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Post Training Reinforcement – What is it and how can early years leaders implement it?

August 11, 2021
8 minute read

Training is part and parcel of early years life. We all understand the importance of regular training, remaining up to date with sector changes and ensuring our CPD remains current and fresh. We invest time and money, encouraging our practitioners to attend training and updates to ensure they deliver the best service to our children and families. But how do you as a leader make sure that the training received actually has a positive impact on practice?

Research around ‘post-training reinforcement’ demonstrates that this is a critical factor in real term behaviour change, improvements in practice and increased return on investment. Let’s face it, if we are investing both time and money into the skills and knowledge of our practitioners, we want to see that investment having a real impact within the setting. Moreover, the ‘Early years inspection handbook for Ofsted-registered provision for September 2021’ states within its outstanding leadership grade indicators :

'Leaders ensure that they and practitioners receive focused and highly effective professional development. Practitioners’ subject, pedagogical content and knowledge consistently builds and develops over time, and this consistently translates into improvements in the teaching of the curriculum.'

In this blog, we will look at what post-training reinforcement is, why you should be implementing it and how to implement it successfully in order to ensure your training translates into improvements across your setting.

What exactly is post-training reinforcement?

If we are totally honest, we have all been on training, completed the day and left full of ideas to improve practice, which have then fallen flat as we go back into our daily routine. Our practitioners do the same, the knowledge and learning may have taken place, but using these new skills to make a difference is the difficult but most important part. What’s more, remembering all the new learning for the long term can be tricky.

Post-training reinforcement involves developing deliberate and strategic content, in spaced out bursts, as a follow-up to any training that has taken place. By having a time lapse between training taking place and then providing follow up content, the brain recalls the learned information and transfers it to long-term memory. If we think about how children learn, they don’t just remember things first time, they need time to recall and practice, so why would adults be any different?

Post-training reinforcement supports behaviour change and promotes improvements in practice by increasing the retention of the knowledge gained during the training, allowing them the opportunity to practice the new skills gained.

Why do I need to reinforce practitioner training?

In early years, we often use the quote ‘learning is a process not an event’ and this is true for both children and adults. If we use Kolb’s learning cycle, we see 4 components to learning:

  1. Engage
  2. Explore
  3. Explain
  4. Apply
Kolb's Learning Cycle

Generally, during a training session, the first three components are addressed, but the application is often lost. After receiving training, if the final component doesn’t take place, the practitioner may be unable to recall the information when required. For example; Imagine you have a brand new apprentice. On their very first day, you go through the safeguarding procedure with them. They read the policy and then get on with their day. 4 weeks later, you ask them what the procedure is. Do you think they will be able to recall it effectively? Should we expect them to? The lack of training reinforcement means they won’t be able to recall what was learned and use it in their daily work. Without reinforcing learning, the brain simply doesn’t understand that the information learned is important to keep long term.

Do people really forget information after training?

Yes! We know that people remember different things for different reasons. It may depend on the type of learner they are, the style of delivery , even how tired they are on the day. So it stands to reason that there are also various factors which determine how much forgetting happens after learning something. According to research people forget approximately 50% of training within just one hour, and 70% at 24 hours. By the end of 30 days that lost learning amounts increases to 90%.

Psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, uses his ‘forgetting curve’ to demonstrate just how quickly memory retention reduces after learning something new:

Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve for Retention of Newly Learned Information

The NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science shared some interesting statistics on adult learners and their ability to remember and retain what they’ve learned. They found that:

  • 5% retained information when they’ve learned from a lecture.
  • 10% retained information when they’ve learned from reading.
  • 20% retained information from audio-visual.
  • 30% retained information when they saw a demonstration.
  • 50% retained information when engaged in a group discussion.
  • 75% retained information when they practice what they learned.
  • 90% retained information when they teach someone else or use it immediately

What is the cost of this lost learning?

If your setting doesn’t offer post-training reinforcement, you could see a 50-90% loss of the time and money spent. This could even increase when we consider the cost of extra staffing to cover practitioners not in the setting when on training days. Therefore, post training reinforcement is an essential process in improving the return on training investment.  

“I hear and I forget. I read and I remember. I do and I understand.”

– Confucius

So, what can I do as an early years leader?

The most important thing you can do is provide opportunities for your practitioners to share and practice their new skills, knowledge and learning over time, with spaced out intervals. There are several ways you can do this;

  1. Ask them to share their learning in the next staff meeting
  2. Ask them to train the rest of the team in a training day
  3. Provide access to opportunities to practice and try out their learning
  4. Use Ebbinghaus’ theory of spaced retrieval which involves leaving time and space between recall and practice, to support the memorising of learning.
  5. Ask random, on the spot questions regarding the new learning throughout the day and in supervision meetings.
  6. Ask them to write a guide or short manual for their colleagues or parents

However, post-training reinforcement is not just about simply memorising information. The goal of post-training reinforcement is to build on and extend the learning process and enable practitioners to grow in their knowledge and skills, having a positive impact on practice in your setting.  Application of the new skills and knowledge is essential. 

Think carefully about the intervals and spacing between post-training reinforcement content. Consider the depth and breadth of the training content, and interrupt the forgetting process. You may perhaps choose to implement a post-training reinforcement 2 days after training, after a week, after a fortnight and then at the end of the month.

As an example, lets imagine a practitioner has attended behaviour management training. 2 days post training you might ask them to tell you about what they learnt, what their ideas are for improving practice in your setting. After a week, you may ask them to implement these changes within the room in which they work and see what impact it has. 14 days after the training you might ask them to assist you with updating the behaviour management policy based on their new learning. At the end of the month, they could share their learning with the rest of the team in the staff meeting.

Research on this spaced retrieval by Ebbinghaus demonstrated that learning retention improves after some forgetting has occurred. This is why revising for a test the night before, then not using the information again after that will likely lead to all of the knowledge being lost.

Using spaced intervals for reinforcement supports practitioners to recall information after some forgetting has occurred, which leads to strengthening the memory for the next time it’s needed.

When practitioners are attending training, ask yourself what you expect the impact to be, why is the training necessary and what practice improvements are you anticipating seeing as a result of the training. This way, you can observe whether or not the training has had the desired effect. Be sure to ask the practitioner for their feedback on the training too, ask for their perspective on how they intend to put the training into practice and how it will improve the way they work and ultimately improve their practice.

All to often, we send practitioners on training because it’s mandatory, but including post-training reinforcement can have a huge impact on the culture within your setting as well as the practice of practitioners and the overall service you provide to children and families.

Why not take a look at the training opportunities we have to offer at Early Years Leadership.

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