Resistance to Learning

Brookfield (2015) discusses in chapter 17 on how to respond to resistance to learning. I think as educators we have all met some type of resistance when teaching a class – for me it was a class that the students felt was “unnecessary”. From the moment we started reviewing the course outline there was “why do we have to know this” and “this looks boring”. As a new instructor, I had a brief flash of terror and thought how do or can I switch the attitude?
In a less formal way than Brookfield outlines, I tried to find out why the students had such a negative initial reaction to this class. They had never taken this course before and it was the first time they had actually seen the content so I was a bit flummoxed to say the least. I also found it ironic since it was a communication course that I was teaching. The general consensus was that they felt they were effective communicators (needless to say they didn’t get the irony of that overall theme!).
Here is where I think Brookfield had a great opportunity to discuss student engagement in a more in-depth way but chose to just highlight certain ways to address students resistance to learning. He has one point that I found to be the most helpful and that was to create situations where students succeed. I think this is important for all educators to remember as perhaps we get too focused on course objectives and assessments rather than figuring out how to create a successful environment.
For me, when there is resistance to learning, yes you have to figure out why but then it’s our job as educators to figure out how to engage the students. What techniques may work? Are there activities or discussions that are a good springboard to catching their attention? For me, I gave the students scenarios from my own personal experiences/observations and asked them how they would’ve handled it. Based on their answers determined how I steered the discussion and tried to bring forward potential pitfalls that their responses could bring forth. My attempt at overcoming their resistance was to provide real world issues that don’t have a black and white answer. For this class it worked but it did leave me wondering how I could approach resistance to learning in other potential classes. Through this experience I found myself critically reflecting my delivery and learning new ways to navigate through resistance.

Here is a link to a pdf regarding student engagement that I found to be an interesting read:


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