Tip #586: Which Should Be Addressed First in Training Design, Knowledge or Attitude?

“Attitudes are more important than facts.” Karl A. Menninger

I have just read an interesting article by John Kissinger, titled: “ASK: How Benjamin Bloom Got It Backwards.” He discusses how Benjamin Bloom’s three domains of learning: cognitive, psychomotor and affective came to be known as knowledge, skill and attitude (KSA).

He is concerned that, because KSA appears to be in rank order, curriculum designers have traditionally given priority to Knowledge but given short shrift to Skill and totally ignored Attitude.

“But we’ve focused efforts too much on knowledge acquisition, not enough on skill development, and far, far less on addressing attitude. Indeed, we all know that when it comes to making an impact on organizational performance, skill development trumps knowledge accumulation…

Attitude, on the other hand, is often the forgotten factor of learning. We can easily measure at least short-term knowledge gains through pre- and post-testing. And we can validate skill development through behavior change on the job.

But, how do we measure changes in attitude? It’s a much more complex process and as such, is largely overlooked under the guise of expediency.”

I would add that if trainees have a negative attitude toward the training, it is likely that little knowledge or skill will be learned.

Mr. Kissinger recommends that “KSA” be rearranged so that Attitude comes first, Skill development second, and Knowledge third, making it “ASK.”

His recommendation is certainly consistent with human resources’ current focus on attitude when recruiting and selecting new employees.

His recommendation is also confirmed by my experience as a curriculum designer and as a facilitative trainer.

It does not matter how brilliant the lesson plan or how engaging the learning activities, if the trainees come with a negative attitude very little learning can occur.

I learned long ago that it was critical to engage the trainees so that they saw the value of the training for them personally- by providing a clear answer to the age-old question: WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) This would lay the groundwork for their positive attitude toward the training.

A training needs assessment can help to identify not only what the training needs might be, but also how the target audience feels about it (their attitude).

This can help the trainer identify any negative transfer (previous negative trainee experience that will get in the way of the trainees seeing the value of the training).

The trainer can then plan how best to address or disconnect any negative trainer. This typically involves beginning the training session with an activity that will get the negativity out in the open, where it can be constructively addressed. Then, once the trainees let go of any negative attitudes or preconceptions, the knowledge and skill portion of the training can commence.

Dr. Madeline Hunter, emeritus of UCLA and author of the Mastery Teaching Model, emphasized that trainers could increase the probability that learning would occur if they used motivational tools.

These tools were intended to move the trainees from extrinsic motivation (attending the training because they were required to be there) to intrinsic motivation (when the trainees wanted to come back to the classroom after break because they knew they would get something of value).

In other words, helping the trainees achieve and maintain a positive attitude- by respecting their knowledge and experience, giving them practical skills and building their confidence in their own competence by enabling them to practice what they learned.

I think the best recipe for successful training is to focus on two parts Attitude, two parts Skill development, and one part Knowledge. What do you think?

May your learning be sweet.


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