
Trainers need to know what preferences they
exhibit because their preferences may af-
fect how they present information to learners.
Learners also need increased self-awareness in
these areas to help them be better learners.
Course design instructional strategies. In de-
ciding how to use the audience’s learning style
preferences, there are three possible strate-
gies. The first is to design a course focused on
individual learning style strengths and prefer-
ences. The second is to design a course to help
individuals improve on the weaker aspects of
their learning styles, thus enabling them to
become more flexible and adaptable to the
variety of teaching methods they encounter.
The third strategy is to use a combination and
variety of teaching methods.
and learning outcomes
Because instructional methods differ in their
ability to influence knowledge, skills, and
attitudes, trainers must be able to evalu-
ate a method’s utility and ability and make
informed decisions about its use in their
training. Training is all about providing in-
struction for the learners to acquire new
skills or knowledge to enhance job perfor-
mance. When trainers think about acquiring
new knowledge, they should remember that
knowledge is acquired at three levels:
1. declarative—a process used when
the learner stores the information for
2. procedural—a process used when
the learner understands how the infor-
mation presented can be applied
3. strategic—a process used when there
is a need for planning, monitoring, or
revising a goal-directive activity.
There will be times when trainers have to
design a training program to include learning
objectives in more than one area. To accom-
plish this task, trainers should combine several
instructional methods into an integrated whole
because no single method can do everything
well. These various instructional methods can
be divided into two broad learning categories:
cognitive and behavioral. Either the behavioral
or the cognitive instructional method can be
used to change attitudes, although each does
so through different means.
Cognitive methods. Cognitive instructional
methods provide verbal or written infor-
mation, demonstrate relationships among
concepts, or provide the steps for how to do
something. These methods stimulate learn-
ing through their effect on cognitive processes
and are associated most closely with changes
in knowledge and attitude. Cognitive meth-
ods are best for imparting knowledge or
Behavioral methods. Behavioral instructional
Determining a Person’s Learning Style
With some background and understanding of learning style models,
trainers can determine an individual’s learning style through various
• Interview the person and inquire about learning preferences.
• Observe the learner in learning environments.
• Evaluate positive and effective learning experiences versus negative
and ineffective ones.
• Review the completed self-assessment questionnaire.
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methods allow the learners to practice using
the newly acquired behavior in a real or simu-
lated event. The methods stimulate learning
through behavior and are best used for skill
acquisition or behavior change.
Accelerated learning techniques
Several years ago, an association created a
new training program for trainers. Much of
the project time was spent researching the
principles of learning, exploring how the mind
worked, and defining the concept of multiple
intelligences and how the concept applied to
The final course design was creative, with
color icons on pages instead of words, mul-
ticolored wall charts created to hang in the
training room that told the story of the train-
ing program, and music played during the
training session, specifically, in the begin-
ning, ending, break, and project times. This
course continues to ensure that every learner
walks away from the class learning something
and having fun doing so. It’s important to
note that, although this course was delivered
face-to-face, many of the components can be
translated easily for a virtual environment.
Structured learning events may include
such accelerated learning techniques as:
• back-home application
• brainwriting and brainstorming
• case study
• collaborative activity
• concert review
• environing material
• in-class demonstration
• reading assignment
• structured note taking
• skills and knowledge test
Such varied techniques provide opportu-
nities to plan, organize, and prepare training
programs efficiently and economically.
Structured events provide the road map
for trainers to use to develop their content,
as well as provide techniques and tips for
them to be successful when delivering the
Geri E. McArdle has been a practitioner in the human
resource field for 25 years. She currently is working with
the U.S. Olympic staff and Florida Gulf Coast University to
develop learning certification courses.
This article is excerpted from chapter 2 of Training Design and De-
livery: A Guide for Every Trainer, Training Manager, and Occasional
Trainer, 3rd Edition (ATD Press).
In assessing which methods to use, trainers
should evaluate in the following five areas:
• Are the models reliable and valid?
• Is there widespread practitioner use?
• Is there extensive research behind the
• Can I visit places that are using the
models I am interested in?
• Can I obtain training so I know how
to use individual styles to obtain in-
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