Tip #237: Debunking Myths About A Comfortable Learning Environment #2

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Last week’s Tip focused on how to create a physically comfortable learning environment, despite real constraints. This week’s Tip focuses on how to create an emotionally comfortable learning environment.

Let’s face it. Participants can feel incredibly vulnerable when they enter a training room, because they have no idea how they will be treated. If school was not a highlight of their lives, they may automatically revert to feelings of inadequacy. If the class is mandatory, they may feel resentful and resistant. None of these emotions create a very fertile ground for receptivity or learning.

However, if they are treated with respect, validated as individuals, and clearly set up for success, they can relax because they will feel that they are in a safe environment. Learning then becomes a real possibility.

So, how does a trainer make this happen? The following list just hits the highlights, but it should give a good idea of the approach to take:

  • Treat the participants as adults, not children: give them choices, draw on their expertise, and ask for their examples and perceptions.


  • Let them know at the very beginning of the training that you are committed to meeting their needs: create a learning contract, encourage them to tell you if their needs are not being met, and then either make the adjustments to the content or the activities as requested or explain the rationale for continuing with them.


  • Have the participants discover the value of the training: let them identify what will most benefit them rather than telling them.


  • Make learning a mutually shared experience: create activities that enable them to self discover what they need to learn, and ensure a continual give and take of information between trainer and participants.


  • Coach for success: take “no” out of your vocabulary, and if a participant volunteers an incorrect answer to a question, coach the individual to the correct answer.


  • Build their confidence in their own competence: move them through the stages in the learning process, help them experience small successes at each stage, and provide ample opportunities to apply what they have learned.


  • Incorporate a variety of learning activities to meet the needs of different learning styles: keep the training varied and interesting for the participants and for you.


  • Avoid teaching what they already know, wasting their time and adding insult to injury: ask questions and check to see if anyone knows the answers rather than assuming that no one knows.


  • Accept questions and critiques without becoming defensive: make it really true that there are no unwelcome questions or comments.


  • Enjoy the participants: get to know them as individuals, learn from their insights and perspectives, cheer them on, and exult in their successes.


  • View each training session as a new opportunity for you, the trainer, to learn and to grow, both in terms of the content as well as your ability to teach it.

In summary, we create an emotionally comfortable learning environment when it is clear that we sincerely care about the participants, respect them, and want to help them be successful.

Next week, we will look at how different room arrangements impact the feel and effectiveness of a learning environment.

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