Over the past decade many international development agencies have broadened their activity portfolios… focusing increasingly on capacity development and knowledge sharing… Reflecting a complementary development, academic institutes… are progressively including stakeholders such as policy makers and practitioners in the process of knowledge generation… Despite this convergence of focus between development research and practice, a wide gap still exists: knowledge transfer between the two is limited… Many efforts to bridge this gap have been initiated; almost as many have failed.” (Ferguson, 2005)

‘Hark! Is that a gauntlet I hear being cast down?’

Well, having never been the sort to back out of a challenge, we’ve thrown our lot in with the folk down at Training Journal and assisted them in the creation of Learning Transfer 2010. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the survey, think of this as a brief induction session.

There has been a great deal of research into the learning transfer gap. The last 50 years have born witness to countless studies as academics and practitioners alike try to resolve the issue of transfer and application. But, as our resident ‘brain upstairs’, Robert Terry, puts it:

At a time when other providers in the knowledge-economy were regularly halving costs and doubling effectiveness, I can’t recall headlines claiming comparable gains in learning and development. If we make the reasonable assumption that the transfer gap is real and bridgeable then either the solutions were badly implemented or they were the wrong solutions.”

But, if our efforts so far have proved, to some extent, ineffective, what more can be done? It seems that a shift of focus is in order. Studies, more often than not, assess the efficacy of learning and development programmes from the perspective of the learner, but neglect that of the trainer. Once again, I call Robert Terry to the stand:

It is difficult to understand this glaring omission given the central role of the training practitioner in all aspects of design and delivery, unless you subscribe to the view that training practitioners are seen by many to be mere messengers, responsible for delivering the content with as much brio as they can muster, but that’s all.”

As Julie Ferguson comments in her introduction to this piece (a case of appropriation, not delegation), there’s another, equally important but often overlooked gap to be bridged; the ‘research to practice gap’. Perhaps if the research conducted took into account the trainer’s perspective, the learning and development industry would be more receptive of the findings.

And so, I present to you, Learning Transfer 2010; the ‘for us, by us’ learning transfer survey. It only takes a couple of minutes to fill out and, as likely beneficiaries of the findings yourselves, they would be minutes well invested.