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The History of Training

Posted by Steve Flanagan on 3/13/17 8:00 AM
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At Langevin we define training as “giving people the knowledge and skills required to do their current job.” There’s been a lot of research on the history of training and development, and a quick internet search can provide you with a detailed account of how training people to do their jobs has evolved over time. The history of training is quite interesting.


Here are some highlights of the evolution of training throughout the ages:

  • The oldest known type of training, which began during prehistoric times, was a form of “on-the-job training” where the work of adults, such as hunting and fishing, was passed down to children to prepare them for adulthood. In other words, the “master” passing on knowledge and skill to the “novice.”

  • In 5th Century China, the method was “tell, show, do,” again passing on knowledge and skills.

  • No discussion about learning would be complete without acknowledging the contribution of the Greeks. Socrates was renowned for his use of questions to draw out a learner’s knowledge and help them achieve self- understanding, and Aristotle was an advocate of repetition to acquire the mastery of a skill.
  • In the Middle Ages, an apprentice blacksmith learned the trade from a master, working for no wages, receiving just food and board and the opportunity to learn. This one-on-one training was common during this period in history; however, the first apprenticeships can be traced back to Egypt around 2000 B.C.

  • Fast forward to the 1800’s. The Prussians introduced “games” into the training of military officers. They were provided with maps, strategies, and troop placement and then had to work through scenarios to analyze battle strategy.

  • Formal classroom training became the standard for adult training in the 1800’s with the onset of the industrial revolution. The sheer number of people needing to be trained meant the one-on-one apprentice training model was no longer viable or adequate.

  • 1930, J.L. Moreno introduced roleplaying in adult training as a method to prepare the learner for increased competence in anticipated situations.

  • In 1939, World War 1 brought about Job Instruction Training or JIT. Job instruction training is a form of simple on-the-job training where a new employee is trained in a step-by-step method by a supervisor or an assigned coworker. This kind of training worked well for jobs requiring manual skills, such as factory workers.

  • In the 1980’s, the first Computer Based Training (CBT) programs were launched with the introduction of the computer and internet, and new e-learning tools and delivery methods were created and rapidly expanded.

  • In the 1990’s, Job Support was introduced and businesses began using e-learning to train their employees. Teaching adult learners where to look for information to support their job performance became the new norm.


And, here we are today! Using technology every day to deliver web-based, virtual classroom training and robust on-line simulations, to access social media, and even to experience virtual reality. What’s next? Only time will tell!


To learn more about delivering engaging and interactive training in a virtual classroom setting, enroll in our The Virtual Trainer workshop and learn in the comfort of your own office! 


Take a moment and let me know YOUR thoughts on the history of training in the comments section!


Tips for Success in the Virtual Classroom

Steve has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education and dreamed of being a pro soccer player. Steve translated his love of soccer and physical performance to the corporate sector and became a trainer. He’s had the pleasure of training within the government, large corporations, and as an independent consultant. Outside of training, Steve’s two biggest passions are his family and guitars, which he collects and plays!

About this Blog

Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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