Monday, 8 June 2009

The training cycle explained

Training know-how applied to laboratory science

Previously, it was established that most people who work in a scientific laboratory environment have some responsibility for providing training (see blog post dated 8th May 2009, I’m a trainer? But that’s not in my job description. Is it?). Also the training cycle was introduced. In this article we will look at the training cycle in a bit more detail. The four steps are as shown.

Step 1: Identifying the learning needs
Identification of learning needs may also be referred to as training needs analysis, or TNA. The remit of this step can be rather broad since it can apply to all the training required by an individual or a group, even a whole company. If you are responsible for a particular type of training provision then typically it will already have been determined that the individuals who come to you for training have been identified as needing the training. Therefore the scope of this step narrows considerably. You need to consider what the learners need to be able to do at the end of the training. For example if you are providing training on an analytical instrument do they need to be able to:
  • Use the instrument
  • Clean the instrument
  • Calibrate the instrument
  • Service the instrument
  • Troubleshoot the instrument?
The complexity of the technique will determine whether all or some of these tasks need to be incorporated into the training that you are planning. You may need to develop training which can be delivered over time as the learner gains experience with the technique.
The outcome of step 1 is a set of learning objectives for the training that specify what the outcome should be.

Step 2: Design the training
When you come to design your training you need to consider how you are going to achieve the learning objectives that you have set. It may be that a practical session where the learner gets hands on experience of using an instrument or piece of equipment is most suitable. In some tasks a theory session where the concepts relating to the task can be fully understood is appropriate.
When designing the training you need to consider the way in which people learn and be aware of the differences in learning styles. In general adults learn well if the training is relevant to what they will do in the workplace so use case studies and realistic exercises in your training. Methods of training that you can consider are: lectures and presentations, demonstrations, exercises, case studies, practical sessions, question and answer sessions, discussion groups and e-learning.
Make sure to consider the time and other resources that you have available for the training. You may need to prepare visual aids such as PowerPoint presentations (much maligned but valuable if used well), and handouts to accompany the training. Try to keep it simple and stick to the point.

Step 3: Deliver the training
The delivery of the training is the step that some people can find daunting, particularly if presenting to groups of learners is required. Some keys things to remember when delivering training are:
  • Speak clearly and make sure that all learners are able to understand what you are saying.
  • Ensure that the learner’s expectations are addressed early on in the training.
  • Explain the structure of the training at the start.
  • Review regularly to ensure that the material covered has been understood.
  • Try to deal with questions as they arise but if you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say you will get back to the learner later.
  • Give useful and constructive feedback to learners.
  • Check your timing and have a contingency plan in case some parts of the training take longer than you expected.
  • Deliver the training consistently so that all learners receive the same training.
Step 4: Evaluate the training
When you have gone to the trouble of designing and delivering training then you will want to be sure that it is working. This is the purpose of training evaluation. A common way to evaluate training is to get the learners to complete a form at the end of the training where they give feedback on whether they thought it was useful, what they thought of the facilities and the trainer, etc. This information is very useful and may be used to improve the training in the future but it does not measure what was actually learned by the delegates. To do this some type of assessment is usually administered. This may be a written test, or the learner may have to analyse a sample by implementing the training that they have received. You need to decide what is most appropriate for your training.
To assess long term implementation of learning is more difficult. A number of different approaches are possible but all assess how successfully the learner is completing the task in question. The opinion of the learner, colleagues and managers may be canvassed to obtain a balanced view of how well the training has worked.

In summary the training cycle provides a structured way for you to approach your training responsibilities. The core of all successful training programmes are good learning objectives, sometimes known as learning outcomes. In the next instalment of Learning at Work the process of setting realistic and appropriate learning objectives will be discussed.


  1. hi, is this the American training cycle or the UK training cycle??

    1. The article is based on practice in the UK but I don't see why it would be any different in the US. The steps are flexible and should be used in the way that is most appropriate for your training requirements.