Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Does Academic Training Change Intentions? Drawing upon the Theory of Planned Behaviour to Improve Academic Performance

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Does Academic Training Change Intentions? Drawing upon the Theory of Planned Behaviour to Improve Academic Performance

Article excerpt

In order for training in any context to be effective, it must produce change in the participants - change so substantial that the individual is compelled to tackle certain tasks in a different way than previously. Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick (2006) identified three aspects that training is able to change: knowledge, skills and attitudes. These authors also stated that, in order for change to occur, a person must desire change, they must know how to conduct the intended behaviour, work conditions must be appropriate and there must be a reward associated with the change. Given these constraints, it is not surprising that attempting to promote change in an individual is a challenging task (Hardeman et al., 2002), and yet most training programmes contemplate an even more difficult task, namely, attempting to mass-produce change in large groups of people, some poorly motivated, within the confines of a time-limited programme. It could be suggested that training to change either knowledge or skills is relatively straightforward. It is conceivable, however, that one could create a training programme that changes both knowledge and skills and yet still does not lead to a change in behaviour. Whilst not ignoring the role of knowledge and skills, it is suggested here that changing attitudes or beliefs is of central importance for the promotion of behaviour change. Hence, in order to increase the efficacy of training transfer, it would be helpful to understand more fully ways in which attitudes or beliefs can be altered.

Despite the amount of money and time invested in the development and evaluation of training programmes, research suggests that the outcomes of training are far more limited than typically thought. Yalcin and Powell (2010) conducted a meta-analysis assessing the effectiveness of managerial training programmes over a period of 50 years, from 1952 to 2002. A total of 62 studies, which aimed to improve managerial potential in the private organisational management sector, were included. These authors reported predominantly moderate effect sizes (d = 0.34-0.55) for these programmes. When outcomes of training were assessed at the level of transference to the workplace (actual behaviour change rather than self-reported learning at a conceptual level), effect sizes were considerably lower and often non-significant (Yalcin & Powell, 2010).

Arthur, Bennett, Edens, and Bell (2003), in their meta-analysis on training literature from 1960 to 2000, also found that learning outcomes were more likely than behavioural change, although they noted that the difference between these effects was small. Burke and Day (1986), in an earlier meta-analysis of 70 managerial training studies, found moderate effect sizes for both learning and behavioural outcomes, but they noted that many of the behavioural outcomes were measured at a self-report level and may not have accurately reflected any change in behaviour. Research suggests, therefore, that, though participants are learning something as a result of training, this learning is relatively weak and may not be transferring to action. It is concerning that these outcomes have not improved over time. Though learning is important, it is generally only with marked and substantial changes in behaviour that change in knowledge becomes useful.

Theory of planned behaviour

One theory that may provide insight here is the Theory of Planned Behaviour (ToPB) (Figure 1). This theory has been extensively supported in the empirical literature (Ajzen, 2011b) and holds that it is possible to predict behavioural intentions (and thereby behaviour) based upon three factors. These are Perceived Behavioural Control (PBC), the individual's perception of the degree to which they are free to enact a behaviour; Subjective Norms (SNs), the individual's beliefs regarding whether important referents would approve or disapprove of them conducting the behaviour; and Attitudes (Atts), the individual's attitudes concerning the positive and negative consequences of conducting the behaviour, taking into account the possibilities of both success and failure (Ajzen, 1985). …

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