Tip #709: How to Set Learners Up to Fail: Part One

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” George Bernard Shaw

I just attended a three- day marketing seminar conducted by a self-proclaimed curriculum design expert. It was very disappointing to see once again what happens when a trainer ignores the basics and sets learners up to fail.

She made ten glaring mistakes. Here are the first five:

  1. Never say “no” when a participant asks a question or makes a comment. It immediately becomes a rejection of the person, who will not risk volunteering questions or comments again. Time and again in this class, the trainer would either respond “no” to a question or comment, with and sometimes without further clarification. I’m not saying that she was nasty about it. It is simply a fact that “no” can invalidate the individual’s thought and, depending on the sensitivity of the individual, invalidate the person as well.

Instead, accept responsibility for confusion on the part of the participant. “I’m sorry, I may not have been clear.” Or, “I can see why you might think that. I may not have made my point as directly as I might have.” Or, “If I had said x, then you would have been perfectly correct. However, I said y and must not have made the distinction as well as I had hoped. Let me rephrase…”

  1. Never ignore it when a good portion of the class is confused by a point or an instruction. In the case of this course, I watched the trainer send 1/3 of the audience to the back of the room for remedial assistance with coaches and then proceed to teach new concepts to the remaining 2/3rds of the audience. Can we count the ways that this was irresponsible on the part of the trainer?

Instead, if a good portion of an audience doesn’t understand a concept and it is a critical stepping stone to the next concept, STOP and RETEACH. Don’t remove them from the group and then make them have to catch up on something that confused them in the first place!!!

  1. Never give participants a complex assignment without first modeling what you want them to do. In this course, the instructor gave a worksheet that required very complex thinking and told the group to go fill it out. Of course, people got stuck. What should have been a very productive hour and a half of writing became one and a half hours of shared frustration.

Instead, walk the class through each step, modeling it at least twice. Post flipcharts of that work in plain sight so that the participants have examples for reference. Then you will have set them up for success.

  1. Never take up so much time on creating a positive relationship that you lose time for content. In this case, the trainer included a number of games and activities that had no relevance to the content. Then she was rushed when she got to the actual content.

Instead, focus on both content and relationship-building. It is important for a group of participants to feel comfortable in a class. It is also important for them to get the content they paid to receive. Energizers are great, just keep them manageable so they don’t eat up most of the time.

  1. Never rush through content so there is little to no time to practice and no time to reflect. In this class, ideas were hurled at a breakneck pace with rushed practice time, if there was any. There was absolutely no time for follow up discussion or questions.

Instead, plan carefully so that participants have adequate time to practice what they’ve learned, and then time to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and what questions arose- with time for discussion and clarification.

Hopefully, you know and do better that she did!

In the next Tip, we’ll look at the last five mistakes.

May your learning be sweet.


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