Skip The Facilitation Hype - Focus On Transfer Instead

You recently took a course from which you brought back new knowledge, or you successfully facilitated a workshop. Despite all that, you get the feeling that these learnings might drown in the routines of everyday life.

Scientific discoveries in human cognition confirm this suspicion. According to ’Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve’, humans forget up to half of the recently acquired learnings within days or weeks, unless new learnings are actively used.

Based on this, I find the widespread focus on facilitation in the consultant business problematic. We ought to consider learning as a process in which all aspects should be taken into account. In my opinion, we should take a special interest in the transfer of knowledge, while also thinking about ways to create techniques of re-learning to increase the yield of these learnings.

According to Dansk Industri, the consultant business delivers services that amount to 17.1 billion kroner (Danish Kroner) every year. Many of these services are categorized as courses and teachings, where facilitation plays a major part.

When I explore the range of courses that consultants offer organisations and companies, I find a surprising lack of focus on the transfer and the possibility of sharing knowledge.

This calls for consideration, and maybe even a little soul-searching. I say this because quality is often measured in the participant’s ability to put the learnings to good use while they are NOT engaged in a course.

Based on this wondering, I would like to present you with three aspects of learning, that I believe should be taken into consideration in every learning perspective.

What Is The Transfer Theory?

Transfer theory is made up of three interrelating components to ensure the achievement of the transfer: The situation of application, teaching situation and the person who is about to learn.

Model based on Wahlgren & Aarkrog, 2013


The person

The level of transfer is affected by the person’s ability to visualize the situation of application. Consultants should provide the participants with a greater sense of influence towards design, as well as clarify learning goals. This will create a motivation to apply the learning thus boosting the process of transfer.


Learning situation

This area primarily concerns mastery, which requires an in-depth knowledge of the matter. It is necessary to train and practice the learnings and to ensure a practical understanding of the application before the transfer can take place.


The situation of application

This is where the sense-making of your activities take shape – where new learnings are put into play and applied. This means that learning doesn’t end with facilitation. Instead, learning should be considered a thing of everyday life.

Practice The New Knowledge

Transfer theory puts learning into perspective. If we are to make sense of the learning from courses and teachings, we should practice the learnings long after the courses have ended. This is where our techniques of re-learning can be useful. I call them trainers in my TEDx talk: