Learning and personal development cannot take place unless we cultivate an environment built on trust, where people can learn and develop sure in the knowledge that the people that are training them have their best interests at heart. We know this is true from our work with children and young people in the classroom, but we sometimes forget that this also applies to adults being trained. The target-heavy culture of schools and colleges can sometimes cause leaders to forget that adults are also learners within a school. When we manage people without paying attention to their needs as learners, resistance and emotional disconnection can often occur.
How to build trust and confidence
There are many practical steps we can take to create a climate of trust and confidence in our training work. They include the following:
- Focus on delegates’ own outcomes – it can be very unsettling for the individuals being trained if they get the impression that the purpose of any training they are taking part in is simply to help deliver the trainer’s desired outcomes. By concentrating instead on how the training will help tackle the delegates’ priorities we can quickly gain their trust and help them feel more confident about the next steps. In other words, the ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor is as important with adult learning as it is with children’s.
- Acknowledge the difficulties of change and show empathy – trainers that blindly keep to a script and fail to connect with their learners, ignoring the difficulties of day-to-day life in schools, do not come across as genuine or believable. Using activities early on in the learning experience which allow problems to be aired and discussed offers a valuable rapport-building opportunity between trainer and group and those within the group. Ignoring problems and powering on through solutions usually results in a lack of ‘buy-in’ by participants in the training. Respect can actually be gained by sharing some of our own difficulties in implementing change, and this also helps move delegates on to practical actions, without ignoring their own challenges. A simple activity to encourage this rapport-building and buy-in is outlined here. It has three elements to it:
Step 1: What are the challenges you’ve overcome? (encourages reflection on success and reinforces self-efficacy)
Step 2: What are the challenges that remain? (if handled with empathy and in a genuine spirit of understanding, this acknowledges the emotional impact of the difficulties and enables people to feel ‘heard’)
Step 3: Of these challenges, which can you control or influence and which have you no control or influence over? (this encourages participants to feel able to respond appropriately to their challenges).
- Strive to deliver training with a high level of engagement – perhaps the single most important factor in helping delegates feel confident is that the training provided engages them in their real world issues and provides one of two things (or both!).
a) Stimulating conversations which empower people to be self-reflective and come up with their own solutions;
b) Realistic solutions or approaches to enhancing their practice which have a degree of choice about how they are implemented.
What does this mean for our work?
The need to create an appropriate climate for training is so important that, as we plan our training, we need to build in specific ways in which we will help to create a feeling of trust and confidence. A simple structure for doing this is built into every programme run by Vision for Learning, it’s called the CAPE cycle and is based on Kolb’s work on experiential learning .
Truly engaging training comes from genuine intentions from the trainer and an emotionally safe environment created by that trainer. In this way the outcomes of training are richer, personalised and less likely to be lost amid the maelstrom of priorities, targets and initiatives that can so easily permeate our training. This will help give all our training the authenticity and solid foundation it needs to be successful.
If you would like more information on training skills, Vision for Learning are running their 3 day Train the Trainer course in June of this year: Click here for more information.
If you would like to read more on creating a positive climate for learners, there’s stacks of great info and ideas in The Creative Teaching and Learning Toolkit By Brin Best and Will Thomas which you can view by clicking here.