From the desk of Adrianne Avillion, DEd, RN

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, July 16, 2010

Editor's note: This feature is written by nursing staff development expert Adrianne Avillion. Each week, Adrianne writes about an important issue in the area of staff development or answers reader questions. If you have a question for Adrianne, e-mail her at

Q: I'm frustrated with some of my older colleagues who are in their late 60s and even early 70s. I am a staff development specialist in my early 30s and have five years experience as an educator. Some of my colleagues object to the fun activities and the informal atmosphere I like to create as part of the learning environment. When I ask them to share personal stories as ice breakers, some of them seem offended. How can I get them to change?

A: The answer is not to change your colleagues, but to work together so that all your views and skills complement each other, rather than create friction.

Your colleagues were born at the end of the traditionalist generation (1922-1946) and grew up valuing education as a privilege, not an automatic right. In general, they expect a more formal educational atmosphere, because that was the focus of their own education systems. That doesn't mean they don't want to have fun, but they don't want to be put on the spot either.

Traditionalists do not necessarily want to share personal information and many find personal questions to be intrusive. However, they are usually more than willing to share their knowledge and expertise. They have seen a vast number of changes in healthcare and bring extensive experience to learning situations. Traditionalists, like most adults, want to be treated with respect. Research shows they are valuable assets to mentor programs, particularly with our younger colleagues who value their expertise.

I suggest you incorporate a variety of activities in your programs. Don't rely on games and ice breakers too extensively, just like you do not simply use a lecture format. Avoid asking personal questions, but look for ways to facilitate sharing of knowledge.

Everyone needs to be flexible, including those of us who are staff development specialists. We all have our own perspectives on life and education, many of which are influenced by our generational viewpoints. Do some reading about the different generations and how they view life and learning. I think it will be a big help.

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