Factors that contribute to the successful learning transfer of leaders

  • Robert Gow

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This study explores the transfer of learning from leadership development programs to better understand the factors contributing to learning transfer of leaders. A mixed method parallel mixed design was used in the study, in which the independent quantitative and qualitative components of survey research and focus groups were conducted separately and in a parallel manner. Five hundred and sixty leaders across novice, intermediate and expert levels of a state government in Australia completed an on-line survey, where they described a formal, non-formal or informal learning experience undertaken within the last two years. The leaders nominated 735 work colleagues to participate in a multi-rater survey. Learning transfer was measured using the Leadership Skills Strataplex (Mumford, Campion & Morgeson,2007). Factors correlated to learning transfer were measured using the Learning Transfer System Inventory (LTSI) (Holton, Bates & Ruona,2000). Seven focus groups were run to add perspective and depth to the quantitative analysis. This study reports a number of significant findings. First, using multiple regression analysis, while three of the 16 LTSI factors were correlated to the learning transfer of novice leaders and two of the factors were correlated to the learning transfer of intermediate leaders, none of the factors were correlated to the learning transfer of expert leaders. Second, using ANOVA, in examining the variation of learning transfer across levels of leaders, the study found that learning transfer of leaders did not vary on the basis of level of leader. Third, using ANOVA, the study found significant variation of learning transfer of leaders across different methods of learning. Fourth, using multiple regression analysis, none of the 16 LTSI factors was correlated with learning transfer of leaders when formal or informal learning methods were used, but four of the16 LTSI factors were correlated with learning transfer of leaders when non-formal learning methods were used. Fifth, in examining learning transfer systems across four departments, using MANOVA, the analysis indicated there was a non-significant effect of the departments variable on the combined 16 dependent variables of the LTSI, suggesting the learning transfer systems for leaders across four departments did not differ. Finally, the qualitative analysis revealed a number of important constructs potentially related to learning transfer of leaders including propensity for self-development, self-reflection, intrinsic motivation, job-autonomy, and informal learning structures such as the provision of job assignments, performance feedback and social networks or communities of practice. This study recommends moving beyond traditional factor-based approaches to learning transfer, as the study has shown that identifying factors correlating with learning transfer of leaders requires an identification and analysis of a complexity of interrelated constructs that sit outside the traditional approach in identifying factors influencing learning transfer. The findings support the proposition by Burke and Saks (2009),who suggested that most factors related to learning transfer are of minor importance or irrelevant in affecting significant change in transfer, leaving only a few factors capable of tackling the problem. Rather than focussing research attention on adding more factors to the nomological net, focus could be applied to examining in depth the complex interrelatedness among the small number of factors found to be correlated to learning transfer of leaders. It is essential that the in depth examination takes into consideration contextual factors such as level of leaders and methods of learning.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorFrancesco Sofo (Supervisor) & Ting Wang (Supervisor)

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