Many workplaces now strive for greater diversity, so a class in a corporate training situation could show a considerable range of age, ethnicity, and culture. Adding further complications, in a corporate situation, some attend classes because they are required to. Others are there to gain new skills or improve existing ones.
Building a functioning community in those conditions would be difficult but necessary. People do better in courses when they feel like an important member of a group (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011b). That kind of emotional response is important not just for the community but also for the ability of the individual students to learn. Brain chemistry comes into effect. When people feel happier and more secure, the brain chemistry activates the parts of the brain responsible for information processing and learning (Barkley, 2010).
In my experience with corporate training, there are often people involved in doing the work of the class and others content to sit in the back of the room and chat or play games on their phones. To deal with this, explicit expectations for participation should be set. Ideally, these expectations would be established not by the instructor alone but rather by the class as a whole. Whether these expectations are written up into a formal contract or simply discussed and agreed upon, setting up the ground rules for a successful class can help students feel like they, also, have some control over what is happening (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011a).
The community-building goals for the classes would involve creating a safe environment where everyone can participate and take the risks to try unfamiliar skills. Building community in a group that meets so infrequently would be hard to do, but with the cooperation of group, this can be done successfully to benefit everyone involved.
One of the things I would do to promote a safe community environment would be to share authority with them. Adults should not be treated like the 10-year-olds I taught for 14 years (Brookfield, 2006). The class would be served better if I involve them in the planning of the class as much as possible. There are, of course, some things that have to covered to meet the requirements of the class, but there are many ways to cover the material. As much as possible, the students in the class should be involved with planning (Barkley, 2010).
Set Goals with Multiple Intelligences
Taking a class should be done with one or more goals in mind. Some goals will be dictated by the company but others should be more personal. One of the activities the class can do at the beginning is communicate the personal goals of the students using Multiple Intelligences. Students can choose a mode of expression that makes sense for them and use that to demonstrate for the rest of the class what they want to gain (Gardner, 2011).
Once students have a goal in mind, the class can be arranged in such a way that success can be reasonably expected. If tasks or subject matter prove more difficult than anticipated, some scaffolding or a change of pace may help. During demonstrations, thinking out loud can help students better understand the process. Otherwise, the lesson turns into an unclear performance. By expecting success and then putting structures in place to secure it, students will feel more confident and learn more than if they expect and fear failure (Barkley, 2010).
This last one will prove difficult for me. I have never had a facility for names. When I am introduced to someone, I am as likely as not to forget the name before the end of a few seconds. There are times when I draw a blank on the names of people I have known for years.
Teaching elementary, I found funny ways around that. Everyone in the class was either Bob or Fred, and that became a silly joke among us with many of the kids calling me “Miss Bob.” Eventually, I learned everyone’s name, but we would still joke around.
As amusing as that was, I do not think that would go over well in an adult class. Name tents, rosters with pictures, or name tags would be more effective in this case (Barkley, 2010).
Strategies Work Together
Ultimately, these strategies can all work together. Giving the students greater authority in planning the class would help them to set their goals, which can contribute to success, and if I can learn everyone’s names, I will communicate that they matter to me as people.
Building a community is an important part of establishing an engaged group of learners (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). These and many other strategies would be useful for building a community, but since each class is different, the techniques that worked in one class might not work in another. In fact, even if the same group of students comes back for another session, what worked the first time might not work the second. A successful teacher’s toolkit will contain a wide array of strategies to be used as needed so the teacher can adapt quickly (Brookfield, 2006).
Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Gardner, H. (2011). Promoting learner engagement using multiple intelligences and choice-based instruction. Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal 5(2), 97-101. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=231d1f18-ed9f-45b4-a51a-9c10a19b1887%40sessionmgr4005&vid=2&hid=4109
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Getting off to a Good Start [Video webcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_4775510_1&content_id=_17249497_1#_17249546_1&courseTocLabel=Access%20Resources
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b). Student Engagement Techniques [Video webcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_4775510_1&content_id=_17249497_1#_17249546_1&courseTocLabel=Access%20Resources