The Unintentional Trainers Guide to External Factors which Can Affect Learning

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External Factors which impact learning / Jesadaphorn

It is generally accepted that how people learn is a complex and individual process, with each person learning in different ways; through different methods and each having a preferred method of learning. If you want to learn more you can read our articles on The Learning Cycle and  Learning Styles.

However, effective learning is not just down to the individuals undertaking the learning and the trainer who designed and/or delivered it. Factors outside of these also lead to poor learning and some research conducted by Susan Stuckly suggests that learning within organisations is also dependent on the group dynamics within that organisation. Things like ineffective corporate communications, poor technology and ineffective business processes can all lead to a poor learning environment which may hinder the impact and success of any learning intervention.

Tackling the impact of these “external factors” on the effectiveness of a training solution is difficult, and can take a considerable amount of time and effort.  The sorts of things you could look to incorporate in the work environment would include:

1. An organisational community – employees should be encouraged to get together and share information in both formal and informal way. This helps to build strong relationships and networks for good communication.
2. An environment which encourages productivity – this means amongst other things processes that are simple and easy for staff to follow, office layouts that are logical, opportunities for staff to give feedback.
3. Develop new practice – people should be encouraged to try new ways of doing things. This can help maintain a fresh approach to tasks which can lead to more creativity and motivation across the workforce.

I know some of you will be reading this and thinking “well, that doesn’t really affect me, I’m freelance/consultant/self-employed and I can’t do those things.  I can’t make those changes to that organisation”.  You are of course right.  But it is really helpful to be aware of all of the things that can impact the effectiveness of any training solution.  There is nothing worse than conducting a post-session/programme evaluation, not getting the results that you expected and not really understanding why. Knowing about these external factors which are outwith your control can help you piece together why the results are as they are.

Have you come across any other external factors (things outwith either your or the learners control) which has or could have impacted upon the effectiveness of your training?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


Founder of Zostera Ltd and The Trainers CPD Club. I've worked in L&D for over 16 years across both the public and private sectors.

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