Learning Transfer System Inventory
Elwood F. “Ed” Holton, III
Elwood Holton holds an extensive record of accomplishment in human resource development and in adult and continuing education. He is the Jones S. Davis Distinguished Professor of Human Resource, Leadership and Organization Development in the School of Human Resource Education at Louisiana State University. Among other duties within the department he coordinates degree programs in Human Resource and Leadership Development. He has written extensively in adult education and human resource development including over 200 articles and numerous books. He is the founding editor of the Human Resource Development Review and past president of the Academy of Human Resource Development Review. He has numerous years of experience consulting with various private, public and non-profit organizations. He consults on various topics including organizational climate and culture, organizational change, team building and organizational design. He received all his degrees from Virginia Tech including his B.S. in Business, an M.B.A., and an Ed.D. in Human Resource Development
Learning Transfer System Inventory
In 1996 Holton laid down the foundational argument for the Learning Transfer System Inventory in his article The Flawed Four Level Evaluation Model (Holton, 1996). He adamantly argued that evaluation of interventions is critical to the field of human resource development
(HRD) (Holton, 1996). While acknowledging that the Kirkpatrick’s model for training
evaluation known as the four-level evaluation model is the standard in the field, Holton argues it doesn’t go far enough and is best labeled taxonomy, which is simply a classification scheme
(Holton 1996). Kirkpatrick’s four levels are: reactions, learning, behavior and results (Kirkpatrick & Kirkpatrick, 2007, p. 1). Holton proposes moving from a taxonomic evaluation approach to a fully specified evaluation model that meets the criteria of good theory and model building (Holton, 1996).
Holton proposed an evaluation model that hypothesizes that HRD outcomes are a function of ability, motivation and environmental influences at three outcome levels: learning, individual performance and organizational performance (Holton, 1996; Holton 2007). The conceptual format is shown in figure 1 (Holton 1996). Holton also adds secondary influences to the final model including such influences as attitude and personality and especially those effecting motivation (Holton, 2007). The model is shown in figure 2 (Holton 1996).
Holton saw learning, transfer of learning, and improving transfer of learning as critical outcomes in HRD (Holton, Bates & Ruona, 2000). The first step to improvement of learning transfer is the accurate diagnosis of factors inhibiting it (Holton, Bates, Ruona, 2000). He found no tool in HRD to perform such a diagnosis (Holton, Bates & Ruona, 2000). His goal was the development of a valid and generalizable set of transfer scales for use by HRD professionals (Holton, Bates & Ruona, 2000).
The outcome of this initiative is the Learning Transfer System Inventory that has four
constructs: ability, motivation, environment, and secondary influence for learning outcomes
and organizational outcomes (Holton, Bates & Ruona, 2000). Learning Transfer System
Inventory: Conceptual Model of Instrument Constructs is shown in figure 3 (Holton, Bates & Ruona, 2000). The model addressed according to Holton a major risk in Kirkpatrick’s four levels that any failure to achieve is blamed on the failure of the intervention without consideration that the failure may be due to moderating variables (Holton, 2005). An example cited by Holton is where no behavior is changed because of bad support climate not failed intervention (Holton 2005).
The final instrument which was developed from version 1 is divided into two sections representing finally two construct domains with 76 items in the first section measuring 11 constructs and the second section of 36 items measuring five general constructs (Holton, Bates & Ruona, 2000) The constructs for the first section are:
1. Learner readiness
2. Motivation to transfer
3. Positive personal outcomes
4. Negative personal outcomes
5. Personal capacity for transfer
6. Peer support
7. Supervisor support
8. Supervisor sanctions
9. Perceived content validity
10. Transfer design
11. Opportunity to use (Holton, 2007)
General constructs are:
12. Transfer effort performance expectations
13. Performance outcome expectations
14. Resistance or openness to change
15. Performance Self-Efficacy
16. Performance coaching (Holton, 2007)
Factors, definitions, and sample items are shown in figure 4 (Holton, Bates & Ruona, 2000).
Practioners can use the LTSI in various ways:
; To assess potential transfer problems before conducting major learning interventions ; As part of follow-up evaluations of existing training programs
; As a diagnostic tool for investigating known transfer of training problems ; To target interventions designed to enhance transfer
; To incorporate evaluation transfer of learning systems as part of regular employee
; To conduct needs assessment for training programs to provide skills to supervisors and
trainers that will aid transfer (Holton, Bates, Ruona, 2000, p.357).
The model has been well tested with the production of strong evidence of construct validity (Holton 2005). Yet Holton updated the model in 2005 by modifying it to reflect “new theory, particularly in the area of motivation” (Holton, 2005, p. 50). Figure 5 is the Revised HRD Evaluation and Research Model (Holton, 2005)
Further complex and demanding validation studies are needed (Holton 2005).
Holton, E. F. III (1996). The flawed four level evaluation model. Human Resource Development
Quarterly. 7(1), 5-21.
Holton, E. F. III (2003). What’s really wrong: Diagnosis for learning transfer system change? In
E. F. Holton III & T. T. Baldwin (Eds.), Improving Learning in Transfer Organizations
(pp. 59-75). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint.
Holton, E. F. (2005). Holton’s evaluation model: New evidence and construct elaborations.
Advances in Developing Human Resources. 7(1), 37-54.
Holton, E. F., Bates R. A., & Ruona W. E. (2000). Development of a generalized learning
transfer system inventory. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 11(4), 333-
360. Retrieved September 22, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document
Kirkpatrick, D. L. & Kirkpatrick, J. D. (2007). Implementing the four levels: A practical guide
for effective evaluation of training programs. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers,