Learning Spaces or Spaces to Learn – What can we learn from delivering training to the homeless.
July 17, 2014 2 Comments
The concept of where and how learning programs are delivered has been on my mind a little bit lately, particularly since a particularly good presentation I attended recently on the interface between homeless persons and training delivery. One of the key points which was bought up during the presentation and subsequent conversations was the fact that if we take a group of people like those who either homeless or at risk of homelessness, we will tend to find that there are a raft of other issues that sit with and around the issue of homelessness and all of these issues will have a significant impact on the delivery of training programs to people within these groups. These impacts are things like;
- a mindset of failure particularly around academic/scholastic pursuits
- uncomfortableness in traditional learning environments (classrooms)
- limited ability to travel to get to training venues
- limited support network
- possibility of having to move a significant distance from where training is conducted to secure accommodation
- limited financial means
These issues and a range of others mean that it is difficult if not impossible to deliver training within what could be considered traditional environments. This means that learning programs need to be adapted and delivered in different ways such as;
- within the environment where the person already is and is comfortable
- shorter sessions to allow participants to take care of their other priorities (it is difficult to concentrate from 9-5, but imagine how much more difficult it would be if you were worried about finding a bed for the night)
- a wide range of learning activities to engage participants in a variety of ways
- changing assessment models to ensure that all participants are able to display in competence in ways that are most effective for them
The thing is when I started to think about developing and delivering learning programs, particularly workplace programs it struck me that most of the adjustments that I was considering were things that we should be doing anyway. We spend large sums of money on creating physical spaces for people to learn in, or online platforms delivering state of the art gamified elearning, when in reality the participants are probably going to learn more from a 2 hour session held in the staff room, coupled with solid support tools to allow them implement the things they have learnt.
And to be honest I think the problem might be us, it is far more challenging to deliver training in a staff room, a homeless shelter or a skate park where there are a range of other things happening in the background, than it is to deliver the same training in our lovely state of the art training room. Walking though an instruction manual or workbook with a participant is far less fun for us than creating sexy video content or gamifiying our learning programs, but does it make the participant more comfortable and able to learn better.
We need to be able to create spaces for people to learn, that fit with what they need, not with what makes us comfortable.