Jennifer K. Snyder

Developing People; Engaging Employees

Category: Learners

Instructor-Student Relationships


networkI’m curled up in my robe on the couch, cup of coffee in hand. Gazing down at the smiling, sleepy face of my kitty, I begin to think about relationships. I examine some of my own – my relationship with my husband, the pony I had a a child, a teacher, my brother, my coworker.

I think about their interconnectedness, though the characters may not be aware, and how those interconnections shape my thoughts, actions, and beliefs. It is through our relationships with others that we make decisions about and change our behavior. I can read about healthy eating habits, but it is my relationships with others that will help me implement the behavior (or not).

As an instructor, we can have a profound effect on our learners’ behavior if we take just a few steps to establish a relationship with them. It could be as simple as learning (and using) their name, sharing a cup of coffee with them during a break, or sending them a message of encouragement. It’s easier to do when the class size is small, of course. In larger classes, we can still share a little bit about ourselves, perhaps our frailties – most people like to know their instructor is human.

When we build a rapport with our students, we develop mutual respect. Having this respect enables us to guide the class and any discussions taking place. When we sense that group discussions are headed down the wrong path, or when the class as a whole is missing a key element, our relationship with the participants allows us to redirect without losing engagement.

The relationships we build with our learners also help with accountability. Most learners will complete assignments if they HAVE to, but that’s not where the benefit is. We want them to complete the assignments because they WANT to. We want to give them responsibility for their own learning. This is where learning occurs. Initially, they may begin the assignment not because they feel they have something to learn, but because they want to maintain our positive relationship. Yet, they still enter the assignment with a more positive mindset and acceptance. Along the way, they may even learn a thing or two.

Finally, relationships with our students can serve to sharpen our saw. When they see us a fully human, as a guide rather than a sage, they are more willing to provide useful feedback, and provide it respectfully. If no one tells us, we may never know what we’ve missed.

The complexity of our interconnectedness is difficult to grasp. His thought about this plus her thought about that has an effect on my own perceptions and behaviors. When we begin to see our learners in the framework of these relationships, we can begin to instill real behavioral change.

Pattie Barnes via Chuck Jones on Designing Training from the Learner’s Perspective

by equusnyder

“It’s my job to change behavior so improvements happen in the ORGANIZATION. What’s at stake for the organization does not necessarily trickle down to the individual worker.”
-Chuck Jones, MAEd

ROIGreat summary and insight from expert designer, Chuck Jones, on great instructional methods from a National Sales Director, Pattie Barnes

Bottom line – ROI

See Chuck’s blog post on Designing Training from the Learner’s Perspective.

Letting Learners Take the Wheel

by equusnyder

When standing at the front of a classroom, a good instructor does a great job of student-directed learning. He or she can allow the students to direct the conversation, while still keeping them on track and ultimately reaching the course objectives. In fact, IMHO, self-directed learning can be more effective then instructor-guided, even when the instructor facilitates engaging dialogue among the students.

In my most recent project, learners can travel to whichever principle they choose.

In my most recent project, learners can travel to whichever principle they choose.

Adult learners like control. For many subjects, especially soft skills, they have wealth of experience. Tapping into that in the classroom and letting the inexperienced learn from the experienced can have a profound effect.

The tables turn in eLearning. While I still think it is more effective, I find I am drawn (right or wrong) to create a linear approach, where I want students to follow a specific path so the information I feed them builds from one click to the next. Sometimes this approach is necessary, but I would argue we use it more often than required.

In my last project, I colored outside of my lines. This online module was a follow-up to an ILT, where the students learned six principles of integrity-based communication. My objective of this course was to reinforce the points, provide practice, and let them evaluate what this knowledge meant in their own lives.

While the principles were random – they wouldn’t all be used in every situation and didn’t necessarily need to follow a prescribed order – I once again found myself in a linear approach, by the time I reached the fourth Principle, I realized this course of action did not give my learners control of their own learning.
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