In 14 years of teaching both adults and kids, I found that apathy was a constant challenge. When I left public school teaching and went to work for a company, I found that education wasn’t the only place where apathy is an issue.

For people who have been in the working world for some time, apathy comes from the assumption that they know all the information already. Indeed, many expectations are universal for most companies, and some procedures are fairly standard within a given industry. There might be cause for some of that feeling.

The key to reaching this group would be to make the subject matter as interesting as possible by varying the activities and interjecting appropriate humor. Pointing out the differences that make the company unique would also be useful. Some of the droning videos and lecture cannot be avoided due to either company or government policy, but there would be other places where there is latitude to make the class more interesting.

A second source of apathy would be more common among those who have outside obligations to school or family (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012). Many people are overwhelmed with things on their task list. In those cases, something like an OSHA safety video followed by a matching and multiple choice quiz rate low on the priority list. They’re much more concerned about picking up the kids from school or the deadline on the next assignment for an outside class.

To compete with the busy-ness of some people, expectations for participation will need to be set, and an effort will need to be made to make the relevance of the material obvious. The student has as much responsibility for learning as the teacher. My role as a teacher is to make the information as interesting and relevant as possible, but without effort from the student, no learning will occur. When possible, accommodations to the schedule might be made so the people can take care of their competing obligations.

Unfortunately, apathy results in off-task behavior. Sometimes students just daydream or doodle. When students have technology available, they can use the technology to check social media, email, text messages, and chat rooms. Combined with the apathy deriving from thinking all the information is already known, even a promise of quizzes, tests, or other assessments may not result in better participation.

Dealing with this sort of apathy might involve setting expectations for participation again with explicit instructions for when technology can and cannot be turned on. Varying the type of activity often with periodic stretch breaks will also help with this sort of problem.

Unfortunately, in a corporate environment, the teacher may not have the necessary control over the material to make everything engaging. In situations like that, the company may need to reconsider what they require people to go through for training. Perhaps prior experiences can be accounted for in some way.


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