Learners' perspectives of the train-the-trainer program in creating the role of classroom trainer

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Linda Zieghan


Workplace learning, Learners, Train-the-trainer, Classroom trainer

Subject Categories



Training is no longer the "invisible" educational system in the United States; rather, employer-based education is recognized as the largest delivery system of adult education today (Carnevale, 1989, p. 27). This phenomenon has led to interest in workplace learning and the creation of "learning organizations" (Senge, 1990; Watkins & Marsick, 1993). Moreover, organizations are downsizing, and many employees are assuming multiple roles. Training interventions which prepare employees for the additional role of part-time trainer are called train-the-trainer courses. An important yet little understood question is the meaning the participants give to these courses.

This study examined the meaning learners give to training and the role of learners' prior experience in learning to be a trainer. A qualitative case study methodology--interviews, participant-observation, and document analysis--was used to explore the learners' perspectives from five train-the-trainer courses in three organizational settings.

The meaning of the training to the learners was represented by seven unique themes: (a) understanding the purpose of training, (b) developing training skills and expertise, (c) idealizing the trainer models, (d) forming the self as trainer, (e) meeting the organization's expectations, (f) applying the training experience to the real world, and (g) learning with and from others.

Three conclusions were drawn. First, the learners' participation in the train-the-trainer courses served to connect the learner to the organization. Next, the role of prior experience of new and experienced trainers in a train-the-trainer program was described in a conceptual model. Finally, although these learners' experienced instrumental and communicative learning, missing in these train-the-trainer courses were experiences for transformative learning (Mezirow, 1989; Shor, 1992; Vella, 1994).

This study contributes to our knowledge of the teaching-learning transaction by examining (a) learning from the perspective of the learner and (b) the role of prior experience in learner development as trainer. Implications for practice are offered for the design of training programs, the learners who train part-time, and the organization. In addition, recommendations for further research on the teaching-learning transaction in the classroom as a dynamic environment are offered.


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