There is a substantial experimental literature on the efficacy of home visitation programs. The most successful (and expensive) of these programs is the nurse/family partnership model developed by David Olds (Olds, Sadler, and Kitzman, 2007). Meta-analyses of its evaluations show some positive effects on certain parent and child outcomes, such as reductions in child maltreatment and visits to emergency rooms, but it is less clear whether such programs affect school readiness skills (Sweet and Appelbaum, 2004). The long-term impacts on school readiness are inconsistent, but the evidence suggests that there could be very modest effects on children’s social adjustment and cognitive competencies.

Evidence from Workplace Learning Environments

Another area yielding emerging evidence that interventions can develop transferable competencies is the body of literature in industrial and organizational psychology that focuses on the transfer of learning from organizational training programs to the workplace. This research has been summarized in a number of recent reviews and meta-analyses (e.g., Ford and Weissbein, 1997; Burke and Hutchins, 2008; Cheng and Hampson, 2008; Baldwin, Ford, and Blume, 2009; Blume et al., 2010; Grossman and Salas, 2011).

U.S. employers invest heavily in employee training, spending an estimated $46 billion to $54 billion per year when employee salaries during training time are included (Mikelson and Nightingale, 2004).3 This investment reflects a belief that training will transfer to improvements in job performance. Although Georgenson (1982) is often cited as estimating that only 10 percent of training experiences transfer from the training classroom to the work site, he did not, in fact, make such an estimate (Fitzpatrick, 2001). In recent years, a number of researchers have sought to measure the actual extent of transfer from training to on-the-job performance, to characterize what is transferred, and to identify the conditions promoting transfer. To measure the extent of transfer, researchers often turn to the Kirkpatrick model for evaluating the effectiveness of training (Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick, 2006). This model includes four levels of effectiveness: (1) trainees’ immediate reactions after a training session, (2) learning, (3) changes in on-the-job behavior, and (4) results (return on training investment).


3It is difficult to estimate total employer training investments, partly because most employers do not carefully account for training costs (Mikelson and Nightingale, 2004). In addition, there have been no systematic national surveys since those conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1994 and 1997. More recent surveys, such as those conducted by the American Society for Training and Development (2009), include the most training-intensive firms, causing an upward bias in the results.

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