Naming and Addressing Barriers

Purpose: to anticipate barriers that might impede progress toward goals, and to develop strategies for addressing them. This exercise describes how to lead a discussion on overcoming barriers.


  • Talk to students about the fact that many times making a change in your life is not easy. There may be obstacles or barriers that get in the way.

  • Ask students to name some possible barriers adults may have to reaching their goals. For example, educational barriers may get in the way of their getting a job they want. Family barriers, such as the need to take care of young children or an unsupportive spouse, may get in the way of going back to school. Financial barriers, such as debt or lack of money to buy a car, may get in the way of a long-term goal of moving to a different neighborhood. Personal barriers , such as a lack of self-confidence or self-defeating behaviors, may get in the way of starting something new.

  • Have students work in teams to name barriers they or someone they know have experienced in meeting their goals. Talk about which challenges feel the easiest to address/hardest to address. Then ask them to describe some ways these barriers might be overcome. Acknowledge that some barriers are very difficult to address alone or may take a long time to address. Be prepared to refer people to various support services.

Worksheet (Word file)

Using the Tool in Practice:


Ways to Overcome It

Don't have a car to come to class


See if people in the class can ride together.

Share information about how to find good used cars.

Don't know how to help my child at school

Practice how to have a conference with the teacher

Feel like I'm too old to learn

Take things one step at a time

Job schedule changes unpredictably.


Talk to boss about stabilizing schedule for the length of the class cycle.

Bring letter from the program explaining class schedule.

Used in Teaching/Learning Examples: