Learning and Affective Behaviors
Getting someone to change their affective behavior is one of the hardest tasks to accomplish. That is because the training often threatens the learners' self-image. So, it becomes important to affirm the learner's core values, such as moral, social, religious, family, political, etc. Learners who attend training in which their beliefs or values are supported are much more likely to "let down their guard" and accept the learning points.
If you confront the learners with learning points that suggests they may have acted in a foolish or in a dangerous manner, they become resistant to change. No one wants to be told that they did something stupid. Thus, it is important to remind them of their "goodness" in order to make the various learning points easier to digest. The learning will not be so threatening because thinking about an important value will have affirmed each learner's image of him or herself as a smart and capable person. This also points out the invalid concept of a learner as an empty vessel. You have to "draw" them into the learning, not simply "pour" the learning into them.
Why is safety so hard to train?
(NOTE: The following example uses safety, but this method works with a wide variety of affective behaviors.)
Unlike a lot of other tasks, it is often easier to do something the unsafe way, rather than the safe way. For example, if I run out of charcoal lighter, it is much easier and quicker to use the can of gasoline in the garage than drive two miles to the nearest store; it is much quicker to cross in the middle of the street than walk to the corner-crosswalk; it is faster and easier to jump on a piece of equipment and start operating than to perform some checks beforehand.
Getting someone to act safely requires that they not only gain the required knowledge and skills, but that they also change their attitude (affective domain). Otherwise, they will know how to act, but will not do so as their self-systems kick in and convince them to do it the fast and easy way.
We all perform calculated risks (which in reality are unsafe acts to various degrees), i.e., I might never use gasoline to start a barbecue (unless I was starving and had no means to get fluid), but I might cross the street outside of the crosswalk if it was not busy.
This is why organizations have safety class after safety class - they never getting around to changing the attitudes of the learners. They hope that drilling the same old knowledge and skills into the learners with various methods will eventually pay off and produce safe learners. However safety requires that we know the rules (knowledge), know how to act (skills), and have a proper attitude for it (affective).
A learning program might go something like this (I am keeping this simple so that you can add, remove, or adjust the steps for other behaviors):
- Have each learner explain three or four safety rules or principles that they value dearly and why. Also, have them record their selections on a flip chart.
- This helps to internalize the belief that they are "good" persons, which makes them more receptive to change. This is best done in small groups (mix the groups up throughout the various activities).
Sort of like "cheerleading"
- Gather the groups back together and have them discuss their values or principles. Tape these values to the walls so that they may be used for further reminders.
- Discuss the concept of the difficulty of getting people to act safely (e.g. it is often quicker and easier not to act in a safe manner).
- Again, using small groups, have them discuss calculated risks (unsafe acts) that they have performed, e.g., not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. Have them record the reasons on a flipchart.
- Next, have them confront the inappropriate behaviors by asking why we take these risks when they might clash with our core values and principles. (Note: You can have them discuss a number of other things depending on your desired outcome - e.g. discuss if the reasons they listed for taking the "risks" are the same reasons other employees might use. If not, what might some of their reasons be?)
- Gather them back together and using their input, extract the central themes of their discussions.
- Have them brainstorm some activities or solutions that they can use in their workplace to make it a safer place (this allows them to become part of the solution). For ideals on brainstorming activities.
- Changing Affective Behaviors Is Not Easy
Note that changing affective behaviors is generally not a one shot activity. But, going to the core of the matter is better than repeating the same old skills and knowledge that they already understand. Building a wide variety of these "cheerleading" activities will give you the three required building blocks of learning difficult behaviors:
- Gaining new skills,
- learning new knowledge,
- and changing Affective behaviors.