Realistic Training: How Realistic Should Training Be? (Part 2)
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Discussing The Nature Of Realistic Training: Part 2

Realism in training can help training stick. Or it can make training too overwhelming to stick. In my last article, I discussed how realism in training is known to improve learning and performance outcomes. Realism, typically called fidelity in training research, can be extremely valuable to helping trained skills stick (be remembered and applied). Fidelity, as we are using it here, means how much training matches critical elements of the job environment. Here are the typical types of fidelity we concern ourselves with in training.

  • Physical.
    How much training looks, sounds, and feels like the job.
  • Functional.
    How much training acts like the job (generally used for how things work, such as tools and systems).
  • Cognitive.
    How much training requires people to think like they will think on the job.
  • Psychological.
    How much training induces similar emotional responses as on the job, such as time pressure, stress, or conflict.
  • Physiological.
    How much training induces similar physical responses as on the job, such as pain or nausea.

Research also shows that adding the wrong types of fidelity divert attention and memory resources, which must be carefully managed during training. When they aren’t well managed, people learn less, remember less, have more trouble finding what is important, and apply less to the job.

Here are some of the ways in which realism can improve or decrease learning.

How realism/fidelity improves learning: How realism/fidelity decreases learning:
  • Help participants see the relevance of what they are learning. Examples include typical errors and consequences of bad decisions.
  • Add the context of actual work tasks such as factors that impact job results. Examples include noise levels, job stressors, tools used, and problems faced.
  • Divert attention and memory when these factors are critically needed. Examples include and realism factors that aren’t needed and hijack attention and memory.

Last month, I included an exercise to see how well you understand the concept of realism/fidelity. The table below shows five learning objectives and asks you to decide which types of fidelity are likely to be most beneficial.

My answers are below the exercise but if you haven’t yet completed the exercise, consider covering up my answers, as you will learn more about if you try to do it yourself.

Learning objective Types of fidelity needed?
 1. Replace paper in the XYZ-type copier.
 2. Fix a paper jam in the XYZ-type copier.
 3. Create headings using MS Word Heading Styles.
 4. Give a colleague constructive feedback on his report.
 5. Create the correct code for each medical diagnosis.

Patti’s answers:

Learning objective  Types of fidelity needed? 
 1. Replace paper in the XYZ-type copier.

 

Physical fidelity is relevant here because it will help people remember how to find the paper tray in this copier. Functional fidelity is relevant because if the training copier functions like the copier used, the easier the skills will be to remember and apply. Cognitive fidelity is likely relevant if there is a process to follow and not following it causes problems/errors.
 2. Fix a paper jam in the XYZ-type copier.

 

Physical fidelity, functional fidelity, and cognitive fidelity are relevant for the same reasons as LO 1. Cognitive fidelity may be more important here because the process is often more complex.
 3. Create headings using MS Word Heading Styles. Physical fidelity, functional fidelity, and cognitive fidelity are relevant for the same reasons as LO 1. Using an application that looks like and functions like what is used helps people remember and apply.
 4. Give a colleague constructive feedback on his report. Cognitive fidelity is important because it will be critical that people remember the thought process to follow to avoid mistakes and problems. Psychological fidelity is relevant because giving constructive feedback involves emotional responses and people must be able to follow the process while dealing with these responses.
 5. Create the correct code for each medical diagnosis. Physical fidelity may be relevant if people are learning to do this process in a specific billing application. It may not be relevant if they are simply learning how to create accurate codes (medical billing course). Cognitive fidelity is very relevant because there is process for putting the codes together. If done poorly, patients are billed for covered expenses or the biller may not be paid.

How close were your answers and mine? If they are different, we could have different assumptions. But, consider reading (or re-reading) last month’s article.

In last month’s article and the beginning of this month’s article, I answered the first of two questions about realism in training:

  1. How much realism should we include? (Look and feel, situations, and so forth)
  2. Should feedback come primarily from the consequences of the actions people take or from “learning” feedback (for example, an outside voice or guide who explains what the participant did wrong)?

In the next section, I’ll answer issue 2.

Realistic Feedback?

In my new book, Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning, I discuss the critical importance of feedback to learning. But like fidelity, some types help, and others can hurt learning. There are 2 types of feedback we normally provide during learning activities:

  • Intrinsic –or internal– feedback.
    Intrinsic feedback comes in the form of natural consequences. When a participant is working through a communication scenario and the response to your choice is “Really? No thanks.” you are getting realistic (negative) feedback about the choice you made. In a training session on using styles to build a table of contents in Microsoft Word, seeing headings at the wrong level in the table of contents or missing from the table of contents is also intrinsic feedback.
  • Extrinsic –or “learning”– feedback.
    Extrinsic feedback occurs when someone else tells you the answer is correct or incorrect (and typically, why). If the answer is wrong, it may also include other information such as the right answer and information needed to fix issues, problems, and misunderstandings.

Extrinsic feedback can be very helpful for people who are new to the topic and who may not be able to figure out what natural consequences mean. Research tells us that simply giving the right answer and why it is correct is often a good idea for people who have less expertise with the topic. Too much added information will cause cognitive load.

When people have enough knowledge and skill to think through natural consequences (in other words, embedding cognitive fidelity), research tells using intrinsic feedback is valuable as they will need to do this on the job and in real life.

But this isn’t a tell-them or let-them-struggle situation. We can also offer support through hints (when people have a little knowledge and the hints are likely to help) or give people time to figure it out (when people have more knowledge and are capable of figuring it out). In fact, research shows that training on handling typical mistakes is beneficial as it adds important job context.

To complete today’s article, see if you can figure out if the types of feedback or feedback support below are intrinsic or extrinsic. My answers are below the exercise but consider covering up my answers, as you will learn more if you try to do it yourself.

1. A checklist to help participant evaluate whether their results are complete and accurate.

Is this intrinsic or extrinsic feedback?

2. “That answer is incorrect. All offered answers to a multiple-choice question should be feasible.

Is this intrinsic or extrinsic feedback?

3. “Incorrect. Use the diagram to check the three typical paper jam spots.

Is this intrinsic or extrinsic feedback?

Clear Paper Jam >

 

Is this intrinsic or extrinsic feedback?

Patti’s answers:

1. Blended. Checklist is extrinsic, but it can help participant find problems on their own and models the things to look for.

2. Extrinsic. Someone “outside” is telling whether the answer is correct or incorrect and why.

3. Blended. Diagram is extrinsic, but it can help participant find problems.

4. Extrinsic. Copier is telling you there is a problem.

If you have questions, ask away. Or start a discussion on Twitter by posting to @pattishank and @elearnindustry. See you soon!

 

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