Saturday, April 28, 2012

Managing Resistance in Adult Learners

Just like getting enough rest, washing your hands often, and eating a healthy diet can help prevent a cold, prevention through good training design and delivery can go a long way in heading off resistance with challenging training participants.
Following is a roundup of five prevention strategiess that can help you manage resistance in the-long-time-in-their career-and-tired-of-training folks, the-law-says-I-have-to-be-here-court-ordered folks, or the my-boss-made-me-come folks.
  1. Get off the pedestal early and honor your audience: Affirm their expertise, thank them for their time, assert your intent to validate and utilize their experience and to create an environment in which they will have access to and interaction with others who do what they do so that they can exchange ideas, be refreshed in a community of their peers, extend their practice, and pick up some additional tips for their toolbox.

  2. Save your I'm a star stories for family and share your funny self-effacing stories:Avoid stories that make you look like a super star and instead share the more hair-raising, funny, boy-did-I-learn-a-lesson stories. It levels the playing field, it bonds you through shared experiences, it gives you credibility as having been around the block in your shared field, while making you more human and probably a lot more tolerable, likeable even, to your indentured audience.

  3. Create a Community Agreement: This is a more palatable version of "ground rules" because it is created together and elicited with: "What will help you be comfortable and get your needs met today? What will help us work effectively together?" As a member of the community you can add your non-negotiables as well as your promises such as, "Start and end on time", and "Take good care of yourselves," i.e. have a snack, pace, stretch, use the restroom, stand at the back even if it isn't break. Then invite everyone to be Keepers of the Agreement. Give an example that uses yourself as the violator of the agreement by saying, "So if you notice that I'm not starting or ending on time, please feel free to remind me of our agreement." The nice thing about community agreements is that someone will always suggest things like, Be open minded, Be respectful, Avoid cross-talk, so when someone isn't doing those things, you have permission to remind them of the agreement, as do others.

  4. Spend time on introductions and letting people share what they want out of the day. If you have 10-20 participants you can hear from everyone. More than that and you can ask for folks to raise their hand as you call out work contexts with which they identify themselves. For learning goals and hopes for the day, you can have them share them with the person sitting next to them and then ask for a sampling from the group so that you know what people are expecting and you can better meet their needs. If you pay careful attention (especially if you have them write them down and post them) you can direct your training, illustrations and examples in the direction of their expressed needs and desires while staying within the context of the larger, advertised training outcome.

  5. Attend to adult learner characteristics in your design: Use a variety of interactive activities, give time for folks to share their examples and expertise, deliver material through different modalities and engage at least 2 senses during every activity, and always give real-life application exercises. Adult learners want to solve a problem in their lives, enhance their status or self-esteem so you'll go a long way in preventing problems by helping the adult learners in your training accomplish these goals.

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