Leveraging emotions for more impactful learning experience
If you have ever worked as a trainer, facilitator or teacher, you know that feeling of joy when your participants are engaged in materials, actively participating and enjoying the learning process.
You also know that oftentimes it takes a lot of preparation, knowing the participants and their needs, carefully designed activities, interesting content and materials to make it possible. And while you may put a lot of effort in training design to cover all of those elements – how often do you design with emotions in mind?
For many, emotions may seem like a complex topic, something that comes as a result of successful training design, or simply something that they cannot influence.
And while the first part is true – sometimes emotions can be complex – they are also something we as trainers shouldn’t avoid or “hope for the best”.
Since emotions have always been an interesting topic for me, I happily jumped into exploring what we can learn from science, but also real-life experience.
I bring you five tips which I found really interesting during this research, or most helpful for my own training design. Some are more concrete and connected to specific emotion, while others may be more related to general approach, but all of them can be used in your next session.
It’s time to take an active role, and let’s all start designing with emotions in mind 🙂
Here are the five lessons I learned:
1. Emotions are contagious
If you are not sure how to start evoking different emotions you want your participants to feel, the easiest thing you can do is to lead with your own example and show them by getting in that emotion yourself.
If you want them to be curious about the topic, they need to see you interested and excited too. If you want them to experiment and not be afraid of trying new approaches and perhaps failing, then start by making a mistake and show them how everyone can learn from it.
Here you have to be careful because not only positive and pleasant emotions are contagious – all of them are! It means that if you are feeling anxious, distracted or bored with the topic – your learners will probably “catch” those feelings too.
2. Confusion can be a good thing
Some negative (or better said unpleasant) emotions during the learning process such as confusion or frustration are not only welcomed, but also something you should encourage. They are an appropriate response when working on challenging tasks and they can encourage participants to become more engaged with the materials.
To provoke confusion, design tasks or problems which are just above the current skill level of your participants, but be careful not to make it too challenging, otherwise they might just give up. Just remember to always end on a positive note, make sure to resolve any confusion left before the end of the activity or training.
3. Emotions and learning strategies
Positive emotions such as joy of learning, interest, curiosity and surprise can help your participants be more effective in their choice and use of learning strategies.
The positive emotions which are also activating (meaning, they can energize us) encourage the use of more flexible and creative learning strategies, and a more organized, detailed and complex processing of information.
Find out more about the emotions & learning in our free webinar Optimal emotions for learning – and how to build them up in your workshop , or sign up for a recording. 🙂
4. Confidence and boredom
A healthy dose of self-confidence can help your participants enjoy the learning process, and also lead to more pride about the results they achieve.
However, as trainers or facilitators we need to keep in mind that too much confidence in a task can cause boredom or loss of interest in our participants. If you notice that happening, the easiest thing to do is to increase the challenge, or personal interest in the task. On the other hand, if the task is too challenging, you may want to lower the challenge a little, and encourage the participants to try harder by focusing on their strengths and resources, or engage support of a trainer and other participants.
5. Moderation and balance
Just like with anything else in training design, when working with emotions you need to make sure not to go into extremes. Of course you want your participants to be happy and excited about the journey, but not so much that they are too overwhelmed and can’t focus. On the other hand, you want them to feel good and relaxed, but not too relaxed so they get bored and lose interest. Moderate intensity is the key.
And in terms of balance, just like you want to balance theory with more practical parts, or active with reflective activities, you want to have a balance of emotions in training.
Different emotions may be useful in different parts of your training – for example, curiosity and confusion when working on a task, and sense of relief and relaxation during the debriefing – so make sure not to forget to plan for all of them in your design.
What did you think of these tips? Which one will you use in your next training or workshop? Do you have any other ideas?
Let us know 🙂
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