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Hello, hello! This week, our articles tackle factors that affect training outcomes. Specifically, we’re asking:

  • Do feedback-seeking and reflective behaviors impact training transfer?
  • Are training outcomes influenced by follower/leader agreement?

What Does Reflection Show?

When designing formal training, it’s important to follow the research. We hope we’re making it more accessible for you! But… what comes after that training? Hopefully, learners are able to take that training and implement it through informal learning. This bridge between formal and informal is what we refer to as transfer of training. So, how do we get learners to “transfer and extend formal training into informal workplace learning?” - this is the question posed by Sparr, Knipfer, and Willems (2017). They conducted two studies on leadership and management development programs to understand behaviors that improve transfer of learning (Sparr et al., 2017).

In the first study, recent alumni from leadership training were interviewed. They were asked to describe a specific experience where they applied what they learned in training, any changes in their behaviors or thinking because of the situation, if they reflected on the experience, and if they engaged in any behavior to seek feedback (Sparr et al., 2017). Feedback-seeking and reflection were both reported, with the latter at a higher rate. Both experiences provided learners with the opportunity to “generate lessons learned from their transfer experience” and to improve transfer in the future (Sparr et al., 2017). Just below 50% of participants reported engaging in feedback-seeking behavior, while 80% reported reflecting “during or after the described transfer experience.” Qualitatively, it appeared that feedback-seeking behavior was utilized in place of reflection when there were time constraints or conflicting demands, i.e., in times of uncertainty, when guidance is needed quickly (Sparr et al., 2017).

In the follow-up study, researchers expanded with a survey to understand the quantitative relationship between the constructs of feedback-seeking, reflection, and transfer of training. Results showed that both feedback-seeking and reflection were related to transfer of training, with transfer being highest if both behaviors were reported (Sparr et al., 2017). However, an interaction effect (see graph) was found such that having high feedback-seeking behavior with low reflection did not lead to an increase in transfer. Thus, both should be present to promote transfer of training (Sparr et al., 2017).

(Sparr et al., 2017)

Based on the results, reflecting on experiences is a key component of transfer. While feedback-seeking is important, integrating reflection is crucial to get that extra boost that promotes training-transfer! From interviews, the researchers found that feedback-seeking “consolidates a specific learning trajectory and boosts the learners’ confidence,” while reflection “points toward the potential for further improvement” (Sparr et al., 2017).

How do we get learners to seek feedback and reflect? Teach them! In training, incorporate explicit instruction to encourage learners to engage in feedback-seeking and reflection activities. It may be helpful to follow-up with learners after training to see how they’re incorporating those behaviors and what activities they find most useful in their role (i.e., diaries, etc.).

Key Takeaway: Feedback-seeking behaviors and reflection of experiences promote transferring formal training to the workplace (informal learning). During and after a formal training, encourage learners to engage in feedback-seeking and reflective activities.

Read More ($): Sparr, J. L., Knipfer, K., & Willems, F. (2017). How leaders can get the most out of formal training: The significance of feedback-seeking and reflection as informal learning behaviors. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 28(1), 29-54.

“Participants of formal training, who engaged in feedback-seeking and reflection, report a more successful transfer of training.” - Sparr et al. (2022)

Follower/Leader Agreement & Training Outcomes

While many studies focus on leaders’ perspectives from training, followers and leaders don’t always agree on leadership behaviors (Lee & Carpenter, 2018). Due to this known discrepancy, evaluating the extent to which followers and leaders agree or disagree on leadership behaviors, known as self-other agreement (SOA), is an important metric to evaluate. For example, does SOA prior to leadership training impact training outcomes? Leaders’ pre-training behaviors might influence their motivation to learn in training or attempts to change behaviors (Nielsen, Tafvelin, von Thiele Schwarz, & Hasson, 2022).

In this study, all leaders within a company took part in a 16-month training program. Leaders had an average of 3.5 followers reporting on their behaviors. Both leaders and followers completed a questionnaire on leadership behaviors 1 month prior to training and immediately following training (Nielsen et al., 2022). Subscales of the questionnaire of interest were: transformational leadership, contingent reward, management-by-exception-passive (MBEP), and laissez-faire leadership. Transformational and contingent reward leadership styles tend to have a “positive impact on followers’ performance and well-being;” passive leadership, such as laissez-faire and MBEP, styles can have a “negative impact on followers’ performance and well-being” (Nielsen et al., 2022).

Researchers were also interested in SOA. In-agreement, good leaders show a high level of self-awareness, may aim to continuously improve from the positive feedback they receive, and continue to seek feedback (Nielsen et al., 2022). Leaders that are over-estimators tend not to rely on others as a source of feedback and, thus, may show little motivation to improve through training. On the other hand, leaders that are under-estimators may seek training to improve their leadership skills and elicit feedback. Lastly, in-agreement, poor leaders may have a negative self-view, low self-efficacy, and low motivation to engage in training (Nielsen et al., 2022).

There are many amazing results from this study that I think are *so worthy* of sharing - but the main takeaways that I think can be best implemented in practice are as follows (Nielsen et al., 2017):

  • “In-agreement, good leaders reported the greatest increases in transformational leadership and contingent reward compared with in-agreement, poor leaders.“
    • Leaders that fall into the transformational or contingent-reward categories appear to be ready for training and seem to implement what they’ve learned.
  • “In-agreement, poor leaders find it difficult to change their style, implying that providing tools and methods for change during training is insufficient if there is a lack of confidence, motivation, and/or ability to make changes.”
    • For in-agreement, poor leaders - more training on self-efficacy and self-confidence may be needed, preferably before leadership development.
  • “Over-estimators continue to over-rate themselves post-training.”
    • Finding another way to communicate feedback to over-estimators, one which may be less threatening, may help to promote leadership change.
  • “Create alignment between leaders and their followers’ perceptions.”
    • Since it was found that followers and leaders often do not align, creating a system that allows leaders to see feedback from followers, have discussion about leadership behaviors, etc., may help to bring consistency to leader ratings.

Key Takeaway: Self-other agreement (SOA) between leaders and followers can impact training outcomes for leaders. Prior to administering a leadership training, it is beneficial to assess SOA to better tailor the programs for positive outcomes.

Read More (Open Access): Nielsen, K., Tafvelin, S., von Thiele Schwarz, U., & Hasson, H. (2022). In the eye of the beholder: How self-other agreements influence leadership training outcomes as perceived by leaders and their followers. Journal of Business and Psychology, 37 , 73-90.

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

This week, we have a caring soul to share! Our handsome orange friend, Wesley, comes from reader Caitlin T.!

She says that our dude Wed “only cares about one thing: being warm,” which I think speaks to his leadership style 🥰

Send us your pet pics at

Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is written and edited by Kaitlyn Erhardt, Ph.D.

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