Which principle is new for you?

  • Formative evaluation
  • Differentiation
  • Deeper knowledge
  • Goal oriented
  • Social
  • Learner centric

Formative evaluation

“The best way to learn is to take mock-exams an go through questions.” Although we hear this a lot in the industry, and are not a big fan of the approach, we can understand why trainers say it. However, the approach quoted above does not support learning, because of the exam aspect. If people only get evaluated by mock-exams, they miss the chance to make future corrections or adjustments based upon their newly learned knowledge.

When trainers perform formative evaluation they check the current performance; where are the learners compared to the learning goals, and how can they be brought to greater heights? A trainer needs to diagnose constantly what is going on with learning processes and needs to adjust, anticipate and remedy the learning environment accordingly. The mock-exam approach can have impact because of formative evaluation: a continuous learning health check-up.


Even identical twins, despite their similar appearance, consists of unique individuals. The same holds for learning: although we possess the same information processing structures, every individual processes information in their unique way, because of level of prior knowledge, experiences, emotional condition and metacognitive capabilities. Learners have different cultural backgrounds, beliefs, needs and motivations. A training must be deliberately designed to ensure that individual differences do not impede learning, but are incorporated as added value to learning achievement, with different types of learning organization (inductive or deductive), learning goals (consolidation or elaboration), exercises (diverging or converging), evaluation (product or process), etc.

Deeper knowledge

Effective trainers focus on deeper learning. Learned or memorized information that is put into action. A trainer facilitates this as a recursive process, mini-learning cycles in the training environment between knowledge and skill acquisition for example.

Attaining mastery in a domain is not achieved by a lot of factual knowledge or ‘experience’[1] but by a deliberate deepening of both. As a trainer, you can do this by continuously reflecting and researching on where new knowledge needs to be acquired and how this can be put into practice or where skill application can benefit from additional information.

Goal oriented

Training without attainable goals is like doing a project without having deliverables. Since learning happens in phases, a training must be constructed in a way that enables step-by-step achievement of learning goals, from lower to higher complexity, one goal at the time.

Goals are criteria for measurement and need to be phrased as observable behavior-indicators from the perspective of learners. The goals constitute challenging attainable targets, which learners all must reach:

  • providing transparency for learners on successful behavior and help learners focus on relevant behaviors and (expected) results;
  • providing the trainer with observable behaviors that all learners must demonstrate, in order to move on to the next, more complex learning goals, and to assess training success.


Learning on your own is more challenging than in group. In groups, information is processed through multiple perspectives which enriches the learning experience. Peers can help each other in reaching tasks that were not reachable for all learners on their own. Learners can learn more in group than alone by themselves and this applies to all levels of learning performance (so-called slow, average or good learners), as is shown in the graph below.[2]

Learning in group is most effective when the learning goals to be attained are a bit more complex than the current proficiency level of the learners. The peers and the trainer provide step-by-step support (just-in-time cues, hints, procedures, feedback, instruction) to achieve these just-beyond-the-current-ability learning goals, ...).

Learner centric

All the principles described above advocate a learner centric approach to training, both in development and delivery. Simply, because this has been proven to result in higher learning efficacy. It is exactly this learner-centricity that clarifies the importance of the trainer, or as phrased by Neelen & Kirschner[3] ”we design one- or two-day training workshops, asking subject-matter experts to give us Powerpoint slides, instructors talk to learners, explain all kinds of important things, use those slides, and then off go the learners. And we expect them to do a better job. We can guarantee - and it has also been widely proven - that it's not going to happen."

Trainers need to design and deliver courses with attention to all these principles, which requires serious effort and didactical skills on their part. This is where the absolute added value of an effective trainer lies. John Hatties ongoing meta-analysis [4] (based on tens of thousands of studies involving millions of students) has shown that the most important positive influence on learning effectivity comes from “collective teacher efficacy”, which is the shared beliefs held by the teachers that their school as a whole is able to positively impact learning outcome. This is more than 15 times more important than teachers subject matter knowledge, which only has a small impact on learning effectivity.


[1] Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analysis relating to Achievement. Routledge.
[2]This representation is not the result of 1 specific study but a trend found in a multitude of studies on the impact of cooperative learning (a.o. Kagan, Johnson & Johnson, Hall, Marzano, Slavin).
[3] Neelen, M. & Kirschner, P.A. (2020) Evidence-informed learning design: creating training to improve performance, London: Kogan Page
[4] Hattie, J. (2017) visiblelearningplus.com [infographic], consulted https://visible-learning.org/h...

Never forget to also train the trainer!

Harder, better, faster and stronger learning requires trainers to be content, but also learning & development experts. And this may require some additional skill learning on their part. Do you want to upskill your trainers after reading the abovementioned learning principles? In that case, our 'Train-the-trainer' virtual classroom courses are exactly what you need! Contact us with your questions and we'll show you how these courses take place.

Sven Gellens
Product Owner of Talent Management, Consultant

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