What Is Training? by Fred Parker


To study this from the trainer’s point of view, see the Rapid Training Design (RTD) courses at RTD will show you how to design effective training, training that produces positive results every time. This is very different from the learner’s perspective.

Now let’s look at training from the learner’s point of view:

We use “Learner” here in the sense that during training people learn to do things. This is NOT knowledge transfer. We will cover that in a different blog.

Let’s ponder this a minute. What do you mean when you say that someone is trained to do something? You mean that they have a certain skill or behavior that they have learned and practiced. You even have levels: beginner, novice, apprentice, journeyman, practitioner, expert, master, etc.

Well, how did that happen? Whether formal or informal, the process is always the same.

It starts with teaching and learning; You teach, they learn.

Teaching always comes first. However, as you may have learned from the RTD lessons, what you teach is always driven by the desired result of the training, never by what you think they need to know. You should take on the mindset that, “I don’t really care about what they need to know. I care about what they need to do. Then, and only then, I can figure out what they need to know.”

Further, the teaching should be in bite-size pieces followed immediately by action. This is the, “Now you do it,” piece we will discuss next.

We know all you educator types will really bristle at this. We have been having this argument for many years. If. as a trainer, you ever get the question, “Why do I need to know that?” your answer must relate to performance. If not, you are wasting training time.

Next comes action or practice. You can call this “skill check.”

As stated above, every small piece of teaching is followed immediately by practice, a skill check for the learner to try out what they just learned.

A quick side note: You may be thinking, “Come ‘on! I already know this all this stuff. Why do I need to waste my time?” Good question. Many of you may find this to be intuitive, so why don’t you follow this flow when creating a training session? You instinctively know how to do training when you informally help a friend or colleague do something new. Our goal is to show you how to do this deliberately.

OK, let’s get back to our process. This immediate skill check works the same for both hard skills and soft skills. Think about it. If you are training someone to change a flat tire, you might first teach them howto position the jack and jack up the car. Then they do it.

It is a little trickier with soft skills, but still the same flow. If you are teaching interview skills, for instance, you might start by teaching them about direct and probing questions. Then you have them practice asking questions.

Third comes feedback or guidance or coaching.

Call it what you will, but the learner needs to know very quickly how they are doing and how to correct any errors. Someone has said that feedback is the most important aspect of training. We partially agree. Feedback is most important during training but is in second place when you think of long term individual development.

This often happens so quickly in training that it is hard to separate them. An instructor in a computer class may say, “When I click on this, this is what happens. Now you try it. Did you get the same result? If not, sow me what you did so we can fix it.”

So, you have teaching, immediate skill check, and feedback all in a few minutes.

Finally, We Come to Follow Through

Finally, we come to what we at Pathfinder Coaches consider to be THE MOST important aspect of training – follow-through, or continuous improvement. Companies talk about it all the time, but seldom practice it as part of individual development.

Lack of follow-through is the reason many training efforts fail. It is also the one aspect that the trainer has the least control over.

Back to what we know instinctively about training. If we want to perfect a skill, we need to work at it over and over. There is a challenge here.

We are often told that practice makes perfect. NOT SO! In fact, practice makes permanent. By doing something wrong over and over all you end with is a set of bad habits. Let’s rephrase that to Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. Think about the weekend golfer on the driving range who hits bad shot after bad shot but thinks their shot will improve just through practice. Now think about the professional golfer who practices 4-foot putts until they can hit 100 in a row. A hundred in a row! Perfect practice makes perfect.

We invite you to join our conversations related to these blogs, our Facebook group, and our LinkedIn group shown below. You may also email us at

Thank you.

Fred Parker is the Director of Course Design and Development at Fred has half a century as a Performance Management Consultant designing, developing, and delivering performance-based training including all manner of technical training, individual development soft skills, and basic leadership. Clients include all sizes from a local sandwich shop to the military to fortune 500 multinationals. Now Fred is converting previous ILT courses to remote delivery courses available on our web site.

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