It always amazes me to see how many things can block the learning process. People are so distracted nowadays. Smart phones present obvious distractions to learning but there are so many other subtle, and not so subtle, ways that can take someone’s focus away from the classroom. Distractions are like thorns in an instructor’s side! We work so hard to make people feel comfortable and to create a pleasant learning environment. What do learners do? Well, sometimes they don’t pay attention or, even worse, they believe they can multi-task and learn at the same time!
I recently watched a program about a gentleman who insisted he was an expert multi-tasker. His opinion was countered by a brain specialist who stated that even though we can multi-task physically, our brains are only wired to do one thing well at one time, and that “mental” multi-tasking is a myth. I’ve been saying this for years based on what my common sense tells me. The scientists wanted to prove to this man that his mind could not truly multi-task and, even if he could do many things at once, most tasks would be compromised in some way. To prove their point, they had the man drive along an obstacle course full of cones and surprise road blocks while someone talked to him on the phone. The caller kept asking him complicated questions which required deep thinking on his part. Of course, the man ran over cones and failed many of the road tests. He was concentrating on answering the questions correctly but was unable to pass the road tests. He left the experiment realizing his mind wasn’t capable of truly multi-tasking.
Well, what does this program have to do with training? Plenty. There are both mental and physical road blocks to learning. Here are three examples of these barriers, along with tips on how to prevent them:
Fear of Learning
Adult learners sometimes fear learning new things. We can combat this fear with assurances that training will be fun, interactive, and designed for their success.
Concern with the Unknown
Adult learners are sometimes pre-occupied with simple thoughts like restroom locations, Wi-Fi signal availability, and lunch options. We can combat these mental distractions by providing housekeeping details at the beginning of training.
Boredom with the Session
Boredom can get in the way of learning. We can easily combat this problem with excellent course design full of variety and interactivity. Check out this handy checklist for preventing boredom in your training sessions.
It’s very important that classroom and online instructors work hard to control the focus in the training room to prevent and minimize mental and physical distractions. Let’s do everything we can to help our participants learn!
Please share your tips for handling participant distractions in your training sessions. I’d love to hear your suggestions!