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Why, Learn, Try, Apply, Share - five stages to boost engagement and transfer skills

Learning designers are spoilt for choice when it comes to frameworks and models for planning and designing learning. From classic pedagogical tools like Bloom's Taxonomy to models informed by twenty-first-century design thinking, theories and resources are abundant. At Guroo Producer, we have adopted our own approach to structure our learning solutions in a logical flow that allows the learner to practice to learn, practice, and (most importantly) apply their learning on the job.

There are five phases to this model; why, learn, try, apply and share. We'll use the example of a blended learning program on Negotiation Skills to highlight how each phase could be addressed. 

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The Why should be made clear to the learner at the outset of any training. The goal of stating the Why is to help the learner answer the "Why should I bother?" (commonly expressed as 'What's in it for me?' or WIIFM) and get buy-in.

Stating what the learner can expect from the training can help them form their Why, which can range from deeply intrinsic if they've sought out the training on their own accord  ("This training will allow me to develop new skills and grow as a person") to acutely extrinsic, which might be the case in compliance-related training ("I have to do this training to meet the requirements of my job"). Wherever your learners land on the intrinsic/extrinsic scale of motivation, you should be open with the reason you want them to pay attention. 

In our Negotiation Skills program, the Why phase provides some context for the program and how negotiation skills will assist the learners and their organisation. We include a short video from a leading academic on negotiation to build credibility, and some examples from individuals in the organisation talking about the negotiations they are involved in as part of their role, and what skills are important to them in these negotiations. We could have the learner complete a diagnostic in ACADEMY to gain an understanding of their current level of skill, and reflect on how improving these skills would improve their job performance.

 

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Learn is the part of the training where the learner is acquiring new knowledge or skills. Importantly, knowledge acquisition should not be limited to a one-way transfer of information, but rather be an interaction between the learner and the content. This can be promoted by adding reflective questions or even assessed questions with rich feedback. 

In the ‘Learn’ phase of our Negotiation Skills program, we could use a range of methods to help build the learner's understanding of negotiation frameworks, such as eLearning, videos, readings, and activities. 

Along the way, they answer some questions to keep them engaged and ensure understanding. When the learner meets a learning milestone (based on the learning objectives) they are rewarded with a badge.


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In this phase, the learner can try out their newfound skills or knowledge in a safe environment. This is particularly useful for compliance training where real-world stakes can be high. 

Scenario-based questions are great for this purpose. Ensure that they are as authentic as possible. For example, if the course you're creating is training staff at a bank to spot suspicious activity from viewing account statements, asking them to download a mocked-up statement and answer questions about it might be a good approach. If you are preparing retail customers for dealing with challenging customers, perhaps a video with actors playing out scenarios, followed by reflective questions could be quite effective.

In most programs, the learner would move through learn, try, learn, try, a number of times to build and try their skills in key areas. Whichever way you chose to do it, it is important that the learner feels supported and that they receive detailed feedback as they progress, particularly where capability gaps exist. 

In the Try phase of our program on Negotiation Skills, we could use a scenario of a realistic negotiation that the learner would encounter in their role. We could use a character to represent the person they are negotiating with, and ask them to choose the next step in the negotiation. By using a branching scenario, we could allow the learner to see the consequences of certain actions, and provide additional learning and activities to bridge capability gaps. 

Another option, if the program is cohort based, is to assign small groups of learners and have them prepare for and role play negotiations. They can then give feedback to one another and reflect on their experiences. 


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Designing learning that takes application and job transfer into account can be time-consuming, as it requires support from managers and wider stakeholders. However, it is crucial in order to ensure that learning continues, even after the formal training is over. 

Whether completed as a project throughout the training or as a separate task upon completion, application activities should be authentic and bring real value in order to be engaging and achieve buy-in from the learner and their organisation. 

To apply their negotiation skills, learners could plan for, complete, and reflect on a real negotiation in their role. By including reflection, the learner can pinpoint what went well, and how they could continue to improve. This allows them to further embed their skills. 


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Sharing once newly acquired skills or knowledge not only serves to get more people informed, but the repetition involved in teaching others (peer-to-peer training) actually helps cement the knowledge of the person teaching. Where training has been offered to one person in a team, the feeling of being the 'expert' back at the office can also work as a motivator to engage with content.

 

Further, sharing thoughts and reflections with peers (whether inside the training group as part of the evaluation, or with non-participants) who in turn share their insights or ask questions, can offer new perspectives and understandings beyond what was explicitly taught.  


In our Negotiation Skills program, could be encouraged to reflect on their negotiations and share with their cohort peers in the ACADEMY platform. To keep the learning alive we could also check back in with learners a month after their program and have them share how the program has helped them enhance their skills. 

At Guroo Producer we find that the Why, Learn, Try, Apply, Share framework helps us structure our designs from the scoping stage through to implementation.

If you would like to learn more about how we go about planning and designing our learning solutions, we recommend you download our Learning Canvas Toolkit.

Donna Hanson-Squires
23 March 2022 6 Min Read

How does this look in action?
We adopted the why, learn, try, apply approach in our work with Woolworths for their Store Management and Knowledge Share Program

You can read more about it in our Case Study.

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If you want to understand more of our philosophy and how we've used these principles to develop our solutions, the Learning Canvas Toolkit is for you.

Scope like a pro as you align your stakeholders and focus on your learners right from the start in this free download. You will also receive guidance on creating learner personas and developing project goals to further streamline your development.

Download the Learning Canvas Toolkit

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