Learning Theory Utilization In The Training Department Education Essay

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This report is for Echoes Ltd on how learning theories can be utilised in their training department. It is important that we first distinguish the key differences between training and learning. Learning is the process of increasing knowledge and skills and developing our beliefs so we have the opportunity of increased choice or for the purpose of Echoes ltd Alan Mumford states that learning has happened when someone can demonstrate that they know something that they previously didn't know or/and the can do something they previously couldn't do before. In this report we are going to look at how the trainer can adapt their training styles so that they can effectively communicate with each employee. We will look at the theories of

Behaviourist theory

Classical conditioning

Operant conditioning

Social Learning

Cognitive theory

Constructivism theory

Kolb's experimental learning theory

The aim of the training department is to ensure that employees reach the experience worker standard. In order to reach this there are certain requirements:

The worker must want to learn and be engaged in the process.

The personal aptitude of the worker.

The experience of the worker.

The most important is the ability of the teacher to effectively communicate to the learners throughout the process.

The first step is to recognise that there are different learners within a group that perform better depending on the learner conditions. Peter Honey and Alan Mumford identify this and classed learners into four main categories.

Activists are out going individuals that learn by doing and become easily disinterested at the thoughts of sitting in lectures and listening to long monologs by their trainers. In the training department the teacher has to recognise personality and include learning styles that incorporate this learner. This can be achieved through group discussion and problem solving.

Reflectors are the quieter individuals within a group. As the name suggests they like reflect and review what they are learning. They are comfortable when they have time to prepare for lesson. In the training department it is important that the teacher allows for this time of refection. This could be achieved from providing tasks that can be done in their own time and by also giving some prior warning when part taking in group discussion or public speaking so they can mentally prepare.

Theorists are logically people. They are analytical in their approach to learn. They want to know, why I need to learn this and how this is going to benefit me. From a practical view point they like to use graphs and visually aids and research about the subject in question. From the point of view of the trainer, they could help the theorists by presenting some background to learning subject and explaining how it benefits them.

Pragmatists are economical learners. They don't like to be feed copious amounts of information. They want to learn about subjects that would directly influence them in their real life. They have a hand zone approach to learning with in an organisation. The onus is on the trainer to try and relate their teachings to real life situations.

While it is in critically that a trainer takes into account the different types of learner that is not a rigid rule. It is just as important that a trainer develops a plan that forces all the different learners to adapt and interact. This in turn will make them better learners in the future because in a real life situation the option of how they are going to be taught may not be available to them.

Behaviourist Theory

This theory implies that learning is a result of experience. This approach can be divided into two subheadings, Classical Conditioning and Operant conditioning. This theory states that behaviour is determent by the environment.

Classical Conditioning

(Ivan Pavlov 1849-1936)

This comes from the study of the experiments of Ivan Pavlov and is considered the most popular study done in the behavioural sciences. Pavlov believed learning took place when there was a stimulus and a response. Pavlov used dogs in a laboratory experiment to test his theory. When he gave dogs a piece of meat the immediately started to salivate, this salivating represented an unconditioned response to the smell of the meat i.e. an unconditioned stimulus. Pavlov then started to ring a bell every time he gave the dog a piece of meat until the dog started to salivate even when there was no meat present. This is classical conditioning; the saliva produced represents a conditioned response to a conditioned stimulus (the bell). Pavlov believed that people had to be conditioned in order for them to change their behaviour.


It is a learning process that takes place through interactions between environmental stimuli and naturally occurring stimulus.

1) Unconditioned Stimuli: this is one that unconditionally, naturally and automatically triggers a response.

2) Unconditioned Response: unlearned response occurs naturally in response to unconditioned stimulus.

3) Conditioned Stimuli: previously natural stimuli's after being associated with unconditioned stimuli eventually comes to trigger conditioned response.

4) Conditioned response is a learned response to a mutual stimuli's.

Operant conditioning:

(Burrhus Fredrick Skinner 1904-1990)

In this behaviourist theory, Skinner examined the link between stimulus and response whereby, when the rats behaved in a certain way they were rewarded with food. Skinner designed a box with a lever inside. When the rats pressed the lever they were rewarded with food. The rats learned overtime that by their actions of pressing their lever, there would be a reaction with them being awarded the food. The finding of this experiment shows us that operant conditioning is what happens as a consequence of a particular behavioural response. (Organizational Behaviour, Michael Morley)

Cognitive theory:

The cognitive theory is a means of explaining motivation. Motivation is very important in the training department to encourage people in training to work hard towards their goals. This theory aims to describe the person as a known human with feelings rather than a machine. How the environment is seen by the person is important in this theory, as the work environment depending on its class can have both a positive and negative effect on the person's motivation to learn. There are three stages involved in how an individual sees their environment:

The individual understands the situation and the problem confronting him.

They think about the problem and the wider situation.

They suddenly and out of nowhere come up with a solution.

This represents the employees understanding whereby they take the key aspects of the problem, come up with a solution and use what they have learned in the future. They acknowledge that they are learning as the solution to the problem is uncovered.


Constructivism Theory

This is a learning theory that encourages people to construct their own meaning and interpretation from new information as it comes their way. Constructive learning encourages employees to use their knowledge and experienced gained for future purposes. People go through new experiences, relate them to past experiences and organise these for storage in the brain for future references. We encourage our employees to use their previous experiences to help us succeed in the future.

Social Learning:

Social learning theory seeks to combine both the behaviourist and cognitive approaches to learning. Bandura who is mostly associated with the social learning theory argues that learning must be more than conditioned and that while reinforcement has a considerable influence on a person's behaviour. Most of the behaviours that people display are learned either deliberately or inadvertently through example. It suggests that people observe each other on a continuous basis. This type of learning can be achieved by being told about something or even through direct experiences. When we are young our parents guide us in most of our social learning's for example; ways to behave, knowing the difference between right and wrong or even how to dress ourselves. As we get older different people take over this position of guidance in our lives, such as, teachers, peers and our managers or supervisors in our jobs. 'This view that we can learn through both observation and direct experience is called social-learning theory. Every day we have the opportunity to learn something new and we should see every task as an opportunity to learn and enhance our skills.

Kolb's experimental learning theory

Kolb stated that to learn from an experience you must go through the learning cycle in which there are four steps.

1) Experience

2) Reflection

3) Conceptualization

4) Experimentation

People go through an experience, reflect on it, try to understand and make sense of it and finally test it in a real life situation.

kolb's learning styles diagram

Application of theories

Cognitive theory

Here at Echoes LTD we will provide every piece of equipment needed for employees to complete their work to the required standard. We also offer some of the best working facilities in Ireland so everything our employees will require is being provided. People learn best through experiences and we intend to create a positive approach to work for everyone employed at Echoes LTD so as they can work to the best of their ability and hopefully pick up some useful knowledge along the way. Here at Echoes LTD we strive to create a positive working environment for both employers and employees, we have at our disposal a wide range of technology to improve our business and make it the best it can be.

Behaviourist Theory


Managers are able to apply the classical condition here at Echoes LTD by creating a positive working environment to help staff overcome anxiety of fear, e.g. not knowing how to use a machine. Instead of feeling anxiety and tense in a situation, staff learn to feel relaxed and calm

I am now going to give another example in relation to the training department.

1) Unconditioned Stimuli: You clock in at work in the morning; you may immediately feel tired with the thought of having eight hours work ahead of you. Clocking in at work in the morning is the unconditioned stimulus.

2) Unconditioned Response: Feeling tired in response to clocking in at work in the morning is the conditioned response.

3) Conditioned Stimuli: Imagine clocking in at work in the morning and also hearing the sound of the whistle at the same time. The sound of the whistle is unrelated to clocking in at work in the morning. If the sound of the whistle is heard multiple times paired with clocking in at work in the morning the sound of the whistle will trigger a conditioned response. In this case the sound of the whistle is the conditioned stimuli.

4) Condition response: clocking in at work in the morning when the sound of the whistle is heard.


We can incorporate this theory in a workplace by:




Incentives: By giving our employees incentives such as free weekends away for reaching or exceeding their target sales. This would encourage our employees to work harder in order to receive the award of the weekend away. The weekend away can be seen as the positive condition for the employee and the employee's behaviour of working hard to achieve his/her goals is strengthened by the consequence of receiving the weekend away.

Bonus': We could award bonus' to our employees for having an overall good record in our company, i.e. Being punctual for work, doing an honest good days work and also putting in overtime when needed. We could make our employees aware that the higher their contribution to the company, the higher their bonus would be. The positive condition in this case would be the bonus.

Promotions: We could also use promotions as a positive condition and state to our employees long in advance when a position is arising. An employee's behaviour at work may be influenced by the opportunity of them getting promoted and receiving a higher wage. By the employee 'pushing the right levers' in the workplace they may be awarded by receiving the promotion. Employees may be motivated by receiving a wage increase along with strengthening their position in the hierarchy of the company. If our employees feel they are a valued asset to our company, then, this might be the motivation for them to 'push the right levers' in the future.

Social Learning

We can incorporate this theory in the workplace through:


Senior staff members

Managers: Managers do not only hold the job of delegating. Good managers ensure that all employees know how to do their tasks in the most efficient and effective way possible. Employees can learn new skills through social learning if a manager explains and demonstrates clearly the best ways he/she knows how to tackle a certain task.

Senior staff members: Over the years the more senior staff members have experienced the day to day running of the company and have learned the most effective and efficient ways to tackle certain tasks. By our junior staff members observing and listening to our senior staff members they could possibly learn new and improved ways of doing tasks that they have never seen before. It is important that advice is only offered as help from a senior employee to a junior employee and not sound like it is being ordered. If an employee feels like they are being bossed by other members of staff it is likely that the employee will lose charisma and motivation in their tasks.

Kolb's Experimental Learning Theory

At Echoes LTD we now have one hundred and fifty new employees, twenty of which are foreign nationals. We are going to assume that for these twenty employees everything over the next few days is going to be very new to them. They will go through Kolb's learning cycle. They will probably have a new experience using a machine, they will then reflect on this sometime shortly after work. In their mind they will try to make sense of what they must do. They will probably visualise themselves trying to do it. The next time they go to use the machine hopefully they will be able to apply the previous three steps and successfully operate the machine.

Reinforcement of behaviour

In applying these theories in Echoes ltd the companies aim should be to modify the behaviour of their employees. Echoes will try to do this by going through a systematic reinforcement of behaviours that are deemed desirable. There are three types of reinforcement Echoes will use.

Positive reinforcement,

This is used to increase the frequency of desirable behaviour whereby positive consequences are applied in order to encourage that desired behaviour. Echoes could introduce a piece work scheme in order to improve productivity. This would give each employee a basic wage but it would also facilitate for those who work harder to make more money.

Negative reinforcement,

This is also used to increase the frequency of desirable behaviour. An undesirable consequence is withdrawn in order to increase the frequency with which the desirable occurs. A manager could tell an employee that is being consistently late that their wages are going to be docked. The manager would not actually dock the wages. This would give the employee a sense of relief and an opportunity to change his/her behaviour.


This approach tries to decrease the frequency of undesirable behaviour. The manager would impose sanctions on those employees who are not meeting expectations. If the quality of the goods manufactured by one of Echoes employees is not up to the correct standard their wages would be docked. Unlike negative reinforcement the manager would have actually carry out the punishment.

Positive reinforcement is the best attitude because it focuses on the employees that are showing desirable behaviour. In echoes Ltd this would create a great sense of morale amongst those who are performing well and also motivate those who are not performing to try and work to receive the same consequences.

Case Study

Ginisters work based learning.


Ginisters are a manufacturing company (part of Samworth Brothers LTD) that supplies readymade meals to the retail market in the United Kingdom. They have 800 employees producing over 2 million products per week. There strategy states that training and development and the quality and well being of employees are seen as enabling product quality and business profitability, which ensures continued success of the group. The employees are encouraged to fully develop their potential through training, support and by being presented with new opportunities.

The 'Samworth Academy 'is a development designed to promote a culture of learning and ha four main aims:

To promote and develop the culture and ethos of the business.

To develop the skills of senior management within the business and facilitate internal promotion.

To encourage and support site based training and development of all staff.

To develop a long term learning culture within the group.

Mark Duddridge, Managing Director believes that providing training that is job specific and training that develops more rounded individuals is as important as investing in the next big research and development push. Ginisters is also preparing their employees in case there is a change in their work environment. The constant learning will stop staff becoming de motivated and cut staff turnover costs

This case study highlights how learning theory can be used successfully in the training department. Ginisters cater for the different learning styles by providing computer based training, audio cassettes and reading material which can be used both at work or in the home.

The emphasis on internal promotion of employees is an example of operant conditioning where there is an award for their efforts. It is also positive reinforcement.

Social learning is very evident at Ginisters, having developed an ethos of continuous improvement and development employees that embrace this will thrive causing their peers to follow suit.

Ginisters model for employee training is a suitable example for Echoes ltd because it would help staff evolve both professionally and personally. It would create a workforce that could cope with any future changes the business may face.


In order for Echoes LTD to cope and compete in an ever changing and challenging marketplace their employees are paramount. The training department has a major influence on the future success of the company. The implementation of learning theory can be the starting point to developing an ethos of progression, innovation, personal and professional fulfilment.


It would be too simple to say that there is one specific path that Echoes LTD should take with regard to utilising learning theories. As we showed earlier every employee is of value and every employee is different when it comes to learning. Instead we recommend that the training department commit to a plan of experimentation. The company is going through a phase of growth. This can all change positively or negatively. Therefore it is vital that the company has a plan to encourage, motivate and reward the employees.