Training: It Takes all Types

In previous blog articles we’ve talked about communications styles and learning styles, but did you know that people who deliver training fall into four distinct styles as well? If you’ve ever participated in work-related training, you know that not all trainers are created equal. Some have the ability to connect with participants and lead them through the most complex material with ease, while others lose everyone at hello.

Dolphin Academy, Wikimedia Commons

Multiple Training Modes for Best Outcomes

As a trainer, it’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses and to understand your own preferred training style. Accomplished trainers will learn to adapt their own style to suit participants needs and, in some cases, to suit the content of the course. The best trainers use a combination of training styles as well as training techniques that embody adult education principles to make the learning environment as engaging as possible and to maximize learning outcomes and knowledge transfer.

The Trainer Type Inventory (TTI)

Based on the Adult Learning Cycle, the Trainer Type Inventory (TTI) was developed by Mardy Wheeler and Jeanie Marshall to help trainers better understand their own preferred training styles as they relate to the Adult Learning Cycle and associated learning styles.

While designing the training type inventory, the authors were surprised to discover no significant relationship between a trainer’s own learning-style and his or her training-style preferences. In spite of this unexpected finding, the TTI is a useful professional development tool for trainers who identify their preferred or typical training styles and use it to gain greater self-awareness of their own strengths and areas for improvement.

Each of the four training styles identified by the TTI is characterized by a certain training approach, a way of presenting content, and the relationship between the trainer and the trainees. The following are the primary characteristics of the trainer for each of the four training types.[1]


  • Creates an affective learning environment
  • Trains the Concrete Experiencer most effectively
  • Encourages learners to express personal needs freely
  • Assures that everyone is heard
  • Shows awareness of individual group members
  • Reads nonverbal behavior
  • Prefers that trainees talk more than the trainer
  • Wants learners to be self-directed and autonomous
  • Exposes own emotions and experiences 
  • Shows empathy
  • Feels comfortable with all types of expression (words, gestures, hugs, music, art, etc.)
  • Does not seem to “worry” about the training
  • Stays in the “here-and-now”
  • Is practical (“goes with the flow”)
  • Appears relaxed and unhurried


  • Creates a perceptual learning environment
  • Trains the Reflective Observer most effectively
  • Takes charge
  • Gives directions
  • Prepares notes and outlines
  • Appears self-confident
  • Is well-organized
  • Evaluates with objective criteria
  • Is the final judge of what is learned
  • Uses lectures
  • Is conscientious (sticks to the announced agenda)
  • Concentrates on a single item at a time
  • Tells participants what to do
  • Is conscious of time
  • Develops contingency plans
  • Provides examples
  • Limits and controls participation


  • Creates a symbolic learning environment
  • Trains the Abstract Conceptualizer most effectively
  • Encourages learners to memorize and master terms and rules
  • Makes connections (ties the past to the present, is concerned with the flow of the training design)
  • Integrates theories and events
  • Separates self from learners, observes
  • Shares ideas but not feelings
  • Acknowledges others’ interpretations as well as own
  • Uses theory as a foundation
  • Encourages generalizations
  • Presents well-constructed interpretations
  • Listens for thoughts; often overlooks emotions
  • Wants trainees to have a thorough understanding of facts, terminology
  • Uses case studies, lectures, readings
  • Encourages learners to think independently
  • Provides information based on objective data


  • Creates a behavioral learning environment
  • Trains the Active Experimenter most effectively
  • Allows learners to evaluate their own progress
  • Involves trainees in activities, discussions
  •  Encourages experimentation with practical application
  • Puts trainees in touch with one another
  • Draws on the strengths of the group
  • Uses trainees as resources
  • Helps trainees to verbalize what they already know
  • Acts as facilitator to make the experience more comfortable and meaningful
  • Is clearly in charge
  • Uses activities, projects, and problems based on real life
  • Encourages active participation

If you chose to complete the Training Type Inventory, you’ll find that it contains 12 sets of four words or phrases. Each word or phrase corresponds to one of the four training types. You are asked to rank the four choices in each set based on your personal experience and preference and instructions are provided for scoring your responses. When you’re done, the style with the lowest total indicates your least preferred training style and offers the greatest area of potential growth and development.  The style with the highest total is your most preferred style. You might want to consider whether you may be relying too heavily on this training style. Taking the time to assess yourself and then developing your skills across all training approaches will help you provide training that engages and makes sense to the broadest range of participants.


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[1] Pfieffer J.W., Goldstein, L.D., editors (1986) Developing Human Resources.  San Diego, CA, University Associates

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