Meeting People Where They Are

A lesson in learning – a Humanist perspective

I teach applied Humanism. It’s what I do. I was recently asked by a design student about how I design my classes so that not only what I want to teach is learned but so that people want to learn it.

One time I was participating in a Linkedin discussion for learning management professionals who specifically do online learning. The discussion was about how to humanize online learning. Most people were talking about how to add the instructor in to the course and interaction with the instructor in the course.  My answer was – well – what does the person you are teaching want to learn and how do they want to learn it? The people on the board responded as if I had two heads. No one had even considered asking what the student wanted to learn or that they might have a preferred method of delivery of the knowledge being taught.  To me – humanizing learning is to humanize the student. Not to humanize the teacher. You meet the student where they are and provide the information they want to learn in the way they want to learn it.

Examples: I can’t stand listening to people talk on the radio. But I have friends who say – that’s the way they prefer to learn. They love listening to self help audio books and podcasts. I don’t get it, but they aren’t me. So – I have a podcast and I’m making plans to get my programs into audio book format.  Some people like to read, and want to read books. So I have books. Other people want to watch video programs – so I have video programs. Some people like slideshares. Fine. Some people want a live classroom with a teacher. Some people don’t.

With my online programs – I’d say the number of people who watch, vs. listen vs. read the lecture notes is about evenly split among the 3 formats.  All of these things are conveying knowledge. My goal as the teacher is to make my programs available in the way my students want to learn it.  So I don’t really distinguish much between the books, the audio, the video programs and so forth. They are all methods of knowledge dissemination.

Here is another example of meeting the student where they are and teaching them in the way they want and need to learn. The first time I gave my Living Made Simpler course (  it was a live continuing education program for a local college.  One of my participants was really focused on the Palestinian problem. He was pro-Palestinian and upset about the injustices they face.  He could not learn anything I taught without translating the concept into something to do with the Palestinians.  I kid you not. One of my examples of how to use compassion had to do with the person in front of you on an airplane leaning back too far into your space. He translated that into something to do with the Palestinians. I forgot what his analogy was. But I went with him and helped him do the translation because that was how he needed to learn the concept.   He couldn’t learn it with the analogy I had – so he had me help him create an analogy he could understand within the framework of his moral universe and that framework had to do with Palestinian justice.

What do they want to learn?

You can teach people wisdom – if you teach it to them in the way they need it. The topic has to be something they are interested in. For instance teaching bullies to stop – isn’t something they are interested in. Teaching victims of bullies how to get their bully to stop – that’s something people want to learn. (See my bullying & harassment training programs for more information -

What you teach has to play to their basic temperament and draw on their strengths instead of trying to get them to play against their type.  For instance my course on how to win arguments without arguing is actually about how to ask questions and not argue -

How do your students like to learn? 

Do they like to read, listen, see or experience new knowledge first hand? Once you know how your student wants to learn and what they want to learn, you take their topics of interests and play to their self interest, create a program that provides that to them while also giving them a hearty does of wisdom and philosophy and then provide it in the format they want. Done

Check out all my stuff – in all it’s various formats at:

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