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Affective Learning: Seeing How It Is
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By Mel Silberman

Overview: Often, a training program promotes understanding of and sensitivity to people or situations that are unfamiliar to participants. One of the best ways to accomplish this goal is to create an affective activity that simulates that unfamiliar person or situation.

Procedure

1. Choose a type of person or situation that you want participants to learn about. You may elect to have participants experience what it is like to be any of the following:

* in the "minority"

* in a different role or job function

* from a different culture

* a person with special problems or challenges

2. Create a way to simulate that person or situation. Among the ways to do this are the following:


* Have participants dress in the attire of that person or situation. Or have them handle the equipment, props, accessories, or other belongings of that person or situation or engage in a typical activity.

* Place participants in situations in which they are required to respond in the role or character they have been given.

* Impersonate an individual and ask the participants to interview you and find out about your experiences, views, and feelings.

* Use an analogy to build a simulation: Create a scenario that participants may be familiar with that sheds light on the unfamiliar situation. For example, you might ask all participants who are left-handed to portray people who are culturally different from the rest of the participants.

3. Ask participants how the simulation felt. Discuss the experience of being in someone else's shoes. Invite participants to identify the challenges that unfamiliar persons and situations present to them.

Variations

1. If possible, arrange for real encounters with the unfamiliar situation or person.

2. Conduct a mental-imagery experience in which participants visualize the person or situation with which they are unfamiliar.

Case Example

A simulation called "Instant Aging" is designed to sensitize participants to sensory deprivation and the normal process of aging. Participants are given eyeglasses smeared with Vaseline, dried peas to put in their shoes, cotton for their ears, and latex gloves for their hands. Each participant is then asked to take out a pencil and paper and write down his or her name, address, telephone number, any medication currently being taken, and any known allergies. Next, the participants are told to take a walk outside the training room, open the door and find their way around. The simulation involves further directions concerning the specific details of the tasks participants are asked to perform and the manner in which they are to take turns assisting each other.



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