Is making someone use adult learning to present a form of hazing?

Last week I re-watched the 1993 classic Dazed and Confused for the 3,925th time.

This week I finished a train the trainer session for a new client. During a break my mind wandered back to the clip in Dazed and Confused where the rising seniors were hazing the incoming freshmen.

The train the trainer participants wanted to embrace the adult learning principles that were being taught, but the learning curve just wasn’t very fun. In a way, it seemed like I was hazing them. It was like I sat, observing them writhing in pain as they tried to embrace what was being taught, and I was smugly telling them: “You love this. Smile. You love this!”

“It’d be a lot cooler if you did!” The single biggest determining factor in whether or not someone is comfortable with material that they use to train is the amount of preparation that they do before they even enter the training room. I think a lot of the perceived “adult learning hazing” that took place during this train the trainer can be traced back to the lack of time the participants had to review the materials prior to arriving at the session. That said, the best way I knew how to teach the importance of preparation was to just let them struggle their way through delivering the lesson plans that they were just seeing for the first time. Between the first and second day of this train the trainer course, participants stayed up late reviewing their materials, and the delivery was a lot cooler.

“All right, all right, all right.” The fact that I didn’t jump in very often to rescue a facilitator meant that they needed to rise to the challenge, work through areas that just felt uncomfortable (going from a presenter-centric model to a learner-centric style can be very uncomfortable) and trust the learning process. As the participants grew more comfortable with the learner-centric curriculum, things increasingly began to turn out all right.

“Check ya later!” Whether or not asking people to use adult learning principles is hazing is a debate that can be carried on in the comment section, but the thing that makes any professional development opportunity worthwhile is the follow-up. What happens after the workshop has ended? We’re fortunate to have an opportunity to follow up with the participants from this workshop to find out what worked for them and where they may still be uncomfortable. The opportunity to practice and deliver materials is an essential step in the learning process… as is the opportunity to reflect on those experiences in order to figure out how to keep improving.

What do you think? Is making someone use adult learning a form of hazing?




2 thoughts on “Is making someone use adult learning to present a form of hazing?

  1. Hazing? Nah.. I think offering a challenge is a way of showing participants respect. We trust them to be able to reach this challenge and will give them enough support through practice and refine their techniques so they can perform with confidence.

    Love the analogy, BTW 🙂

    • Good point. As long as we’re not asking them to work with unfamiliar presentation strategies WHILE spraying them with ketchup and mustard, we’re probably safe from a true hazing experience.

      And I think you’re right on, Miranda, that it’s about the challenge PLUS the support… not challenging enough and there may be no learning… too challenging without any support and it’s just a crappy experience (bordering on hazing!!).

      Hopefully, with some learner buy-in, they’ll leave a note on the evaluation form that says: “I want to look back and say that I did I the best I could while I was stuck in this place.”

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