The nature of the knowledge acquisition process trainers use to achieve content expertise

by Johnson, Daniel P.

Abstract (Summary)
Eduard Lindeman (1926) stated, “the approach to adult education will be via the route of

situations” (p. 8, emphasis in original). Training professionals often face situations that require

them to develop and present training programs on subjects for which they have limited or no

previous content expertise. This occurs even though the literature stresses the need for trainers to

be experts or masters on the material they present (Bernthal et al., 2004; Brookfield, 1990;

Draves, 1984, 2000; Galbraith, 1990; Houle, 1984; Long, 2002; McArdle, 1993; McCain, 1999;

Slusarski, 1994; Symonds, 1968; Wlodkowski, 1999). Although there is considerable literature

on the roles and responsibilities of trainers (McLagan & Suhadolnik, 1989; Nadler & Nadler,

1989), self-directed learning (Candy, 1991; Knowles, 1975; Tough, 1979), and developing

training programs (Caffarella, 2002; Long, 1983; McCain, 1999), very little links these areas

with the knowledge acquisition process trainers use.

This dissertation describes the phenomenological inquiry into the nature of the process

trainers use to acquire the knowledge necessary to develop and present training programs for

which they have little or no previous content expertise. The population was selected because of

the researcher’s background in training and adult education. Criterion, snowball, convenience,

and maximum variation purposeful sampling techniques were used to identify trainers who met

the criterion of the study. Potential participants were contacted by the researcher and asked to

participate in the study. Data was collected via semistructured interviews until thematic

saturation was reached. Constant comparison was used to analyze the transcripts of the


Twenty-six common themes were identified during the study and were categorized into

six different categories. The six categories are self-directed learning, the training and development process becomes part of the trainer’s life, the needs assessment is part of

knowledge acquisition, knowledge acquisition is a continuous part of the trainer’s life,

understanding the importance of adult learning principles, and reflection. The results of this

study have implications for the adult education, self-directed learning, program planning, human

resource development, and training literature.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Kansas State University

School Location:USA - Kansas

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:training program planning knowledge acquisition self directed learning teaching process education adult and continuing 0516 speech communication 0459


Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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