Resistance to Learning: Identifying the Source

Resistance to learning is one of the most challenging and frustrating things an instructor will encounter when teaching. Brookfield (2015) outlines that this can be due to a variety of reasons including: fear of change and the unknown, poor teacher credibility, material is viewed as irrelevant, expectations or level is too high, the student’s past experience(s) caused low self concept, student is still adjusting to new set of values/beliefs/mental frameworks learned and is in a pause phase, the teaching methods utilized do not fit with personal learning styles of students, cultural incompetence, lack of clarity, personality mismatches, instructor is pushing the learning too fast. Brookfield (2015) says that one must learn the source of resistance, through regular classroom assessment techniques. After the source of resistance has been identified then the teacher can put measures in place to diminish its impact on the learning experience.

This is a video that talks about why people resist change and why uncovering those reasons is critical to moving forward.  The learning from this video can easily be transmitted to the resistance of learning.  Learning, afterall, is essentially change in its purest form.

There has been a history of resistance to the course I taught for the first time this past Fall. I have many theories of why there is resistance to this course. I believe that some of this resistance stems from the students not seeing the relevance of it. This is partly because they are not out in nursing practice and seeing how it can be applied readily. They don’t even understand what nurses do at that point in the program (Semester 1 of the program). Their idea of a nurse is someone who gives people needles in the hospital, so why are communication skills so important? A lot of students prioritize the technical aspect of nursing and minimize the importance of the soft skills like interpersonal relationships and communication. I find as students progress through the program the light-bulbs go off at different moments and they finally understand the value of these relational skills. It is unfortunate that the penny drops long after the course is over. It becomes a graveyard of lost learning opportunities.

I would like to close the gap between what I may think is happening in my classroom and what students are actually experiencing (Barkley, 2010). Rather than assuming students are resistant to the class and the reasons why, I need to verify my assumptions first so that I can effectively intervene to address/minimize the impact of barriers to learning. I wonder why Brookfield suggests using the same CIQ weekly. Why not switch the questions up slightly to assess for different elements of the learning experience or only do it biweekly or every three weeks? For instance one week you may want to assess for how well the readings are aiding in their learning, and if in fact the students are completing them and if not, why not. I plan to use Brookfield’s CIQ as he has it outlined in his book several times in a semester interspersed with a few other ones as well and only request this feedback every 2-3 weeks due to time restrictions.   For my assignment #2 I had to devise a feedback instrument and provide rationale for each component in the feedback instrument. Here is the Feedback Instrument I devised to be given at the midterm mark and Feedback Instrument Rationale for each item in the questionnaire. I have also found some other good examples of student surveys that could be used and/or modified to elicit different types of feedback in order to fully understand the students’ learning experience:


Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Edutopia (2017). Student Feedback Survey. Retrieved at

Vanderbilt University (2017). Gathering feedback from students. Retrieved at


About turnera2014

I am a Nursing (RN) Instructor taking the Professional Instructor Diploma Program at Vancouver Community College in hopes to challenge my current teaching modalities and inspire me to be the best teacher I can be.
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