Resistance to Learning

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When most of us think about resistance to learning, I think an image of that rebellious kid in highschool comes to mind. Teens are still developing and often do not see the long term value in education, so it can seem common place. But adults are different, right? They know where they are going, see the value in life-long learning, and would never waste an educational opportunity…right?

I wish! While adults may not be as explicit with their resistance to learning, it’s there. Sometimes I even think we’re more stubborn than our adolescent counterparts.

Brookfield identifies several ways we can address resistance to learning in our practise. My favourite is one that is quite low tech. I am a strong believer in learning communities and mentorship, so it is also a technique that is right up my alley.

Brookfield suggests that inviting past students (particularly the resistant ones) to class near the start of the session for a Q&A session can give current students someone to identify with in their struggle. By sharing their stories of their past experiences, current students may change their opinion and withhold their negative judgement until they give the course a shot.

One caution is that this activity should not appear staged or forced. To address this, Brookfield suggests introducing the guests to the class, but then leaving the class so that the discussion is kept anonymous. This will allow resistant students to open up more if they think the professor will not find out.

I often use a similar technique. If I find a resistant learner, I often try to team them up or work with a previous learner who was also resistant. As my context is mostly on-the-job training, I can facilitate these types of mentorship relationships. Often these type of team ups become the best mentorship experiences, as the mentor can be more candid regarding any negativity or resistance that pops up.










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