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ATD Blog

L&D Models Provide Evidence of Needed Behaviors and Skills

Monday, April 3, 2023

What skills do learners need to be successful in their current roles and to what level? What skills will they need to advance to a future position? What knowledge and skills do teams have and what are they missing? These are questions L&D professionals can gain insight into by creating models. As Kristin Torrence explains in “5 Models for Data-Driven Learning,” models are a simplistic depiction of a concept or phenomenon.

L&D professionals routinely translate learnings from subject matter experts into skills and capabilities that employees need on the job. However, this is often done in a rather unstructured manner. “Modeling, however, is a structured and organized way of relaying that information and its interrelationships, providing a holistic view of competencies learners must acquire,” writes Torrence. “Models can enable us to make sound judgments about what competencies to address, how to meet learners where they are, how to appropriately scaffold content, and how to design for desirable difficulty.” This allows L&D teams to work with an outcomes-based learning design.

What Models?

Torrence presents five L&D models: competency, evidence, task, learner, and pedagogical:

  1. Competency Model: describes what learners need to know and do, and with what degree of proficiency
  2. Evidence Model: indicates how evidence is identified and evaluated for certain required tasks and how we must alter our understanding of learning competency given the evidence
  3. Task Model: presents the framework for design situations and conditions to observe learner performance—L&D professionals can use this as evidential reasoning about competency levels
  4. Learner Model: shows a learner’s current proficiency levels concerning skills and knowledge
  5. Pedagogical Model: provides the logic to best tailor the learning experience for design and performance support


How Can L&D Professionals Use Models?

Using one or more models, L&D professionals can determine the developmental resources that may be missing from the organization, create a pathway for a new employee, or target training.

For example, an L&D team member may be asked to audit an organization’s L&D resources. They can ascertain the gaps in current training materials based on the organization’s required competencies.
Another way to use a model is when outlining a newly created role. What skills and capabilities does the employee need? From that information, the L&D professional can create a learning pathway that supports employee development.


Yet another use for L&D models is to help employees interested in moving to a different team or role within an organization. The talent development team can assess the employee’s skills and comparable needs in other departments. From there, the L&D team designs a program to help the employee develop the missing but necessary skills and capabilities required in the new department.

Models As a Win-Win

Models allow L&D professionals to design strategic learning activities. Learners can move forward with a specific learning plan, subject matter experts can evaluate how the content they share with the L&D team connects to specific behaviors and learning activities, and leaders gain a visible depiction of the connections between behaviors and learning and development. It’s a win for everyone.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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