Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Diversity and Inclusion: The Road to Cultural Competence

Read somewhere: "Culture is the software of our minds – and we are not all using the same programs.

As more organizations truly become international, there are more multicultural teams now than ever before. Therefore, there is a need to understand cultural differences and work towards fueling the growth of the business using the power of these differences. Trainers and learning development folks play a key role in identifying, appreciating and incorporating these differences in designing more 'inclusive learning'. But there is more to multiculturalism and diversity than meets the eye. 

"There's more to cultural awareness than simply being polite...
There is a big difference between knowing how not to upset people and knowing how to really engage them at a level at which they will excel."

These words are from an article by Neil Shorney, in the latest issue of Training Industry Quarterly. The article is titled: "Cultural Differences in Training". The article describes various aspects of cultural differences that a trainer needs to appreciate and consider. These include cultural differences in behaviors, hierarchy and communication. The author describes these aspects of cultural differences with examples and reflects on how these come into play in real-life contexts within the classroom and in an online environment.

The Learning and Development community needs to appreciate diversity in their own 'classroom' before attempting to design the perfect 'diversity and inclusion training' for their internal or external clients. Through these articles and this post, my objective is to reflect on what we, as instructional designers or learning specialists, can do to make our training designs and training delivery more inclusive.

As I read more about diversity and inclusion, the following article by 

Shari Saunders and Diana Kardia, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching was most useful: Creating Inclusive College Classrooms
I quote from the article here:

"In an inclusive classroom, instructors attempt to be responsive to students on both an individual and a cultural level. Broadly speaking, the inclusiveness of a classroom will depend upon the kinds of interactions that occur between and among you and the students in the classroom. These interactions are influenced by:
  • the course content;
  • your prior assumptions and awareness of potential multicultural issues in classroom situations;
  • your planning of class sessions, including the ways students are grouped for learning;
  • your knowledge about the diverse backgrounds of your students; and
  • your decisions, comments, and behaviors during the process of teaching."
Another article by Christine A. Stanley, Texas A&M University Teaching in Action: Multicultural Education as the Highest Form of Understanding discusses various approaches to achieving multicultural education and describes how to create more inclusive training content using these approaches:
  • The Contributions Approach
  • The Additive Approach
  • The Transformation Approach
  • The Social Action Approach
The article reiterates how '...Multicultural teaching affords us an opportunity to broaden our assumptions about teaching and learning'. 

As I was attending the 'Best Practices in Diversity and Inclusion: A Panel Discussion', a webinar by ASTD this morning I realized, perhaps like all other participants, that diversity and inclusion is a journey. We can never get there since the world is changing everyday. Even though it is a long road to cultural competency, every step counts. 

'Diversity is inviting everyone to the party and inclusion is getting everyone to get off their chair!' via a speaker in  on 10 July 2013.