The manager was tasked to train an individual who has been given a new task. This individual is profoundly deaf.
The deaf student had attempted to take an eLearning course on the task. The thought was that he would be able to work the tutorial at his own pace. That, apparently, didn't work. (I haven't seen the tutorial, so I am not certain whether it was an instructional design flaw, lack of 508 compliance or some other issue that is the culprit.)
As a result, the deaf student's managers reached out to my manager for some one-on-one instructor-led training on this new task.
My manager had worried about this session. She asked me to step in and observe once I had completed my own class. I walked in at the 45 minute mark.
It wasn't going well.
As I watched, my manager tried everything in the book to help him understand and perform his new task.
- Screen pointing
- Model and repeat
- Writing and drawing
She would talk slowly and wait for the interpreters to provide translation. She worked very hard to keep her frustration levels down and her tone level (I was behind her, so I couldn't see her face).
No matter what she tried...He just wasn't getting it.
The student used two sign-language interpreters (I've personally never seen that before). The interpreters switched off as the manager delivered the training. At first, the interpreters switched off every 30 minutes, then every 15, then as often as they could convince the other to take over. They cut off the session at 2 hours. The class was only supposed to take one.
The sign language interpreters I've met tend to be incredibly careful with body language and facial expressions. I could tell this was out of the norm. One started displaying the "This guy's a moron" facial expression. The other performed the universal slow breath exhalation of frustration. It appeared that at least one of them had worked with this individual before - and seemed none-too-happy about having to translate for him again.
Something is not right here.
I also got the sincere feeling that I was witnessing the "Willful Stupidity Act." I had seen the "willful stupidity act" before among the hearing population. The willful stupidity act is usually demonstrated by folks who are only interested in their job for the paycheck. They want nothing to do with learning new skills or taking on new responsibilities. No amount of persuasion, motivation or training is going to help this person. If anything, training just gives the individual one more thing to blame his or her "lack of performance" on. The trainer becomes a new scapegoat.
Before the student left, he threw up his hands and complained about how he was expected to do all this work.
We've heard this before.
"You need to have a conversation with your manager."
When everyone had left, my manager turned to me - "I don't think he got a thing out of it."
I didn't think he did either.
We both wondered whether trying to pay attention to the screen AND trying to pay attention to the translator caused the issue. Maybe.
I inquired about any online training he had been exposed to. Maybe he just needed to have something that offers a slower pace and text. Already tried - with resources for questions while he worked through the tutorial.
My manager demonstrated all of the strategies I knew about for working with the hearing impaired, so I couldn't think of any new ideas.
Are there other things we could have tried?