There are a number of components of a successful training program. The components listed below are needed if we are going to invite our students into a full experience of the material we are offering to give them the best chance at making a transformation.
1. Offer a transformation
In order to offer a transformation we need to address real challenges that our participants face. People are motivated to do training when they have faith that you can offer a resolution to their problem. Outline the problem and outline your solution to help potential participants identify that your training is something they need to do.
2. Include group work in your pedagogy
We feel oxytocin when we connect with others; we feel dopamine when we achieve something together; and we feel serotonin when we know we are a valued member of a small group. These are all great reasons to include group projects in your program. This could be something as simple as a small group reflection on a particular topic and then an invitation for a spokesperson from the group to report back to the large group on experiences and insights.
3. Support folks in finding their own answers
As teachers we are not the expert of our participants’ experiences – they are, and we can encourage them to tap their wellspring of information about their experience and their innate ability to find solutions when given permission. We actually learn better when we are engaged in self-inquiry partly because that “aha” moment gives us a lovely dose of dopamine as reward for working something out.
4. Encourage diversity in group members’ expression
Some of us are very cognitive and some of us are very intuitive. Some of us speak in a straight-forward manner and others of us feel into our words as we speak, allowing them to emerge in the moment. When we speak we learn about ourselves as our felt experience and meaning-making turns into words. When we encourage diversity in our group members’ ways of expressing themselves, we honor each person’s unique style of learning and support them in learning about themselves.
5. Support folks in learning from their struggles
Offer participants tools for tolerating their difficult experiences so that they can hold their experience in kindness and mindfulness. Allow your participants to be slow learners and to be in the messy, emergent mystery. Sometimes this is best done through sharing your own vulnerabilities – when you share your own messy human experience, you give folks permission to have and share theirs.
6. Be a hope merchant through your own example
When teaching contemplative material, we, as the teacher, can be an example of what our teachings can offer. Our presence serves as a model of how we can be when we incorporate contemplative practices into our lives.
7. Incorporate reflection and and goal setting
Encourage reflection (journaling, small group discussion, large group inquiry etc) as a pedagogical tool so that folks can learn from their experiences. Creatively expressing our experience helps us to process both old ways of being and new possibilities for change. The connection with ourselves and others in reflection offers an opportunity to develop trust and to feel safe, which moves oxytocin into our system, allowing us to relax and take in new material.
8. Mark transitions
When moving from one piece of work to the next, offer a transition like a time for questions, or a movement break. Mark endings with some kind of ritual like a closing circle. Allow folks to feel the ebb and flow of the work they are doing.
The inspiration for this article came from the work of Lee Guerette in an article called Lessons With the Secret Sauce from her Cognitive Yoga business. Lee is an educational leader and advocate of Social Emotional Learning.
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