I’m fairly sure you will have encountered the less than motivated participant in a group setting, somewhere, sometime.

You may even have been that person at some point? I know that I have, thinking back to school in particular…

Training groups (actually this could apply to a whole lot of other “groups”, from work teams to family gatherings…) are usually composed of those who want to be there, and others whose commitment to the group, task or event is less than complete.

Training Groups EPT

It doesn’t always bear true (thank goodness), but I was introduced some years back to a very simple notion by a tutor on the CTP (Certificate in Training Practice) that stuck with me.

  • Explorers are open to learning, and hope to discover and take away something. These folk are expectant, and ready to participate and learn.
  • Tourists welcome the opportunities a day away from the usual routine offer, but our carefully crafted programme is little more than a side dish for the tourist.
  • “My boss sent me” or “I don’t know why I need to be here…” are captives who may be resigned to their fate, or might be nursing a grievance…

Simplistic and playful these caricature learner groups may be, but they make the general point very well. And the difference in energy, attention and focus between those motivated to participate and/or learn and those who are not can be profound, in pretty much any group.

Learning Needs and Wants

Learners who are motivated to learn tend to be a lot clearer about what they want or need to learn and why; in other words the benefits that the learning offers.

Needing to learn something can be enough of a motivator for most of us most of the time to turn up and take part. We may occasionally gaze through the window, but we are attentive enough to get what we need, and put in what is required of us as a participant, in a dutiful kind of way. This form of motivation is basically external in form. If the trainer or facilitator doesn’t hit the mark however, it is quite probable that our interest will quickly wain, attention wander and energy deplete…

But when we want to learn something, the motivation that drives us comes from within. We are interested, curious and enquiring. We listen and contribute, and extract as much as we can from the event.

If the group leader isn’t hitting the delivery heights WE will do things, like ask questions, or steer group peers back from moaning about the trainer to the task, or discussion. We want to extract as much value from the learning as we can.

You may recall from a previous post that among Malcolm Knowles’ assumptions about adult learners was that we need to know why we are learning something, and how it will benefit us. And the more immediate the benefit is the better.

WiifM (What’s in it for Me?) goes to the heart of our motivation as adults to engage, to participate and to learn.

For any trainer or facilitator, ensuring participants know the answer (even when they don’t ask it) is a critical element in the process of properly engaging adult learners; in simple terms gaining their commitment to take part.

Ideally, this should happen before the event (through needs assessment, or pre-course information). If it doesn’t and participants arrive unclear about the purpose or benefits of attendance, it should be a high-priority agenda item!

Addressing the WiifM question may not win over every Prisoner, but it may well be enough to secure more attention from the Tourists.

The Explorers are already onside, and yet these participants can also gain greater clarity about the benefits of learning..

On occasion this can spark the thought that they (as well as Tourists and exceptionally, even Prisoners) could usefully apply or transfer some of the knowledge or skills on offer to some other aspect of their life…

And if the Need can be reinforced with the Want, the learner becomes a different proposition entirely…

To be continued…

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