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Pre-training activities

Pre-training activities
Young woman on laptop in office
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

Another issue to consider during the design phase of the training cycle is the use of pre-training activities.

Have you attended training where pre-training activities were provided? Did you feel this had an impact on the effectiveness of the training you received? Have you attended training where there were no pre-training tasks? In your opinion, would this have been of benefit?

Pre-training activities can have an impact on how effective the training is. Salas and Cannon-Bowers (2001) take a very broad, comprehensive approach to pre-training activities and identify three categories:

What trainees bring to the training setting

The types of characteristics that trainees bring to the training setting include their cognitive ability (intelligence), their personal goals, and their self-efficacy (the belief that one can perform tasks and behaviours).

Variables that engage the trainee to learn and participate in development activities

These variables include motivation to use the KSAs gained from the training, on the job. Research suggests that pre-training motivation to learn predicts transfer onto the job (Tai 2006, Bell and Ford 2007, Chiaburu and Lindsay 2008).

How the training can be prepared to maximise the learning experience

The preparation of training to maximise the learning experience falls into four main sections, which bear some resemblance to Thorndike’s (1932) three laws (Salas and Cannon-Bowers 2001).

  • The training clearly communicates the information and concepts to be learned (for example, through sharing learning objectives at the point of advertising the training programme)
  • Trainers authentically demonstrate the KSAs to be learned (this can be through learning outcomes or competency outcomes)
  • Trainees have opportunities to practise the skills (for example, if a trainee is being trained in the use of new computer software, they should be given the opportunity to practise using it, both during the training programme and post-training, on the job)
  • Feedback is provided to trainees during and after the practice session. The use of feedback is important to help an individual learn new skills and rectify mistakes they have made. If an individual receives no feedback, they will assume they are performing the task correctly

We have discussed some general principles of learning that help trainers understand how humans learn. Beyond these general principles, there is also the issue of individual learning styles. Awareness of different learning styles will also inform the design of training. We will study the detail of learning styles in Short Course 3.

Training design also encompasses decisions on training methods. Methods include face-to-face approaches such as lectures, as well as distance learning methods such as computer-assisted programmes. We will discuss different training methods in more detail next week.


Bell, S., and Ford, J. K. (2007) ‘Reactions to Skill Assessment: The Forgotten Factor in Explaining Motivation to Learn’. Human Resource Development Quarterly [online] 18 (1), 33-62. available from [5 August 2019]

Chiaburu, D. S., and Lindsay, D. R. (2008) ‘Can Do or Will Do? The Importance of Self Efficacy and Instrumentality for Training Transfer’. Human Resource Development International [online] 11 (2), 199-206. available from [5 August 2019]

Tai, W. T. (2006) ‘Effects of Training Framing, General Self-Efficacy and Training Motivation on Trainees’ Training Effectiveness’. Personnel Review [online] 35 (1), 51-65. available from [5 August 2019]

Thorndike, E. L. (1932) The Fundamentals of Learning. New York: Teachers College Press

Salas, E. and Cannon-Bowers, J. A. (2001) ‘The Science of Training: A Decade of Progress’. Annual Review of Psychology [online] 52 (1), 471-499. available from [5 August 2019]

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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