In this short article, we will address the issue of training, a very topical subject nowadays, which has undergone major methodological changes due to technological innovation, but especially in the last two years due to the emergency we are still experiencing. Let’s start with the question that many people ask themselves: what does training mean? At first glance, this may seem like a trivial question, but the answer refers to various concepts derived from different theories, which in turn describe psychological processes that we have to deal with at every moment of our existence. Lucio Gallotti, a trainer and work psychologist, has stated that ‘training is a pathway, the objective of which is learning’. In other words, it is a road to be followed under the guidance of a professional expert in the field whose goal is the acquisition of new knowledge and/or skills. In a previous article we already talked about learning starting from the definition proposed by the psychologist Ernest Hilgard (1971), as an intellectual process through which the individual acquires knowledge about the world that, subsequently, he uses to structure and orient his behavior in a lasting way. Learning can be the result of spontaneous processes, as occurs in children, for example with language, or it can be induced and guided through an external teaching intervention, i.e. a training course. 

I would first like to talk briefly about David Kolb’s experiential learning theory which is fundamental to teaching. The term experiential learning refers to two contrasting processes: on the one hand, it speaks of a pathway to the acquisition of new knowledge provided by external agents (institutions, professionals, bodies): “direct experience with the phenomena studied rather than simply reflecting on the experience, or merely consideration of the possibility of doing something about it” (Borzak, 1981). On the other hand, much more simply, learning occurs spontaneously, i.e. it is achieved through the reflection that each of us makes on everyday experience: “training that occurs as direct participation in the events of life” (Houle, 1980). Kolb, together with Roger Fry, identified a cyclical model of experiential learning consisting of four stages: concrete experience (emotional experience), reflective observation, abstract conceptualization (thinking), and active experimentation (action). According to experts, learning does not always start at the same point, but can start at a different stage each time; very often this process starts with a person taking an action, which leads to consequences. The next step is to analyze that particular case to be able to subsequently predict a given situation under the same circumstances. In other words, an individual who learns in this way acquires rules of thumb or generalizations that enable him to predict, to understand what to do in different situations. 

Don’t you think we have talked about training in these last lines? If we think about the main role of the trainer, i.e. to try to maintain strong links between theory and practice, we can easily see that Kolb’s model is closely linked to training: firstly, because training is identified as a learning process based on experience. In addition, the trainer in turn has learned from experience certain concepts and theoretical constructs that enable him to understand the characteristics of specific situations and then pass them on to others. There are different types of training, which very often depend on the different fields: training in companies for employees, managers or executives, or professionals, training in schools for students, parents, teachers, and headmasters, training in sports for athletes, parents, coaching staff and sports managers and behavioral training which is very often aimed at the personal sphere. Although the methodology changes depending on the target group and the field of application, the objective always remains to learn, and very often the topics are the same; if we take, for example, the topic of communication is as important in school as in sport and work, as is the management of emotions. 

What is happening nowadays is a radical change in the way training is done and the tools used. Why these transformations? On the one hand, the continuous and fast technological innovation and, on the other hand, the experience of the last couple of years, which together have led to different and each time more complex needs and at the same time to increasing pressures and demands. All this leads to the need for continuous training in all areas of our lives (work, sport, school, personal sphere). Several possibilities have recently opened up for integrating classroom training with online training: an innovative, dynamic and flexible way of training that only very few people were used to if we refer to 4-5 years ago. Today, however, it has become almost the norm and the aim is to make more and more use of this new mode called e-learning. The advantages of doing online training are many: first of all, you can create lessons, interactive courses using different communication channels (video, audio). Moreover, online training gives the possibility to reach a large number of people since events, teaching, meetings can be followed from anywhere in the world comfortably from home without having to move. This greatly reduces costs for both the participants and, above all, the organizers. The aspect I would like to focus on is the new frontiers that have been developing in recent years: training through virtual reality. It has proved to be an excellent means of promoting learning thanks to its excellent adaptability, since it can reproduce any kind of virtual environment, allowing a dynamic approach to real problems. The first psychological studies and virtual reality date back to the early 1990s, thanks to which we began to become aware of the enormous potential that this technology could offer in the field of clinical psychology. It has been noted that the use of virtual environments reproduced in a manner faithful to reality, allows the subject under treatment to live a clearer experience than would be possible through his imaginative capacity (Vincelli, Riva, and Molinari, 1998). Some examples of applications in psychology refer to the clinical field, specifically the treatment of phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to these, virtual reality, more recently, has always been an excellent means of enhancing learning: simulations in the military field, simulations of specific game situations for top-level sportsmen and women, simulations in the corporate field, especially to improve specific skills (communication, emotion management, conflict management) are becoming increasingly widespread. These new ways of training are much cheaper than traditional field training, the tasks are repeatable, monitoring is constant and carried out under completely safe conditions (Smith and Stell, 2001). 

Vrainers wants to move in this direction. The main objective of the team is to integrate traditional training organized by professionals with virtual reality products. In this way, they seek to offer increasingly concrete, stimulating, and engaging learning experiences, reducing the time it takes to acquire knowledge and enhancing the effectiveness of the interventions.

What we want to emphasize is that for us at Vrainers, training is about cultivating and changing oneself and developing people’s potential. In my opinion, this means training. 

Bibliography and Sitography

Botella C, Riva G, Gaggioli A, et al. The present and future of positive technologies. CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 2012; 1:78–84 

Anolli, L. (2011). La sfida della mente muticulturale. Raffaello cortina editore. 

Pirri, P. (2017). La arti della formazione. Progettare e realizzare interventi formativi di successo. EPC editore, Roma.

Kelly C 1997. David Kolb, the theory of experiential learning and ESL. The Internet TESL Journal, 3(9).

Goldstein, IL. (1980). Training in work organizations. Annual Review of Psychology, 31, 229-272.. 

C. J. Bonk, Online Teaching in an Online World (Bloomington, Ind.: CourseShare, 2001).

Author:

Francesco Palazzo

Degree in psychological sciences and techniques from the University of L’Aquila. Master’s degree in Psychology of Well-being: empowerment, rehabilitation, and positive technologies, at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan. Master’s degree in Sport Psychology. Specialized in the use of Positive Technologies applied to different psychological fields, conducting an experimental study on cognitive enhancement and technical-motor gestures on young competitive tennis players through an integrated training of mental training and virtual reality.

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