Abstract: Transferring Training to Child Welfare Practice: Individual and Collective Efforts (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

11528 Transferring Training to Child Welfare Practice: Individual and Collective Efforts

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 8:00 AM
Bayview B (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Junqing Liu, MSW , State University of New York at Albany, Ph.D Student, Albany, NY
Brenda D. Smith, PhD , University of Alabama, Associate Professor, Tuscaloosa, AL
Background: The challenges of transferring training content into practice are well documented. Studies estimate that only 10-15% of training content is transferred back to the workplace (Kontoghiorghes, 2004). Training transfer has been treated as an individual-level behavior in the cognitive psychology and training literatures (Argote & Ingram, 2000). However, within a work group, individuals, subgroups, the leader, and the whole group can be the agent of training transfer (Eraut and Hirsh, 2008). Indeed, training transfer at the group or organization level is expected in many social work practice contexts. To promote best practice, researchers and practitioners need to understand the mechanisms of individual and collective training transfer. This study examines individual and collective training transfer and assesses the influence of contextual factors on both types.

Methods: The study involves 214 workers from child welfare agencies in a northeastern state who attended a training program. The trainees completed a pre-training survey (response rate 95%), and a five-month follow-up survey (43% response rate). The pre-training survey addressed training motivation and perceptions of supervisor support and organizational conditions. The follow-up survey addressed perceived training transfer as well as perceptions of supervisory support and organizational conditions. Perceived training transfer was measured by a 12-item scale used in previous research (Facteau, et al., 1995). Principle components analysis was conducted to identify meaningful components within each measurement scale. Hierarchical linear regression was used to assess the influence of contextual factors on training transfer.

Results: Principle components analysis suggests that training transfer consists of two components: individual training transfer (Cronbach's alpha, .75) and collective training transfer (Cronbach's alpha, .87). An example item measuring individual training transfer is “I use the knowledge and skills that I learn from this training on the job.” An example item measuring collective training transfer is “My co-workers and I have already made a plan to apply training content.” The actions of collective training transfer include, but are not limited to, planning, discussion, and feedback on performance. Regression models suggest that (a) training motivation significantly increases individual training transfer but not collective training transfer; (b) formal organizational culture directly decreases collective but not individual training transfer; (c) supervisory support directly increases collective but not individual training transfer; (d) organizational contexts do not clearly moderate the effect of training motivation on either individual or collective training transfer; and (e) having a masters degree increases training motivation.

Conclusions: This study makes a unique contribution in differentiating individual and collective training transfer. The collective training transfer efforts are consistent with Argyris and Schon's (1978) double-loop learning concept. To promote collective training transfer, a construct that is related to both individual and group performance (Chiabura & Marinova, 2005), social work administrators and practitioners may need to strengthen supervisory support and confront the rigidity of formal rules and processes in their organizations.