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The GEAR Model for Learning Design

Want to help people to quickly apply knowledge and skills in the workplace, and speed up their time to performance? The GEAR model is a framework for learning design that takes people from knowing - to doing.

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The GEAR Model for Learning Design
May 1, 2023
The GEAR Model for Learning Design

GEAR-up for learning for transfer

Did you know that only about 15% of people actually transfer their learning into the workplace?

That means 85% of people who ‘learn’ something at work don’t do anything useful with what they learned.

It’s not usually their fault.

There are three key elements at play for learning and training programmes to successfully take people from knowing, to doing:

  • They need to support people to feel motivated and able to apply their learning at work
  • They need to live within an organisation and learning culture that actively supports and enables people to transfer their learning to the job.

The GEAR model provides an evidence-based framework to help you design learning journeys that result in transfer of learning to skills in the workplace.

The neuroscience behind GEAR

As we learn, our brains and bodies begin to change through a process of neuroplasticity. It’s an energy consuming process so our brains try to resist change and cling to old well-trodden pathways.

This is why learning new skills requires motivation, time, effort and repetition and can’t be accomplished by watching a video, doing e-learning or sitting through a talk (however interesting they may be).

Knowing how brains (and bodies) make new connections means learning and training can be designed to work with rather than against our natural processes.

It doesn’t mean every L&D person or training designer needs to be a neuroscientist but a basic grasp of key brain science principles saves a lot of wasted time and effort for all parties.

Learn more about the neuroscience of learning transfer.

What is the GEAR model for learning design?

Our GEAR model is derived from evidence-based practice and years of operational experience with a broad range of international clients. Designing learning using this model means people quickly apply their knowledge and skills into the workplace and speed up their time to performance

GEAR stands for:

  • Guide
  • Experiment
  • Apply
  • Retain

Join our Design for Learning Transfer programme to become an expert in the GEAR model and apply it to your own learning journeys.

Stellar Labs GEAR model
Stellar Labs GEAR Model


When you go to a new city a good guide will show you the highlights to stop you from feeling overwhelmed and prevent you wasting time in the boring or dangerous areas. You can always return later to explore further.

Learning is the same.

At Stellar Labs we reduce cognitive overload by structuring information and experiences into bite sized chunks so you find the relevant information at the right time and in the right quantities.

Information is chunked, context relevant, concise and clear with short activities to help you remember and understand what you meet. Plus learners get links to ‘explore later’ when they feel ready.


Once you’ve got the building blocks you need to experiment and test how they link to or challenge your current practice, experience or world view.

You practice using new information or new skills in a safe environment and learn from success, failure and feedforward.

This could be done in a live workshop setting with colleagues and a facilitator (we call them Live Labs) or you might do structured exercises in a sand box environment, for example.


Training courses can be great but when they are an ‘event’ with no clear link between the ‘training’ and ‘work’ then  people fail to transfer their skills into the workplace.

Learning is a continuous, iterative process so we create Work-Based Actions to make those links.

Connect learners to mentors (who may be managers, supervisors, internal experts) who are nudged to offer specific opportunities to apply new learning and who support and validate progress.  We recommend feedforward as more effective than feedback which most people don’t like to give or receive. Try it out for yourself.

  • What you did well (and we want you to keep doing) was….
  • What you can build on to continue to improve (what to do differently next time) is…


Brains are built to forget or else we’d be completely overwhelmed with the bombardment of sensory information we receive every day. If an experience isn’t tagged as ‘important’ for the future then we tend to forget it.  So how can we make information memorable?

There are multiple ways to promote long term memory such as:

  • Link to previous information – neuroplasticity in action
  • Emotional things are remembered – it’s a survival thing
  • Attention – ‘The true art of memory is the art of attention’ (Samuel Johnson)
  • Repetition – we remember what we repeat
  • Newness/ Novelty – we remember new things because they stand out
  • Stories – humans tell stories because they make strong connections in our brains

At Stellar Labs we blend all these ideas (plus many more) into our learning design to help people build long term memories. But we don’t stop there because the forgetting curve kicks in fast.

We use the spaced repetition in our platform to prompt people to recall key information, multiple times at specific moments to strengthen long term memory. Spaced repetition is one of the best tested cognitive tools in the learning field.

We build in spaced practice by continuing the Work Based Actions for at least 3 months after the initial learning so that people have multiple, scheduled opportunities to practice their skills, get feedforward and see their progress.

Scheduled activities with mentors who validate progress builds accountability and people are more motivated and confident to use their new knowledge and skills. Multiple stakeholders come to know and trust the process of learning as they experience the results so you begin to create self-directed learners. Learning to learn is a core skill for everyone.

Want to use the GEAR model for learning design?

Give it a go - we hope this article gives you enough information to get started!

Sign up to our Design for Transfer Programme

This programme takes you step-by-step through the GEAR model and the science behind it. We practice what we preach, so you’ll experience GEAR in action and apply what you learn to your own project.

Try our platform - built to enable GEAR.

There’s a reason that most learning experience focus heavily on knowledge sharing though content, and not enough on transfer. It’s because the ingredients for transfer can be challenging to implement, without the right tools. Our platform has been designed around this evidence-based process - and does all the heavy lifting for you. Request your trial.

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