Environmental Psychology: A Trainer's Wish List

By Sweet, George | Training & Development Journal, April 1989 | Go to article overview
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Environmental Psychology: A Trainer's Wish List


Sweet, George, Training & Development Journal


Arranging the Training Room--and the Trainer

Like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, good trainers are always prepared. But preparing a lesson plan isn't enough. For a truly successful training session, you also need to create an atmosphere--and a trainer--that are conductive to learning.

For example, have you considered your training room? Have you taken a good look at the lighting conditions, the windows, the noise level, and the seating arrangement?

OK, maybe you don't have much choice in the matter. Maybe this is the only room available. Maybe management won't let you cut a few windows, install new lighting, and knock out a wall or two. You still should be aware of how the training environment may be affecting your session. And, you should know of a few simple and inexpensive ways to manipulate the environment to make the most of what you've got.

Now take a look at yourself. An experienced actress, director, and trainer tells you how to prepare yourself--body, mind, and voice--for the podium.

Environmental Psychology: a Trainer's Wish List

Training is a multifaceted area. A training program with crystal-clear objectives and audiovisual materials more advanced than a science-fiction movie can still fail if the trainer does not take into account the effects of the training environment. Environmental psychology seeks to determine the dimensions of the environment that influence human activities. The goal is to match the physical environment with the people using it.

The merger of environmental psychology and training is appropriate. In order to achieve high levels of interaction, the trainer must make the participants feel comfortable in the classroom environment; that goal can be achieved by using the principles of environmental psychology.

Shedding light on the subject The belief that reading in poorly lit areas can damage your eyes is a myth. However, good lighting conditions can enhance reading performance. Different people have different preferences about lighting, so it is best to have varying intensities of light in a training facility. A training room with uniform lighting is dull; contrast stimulates the learners' sense of vision. But, although contrasts of light are beneficial to the classroom environment, extreme contrasts should be avoided; they can cause eye strain, tiredness, and general discomfort.

As a general rule, brightly lit areas attract attention. Therefore, materials used in training should be at least as bright as the surrounding areas. You can manipulate the environment by increasing or decreasing the amount of light in certain areas, thereby controlling the focus of attention. For example, you may want to have chalkboards lit more brightly than the walls of the classroom.

Not everybody has perfect eyesight; help those who don't by increasing the intensity of light or moving visual aids closer to vision-impaired participants.

There are two main types of lighting--natural and artificial. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Natural light (sunlight) ] is free; ] can be controlled by blinds and curtains; ] can cause glare; ] is unpredictable.

Artificial light (incandescent or flourescent) ] can be controlled by a switch; ] can be costly; ] can cause fatigue and headaches; ] produces a cold, detached atmosphere.

Trainers should attempt to use natural light as the main light source, with artificial light to emphasize certain areas of the environment. Windows on at least two adjacent walls will give you the greatest amount of sunlight. Walls with windows should be painted light colors to avoid sharp contrasts with the sunlight.

As the quality of lighting increases, so does student performance. High-quality lighting makes people more comfortable and allows them to identify words more easily when reading.

A room with a view Most people prefer buildings with windows to buildings without windows.

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