Whether you call yourself a trainer, facilitator, teacher, coach or an instructional designer, it’s all about people - helping them forward so they can learn new skills and knowledge, so they can find better ways of working and living together, so they can achieve their potential. And humans are complicated creatures!
Every person we work with comes with their own uniquely developed beliefs and assumptions that frame how they engage with the world and how they learn. This includes us, the learning and development professionals.
I’ve been reading a great article by Stephen Brookfield, ‘The Getting of Wisdom: What Critically Reflective Teaching is and Why It’s Important’ from Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass 1995.
Brookfield explains 3 broad categories of assumptions:
- Paradigmatic – these are the structuring assumptions we use to order the world into fundamental categories (the hardest to uncover)
- Prescriptive assumptions – these are what we think ought to be happening in a particular situation
- Causal assumptions – there are how different parts of the world work and about the conditions under which these can be changed (the easiest to uncover)
Our assumptions shape how we think, the decisions we make, the approach we take, the expectations we have and the way that we learn. They create stability in our lives (which is what our brains like) and are embedded deep within our selves.
Assumptions can also be adopted e.g. every industry/profession/trade has it’s own set of assumptions that have grown out of the collective experiences and learnings.
A couple of assumptions to consider:
Do you use ground rules in your training sessions? Why?
- It may be that you use them because it is commonly understood as an effective way of establishing a good group learning environment. But that’s not always the case. In fact, ground rules can be counter productive, they can make some adults feel like they are being treated like children. By using ground rules are we accidentally sending a message that says ‘you don’t know how to behave’?
- To a point this is true – we have an obligation to deliver well designed and relevant learning programs; we need to challenge ourselves to give the people the best experience, the best opportunity to learn. But there’s another side to this and that’s the other people in the room. If it’s really not working, don’t try and do a bigger and better song and dance routine. Talk to the people – what’s going on for them?
- It all depends on how you define ‘participate’. We often look for obvious indicators from our people e.g. they’re asking questions or they’re sitting attentively or they leap into action when there is an activity. This can lead to a belief that the people in the group who aren’t doing this aren’t participating. But that’s not necessarily true. It may be that they are introverts and prefer to participate by observing, reflecting, making notes (not so obvious indicators). They may not be so chatty; they may not ask that many questions, they may find ways to avoid the fabulous small group activities we have planned (J). But you can’t assume they are not participating.
How many assumptions have you hunted today?