Helpful Hint: Positive Experiences Enhance Learning

In reading this months ISHNmagazine, I came across an article titled “The Benefits of Positive Emotions: Don’t worry, be happy (really)” by Dr. John Kello.  

Dr. Kello presents an interesting discussion about the power of Positive Psychology and its focus on positive emotions.  Positive emotions such as joy, satisfaction, gratitude, enthusiasm, and the like are far more helpful in today’s world than those of fear and anger. 

Further, those of us involved with adult education and training understand barriers to learning.  Though negative emotions can be helpful by narrowing the thought process, they can also be counter-productive.  This narrowing and focusing of the thought process in the extreme can lead to tunnel vision and filter out important information, creating barriers to learning.

“When participants in studies are put into situations that trigger a more positive emotional state, they show a broadening and expansion of their focus.”  This results in helping learners to think more objectively, and to interpret the information more clearly as it applies to them and their surroundings. 

As the article discusses, in the safety arena it is easy to lapse into the negative.  Safety, loss control, hazard avoidance, etc., by nature are negative.  In training we are trying to help people avoid injury by something their human nature wants to deny.  Humans want to be positive and think about possibilities.  Negative thinking, like safety can “feel” constricting.

Help your employees learn by creating an open and engaging learning environment.  Place the subject matter in a positive context, like “helping you to outperform and improve your abilities”, “increasing your understanding and value” and the like.  Then provide active learning experiences.  Don’t expect much learning to occur from sitting at a computer or watching videos.  Get learners involved by demonstrating, practicing, evaluating and showing others.  Build in stories, make it a contest, or create team activities.  Having fun as they learn will prove beneficial.

Be sure to provide praise and help everyone feel positive about the experience.  Give it a try.  Throw away the negative examples and the “if you don’t do this, then that will happen.”  You’ll be amazed at how being positive and helping the learners feel positive about themselves with enhance learning.