During training courses, instructors encounter a wide variety of learners of different ages, from different cultures, and perhaps with special needs. Trainers need skills for dealing with all of these groups.
Younger learners seek an active learning experience as well as one that applies to the real world. Young adults like to take creative approaches to solving problems, and they like activities that are fun and encourage risk taking. In contrast, mature learners often possess knowledge that others do not have. To work with older learners, instructors should seek their ideas, be patient, recognize generational differences in values, be respectful of time, and display confidence and focus.
When working with cross-cultural participants, Lucas provides nine strategies. Instructors should (1) plan for communication challenges, (2) honor learners’ name preferences, (3) speak slowly and clearly, (4) use a normal volume and tone when speaking, (5) listen actively and patiently, (6) paraphrase and ask questions for clarity, (7) use open-ended questions, (8) give clear and concise instructions, and (9) be careful when offering constructive feedback.
Trainers have a legal and professional responsibility to make learning accessible to all people. The best ways to do this include identifying needs early, creating a safe environment, accommodating physical needs, not assuming what is needed, and allowing flexibility in seating.
Different personality styles can also affect the classroom environment. Participants might be quiet, class clowns, talkative, know-it-alls, inconsiderate, or domineering.
- Quiet learners. Lucas recommends modeling social behavior, building comfort through the use of small tasks, involving quiet participants gradually, incorporating small group activities into the course, providing positive reinforcement, and making journaling a recurring exercise.
- Class clowns. The author suggests ignoring the behavior, appealing to the clown’s serious side, switching activities frequently, using nonverbal cues to manage behavior, and allowing the clown to play a leadership role occasionally.
- Talkative learners. Lucas has been successful with talkative learners by setting ground rules against conflicting conversations, controlling participant behavior with nonverbal communication, actively engaging the talkers, setting a tone of acceptance, using direct questions, and appealing to the talker privately.
- Experts and know-it-alls. The author advises instructors to identify learners’ knowledge, acknowledging their expertise, listening professionally, engaging peer pressure to control the expert, avoiding embarrassing the experts with questions they cannot answer, using experts as coaches for others, and speaking to the expert privately.
- Inconsiderate participants. Lucas recommends addressing inconsiderate behaviors in the ground rules, posting a “no cell phones” sign, announcing break times at the start of the session, using humor where appropriate, and encouraging rescheduling.
- Domineering learners. The author suggests bonding early with learners, reducing the domineering learner’s sphere of control, rotating leadership roles, monitoring participant behavior, being fair and firm, using dominant body language, and focusing on other participants.