The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Testing a Transfer of Learning Model for Child Welfare Middle Managers

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 9:45 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 008B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Shauna Rienks, PhD, Research Analyst, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Katharine Cahn, PhD, Assistant Professor/Executive Director, Child Welfare Partnership, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Anna deGuzman, MS, Research Assistant, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Cathryn C. Potter, PhD, Professor, Associate Provost for Research, Executive Director, Butler Institute for Families, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Purpose: The Children’s Bureau’s National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) Leadership Academy for Middle Managers promotes a distributive, adaptive, and inclusive child welfare leadership training model for child welfare managers. This study tests how the training promotes learning and the transfer of learning to practice, considering facilitators and barriers to transfer.

Few empirical studies examine the impact of human services training on performance outcomes. While there is a strong emerging literature on the science of training and the development of the organizational workforce (Salas et al., 2012), these studies have not been replicated in child welfare to test factors that predict classroom learning, transfer of learning to the job, and continual mastery of skills through application (Antle, 2008).  The current study tests a model first developed by Baldwin and Ford (1988), later expanded by Holton and Bates (2000), examining the interactions of factors related to the individual, the training event, and the work environment in predicting transfer of learning.

Method: Evaluators adapted the Learning Transfer Systems Inventory (LTSI) for use in child welfare settings. The tool, comprising 48 items and 15 constructs, was administered to 406 Leadership Academy participants at post-training. Other measures used in model testing included post-test training satisfaction, and self-reported leadership competencies (pre-training, post-training, and 3- and 6-month follow-up) as well as post, 3-month, and 6-month Change Initiative (CI) Implementation Supports.

Results: The model tested predictors of post-training competencies from the three LTSI subscales (Personal Ability, Work Environment, and Motivation to Transfer), training satisfaction, and concurrent CI support. Post-test competency, in turn, predicted 3-month competency, which predicted 6-month competency (both taking into account concurrent CI support). The only LTSI domain that was significantly predictive was Motivation to Transfer (thus, the other two were excluded from subsequent models). Inspection of the final model’s diagnostics revealed that although the Chi-square was statistically significant (χ2 = 93.7, df = 23, p < .001), traditional indices of overall fit were acceptable (CFI = .93, NFI = .91, RMSEA = 0.09), and all path coefficients were statistically significant (p < .05). This sequential path model suggests that training satisfaction, post-training competency skills, and motivation to transfer create a chain effect for ongoing competency that is strengthened by CI support.

Conclusions and Implications: These results have important implications for the design and evaluation of training systems for the field of child welfare; specifically, for child welfare managers. Both satisfaction with the training and manger motivation predicted leadership competencies. Moreover, transfer of knowledge to the job and continued skill development over the year following training were predicted by post-competency gain and by implementation supports in the workplace such as coaching, feedback, and general support from others.  One implication of this study is that effective training systems rely on strong instruction, individual motivation to learn, the application of training concepts, and workforce supports to effectively apply knowledge and skills on the job.