Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Trainer Insights

Human Connection in the Classroom

Recently I had the beautiful opportunity to be in the same room with more than 25 other master trainers—an opportunity we haven’t had since 2019. I had been looking forward to seeing everyone, meeting some people in person for the first time, and learning together.

But what I walked away with was overflowing renewed energy that far exceeded my expectations.

As I reflected on what made that time together so special, a few points of impact stood out. These points can serve as helpful reminders for us trainers as we engage with learners and work to sustain engaging, fulfilling, and impactful learning experiences. They are:

  • Tuning in.
  • Extending empathy for unique experiences.
  • Strategically balancing structure and humanness.

Each of these three elements was so present in each of our interactions in our events. And at the end of the day it’s each of these elements that really help create human connection in our classrooms.

Tuning In

I’ve had the opportunity to experience and observe hundreds of trainers, and what I absolutely love is that the content and the structure of our courses is the same—but the discussions and the connections make each experience unique.

Sometimes as trainers we can be so focused on the answers we expect the group to give, the historical responses that people have shared, or even the number of responses we’d like to elicit from the group.

But this can distract us from tuning in to our learners. Individuals face varying habits, challenges, and Crucial Conversations, even if they’re in the same organization or in similar roles.

When you tune into your learners, you focus on the contributions they bring to the classroom and the real-life examples that they’ve shared with you. You acknowledge and honor what they’ve shared and let them know you care enough to loop back with them as you move through the content.

Tip: Create a running list of what your learners share with you. As you facilitate the class, use breaks, breakouts, or—if they shared in the larger group and the example might be relevant to the larger group—come back to their example(s) to talk about how a particular section or concept could be helpful to consider. When you come back to those examples, give yourself a checkmark for each touch point. Try to loop back to each person once or twice during the course.

When we know AND feel like people truly are tuning into us—and that they genuinely care—it expands our capacity to engage in the content, amplifies our ability to retain and use the content, and broadens the human connection that we make.

Extending Empathy for Unique Experiences

A social media content developer recently shared with me how they have built a sense of community. As they surveyed their followers, the feedback that really stands out is that they know they’re not alone. Our classrooms can be a community too, and one of the things that bonds the classroom community together in safety is empathy.

Both we trainers and our learners face real-life challenges that are unique and complex—but that’s why we’re learning together. We can use what we learn from one another to grow, evolve, and get better at being human.

Tip: When a learner shares their experience with the group (if appropriate), acknowledge their sharing—and that while life experiences can be similar, they are nuanced, and everyone can process them in different ways. Emphasize that we’re here to support them in the use of the content so they’re not alone in preparing to work through challenges.

We’re all human, we all have challenges, and we’re in this learning space together.

Strategically Balancing Structure and Humanness

As with so many elements of facilitation, balance is key. At Crucial Learning, we believe deeply in staying true to the integrity of content—and our research shows that when we do, learners walk away from the classroom with the ability to implement and sustain concepts taught in our classes beyond their learning experiences.

Strategically balancing the structure, timing, and content delivery with human connection is incredibly important. It’s vital to make those connections without steamrolling the training.

Tip: When preparing for training, designate key points to do two things:

  1. Check your timing and where you are in the content.
  2. Formally create space for tuning into your learners.

At first this may feel a bit technical, but it allows us to honor the contributions our learners make in the classroom while also not competing with the learning trajectory of the class as a whole.

Tuning in, extending empathy, and balancing structure all contributed to creating the powerful sense of connection and renewed energy I felt when walking away from our master trainer time together this summer. Each of these elements can help us as trainers to deepen our connection to the content and to our learning communities. Through those connections, we amplify our energy around the content, our human connections, and our impact.

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3 thoughts on “Human Connection in the Classroom”

  1. Melanie Gao

    I love these reflections, and they’re especially meaningful because I’ve seen you live them. Thanks Ashley!

  2. J. Lynn Jones

    Home run Ashley!

  3. Emily Johnson

    Beautifully said! I’m especially delighted when facilitators use these skills in virtual classrooms too – they transcend the platform!

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