Preparing to Facilitate
The seminar facilitator must prepare to demonstrate this multicultural mindset through the design and facilitation of the learning experience. “Learning cannot take place in a setting where students cultures…are devalued and rejected,” said Nieto and Bode (2008). Thus it will be vital to incorporate the values and experiences of the participants into the learning experience. Banks (2007) offered 3 approaches whereby the individual members of the learning community suggest what aspects of learning reflect their experience. His additive approach allows contributions from students within the structure of the experience. This is facilitated by the structure and design of the seminar. Banks’ transformative approach allows individuals to share their various perspectives and recognize the value of the differences. For this, the learning facilitator must be prepared to create space for sharing the diversity of experience represented within the seminar. Finally, the seminar incorporates Banks’ social action approach by having students actually engage around the differences and through this build the foundational principles of an action plan. They then have the opportunity to turn this into abstract principles they can transfer to other settings.
Another important aspect of preparation for the seminar is designing the physical space to maximize the collaborative learning experience. Students will need to have access to viewing a screen and contributing answers via text message to a software platform that displays these. Individuals will need the freedom to move about and adjust chairs to sit together as teams of 2. They will also need to have access to tables and writing materials to fully engage in the reflective process. A microphone will be needed for feedback and sharing opportunities, and a playlist must be ready to provide relaxing music as a quiet relaxing backdrop for conversation and discussion. Lastly, because the teams require an even number of people, an unidentified staff member should be available in case there are an odd number of students.
Another important practicality to consider is the timeframe for implementing the Learn By Doing: Diversity program. Nieto and Bode have said that multiculturalism is an ongoing process that is built on relationships (2008). The growth never ends. Though the actual seminar time should last between 2 and 3 hours, the application of the tools presented in the seminar will be most significant in the months and years that follow. A study by Leberman and Martin (2004) showed the benefits of reflection after the training experience for facilitating transfer of learning to other environments. Immediately after the seminar, the attendees will be added to an online forum where they can continue this process of reflection, application, community development, and support. To insure a dynamic and diverse online community, training seminars will support between 15 and 120 participants that can begin the pursuit of multiculturalism together.
In addition to the timeframe for the seminar and ongoing growth, there will be time requirements for selling the training program, arranging details of the seminar, and then following up with participants and hosts throughout the year to measure effectiveness. Overall, the program should fall within a 1-2 year timeframe. Outside of this, it is expected that individuals will continue to apply the mindsets and methods they developed through the seminar on a lifelong basis with the support of their new relationship network.
The first place where this network comes together is the learning experience of the seminar. The theoretical foundations, objectives, and practical details of the seminar are outlined in the seminar facilitation guide (Appendix). This includes step by step instructions for activities, the rationale behind each one, and collections of questions to guide the reflection process of participants. As mentioned already, once the seminar is complete, participants are invited to join an ongoing discussion community for additional resources, stories, and help with applying the process to their own environments. A high level outline of the 2-3 hour seminar follows.
Introduction: video clips about diversity expression and cooperation
Step 1 – Outline your culture, then meet someone different than you.
Step 2 – Explore your differences and commonalities
Step 3 – Find someone the same as you
Step 4 – Create a plan for engaging with diversity
Step 5 – Practice your plan with the first person
Step 6 – Reflect on the experience and revise your plan
Step 7 – Create a plan for the future
Step 8 – Share what you’ve learned
Step 9 – Lean about additional steps and resources
Step 10 – Provide feedback through a survey
Opportunities and Limitations
It should be obvious from this outline that the seminar is designed to meet two objectives. The first is to make people aware that differences exist and have an impact on the way that others experience the world (pre-contemplation – contemplation). The seminar meets this goal by making cultural differences tangible and giving individuals the chance to consider these and the ways of interacting with them. The second goal is to give individuals experience with figuring out how to work with these differences in a way that is positive (preparation), and then testing their effectiveness in practice (action). Because individuals are not simply testing a theory, but using the plan that they have developed in the context of a relationship with someone else, their experience is much more concrete and the feedback is instantaneous. It moves the realm of diversity from the theoretical to the practical and gives individuals the tools and attitudes they need to continue their pursuit (maintenance) of a multicultural lifestyle.
Jennings and Smith (2002) in their model of critical inquiry for transformative practice showed another perspective on how the seminar is able to meet the goals set for it. The experience gives individuals the chance to examine their existing assumptions, gain and create new information, gain new perspectives, critically analyse these, share what was learned, and take action. The seminar walks participants through the first iteration of a personalized cycle of critical inquiry, then empowers and encourages them to repeat the process ad infinitum.
Despite this demonstrated potential, there are two limitations to the seminar. These come from the exceedingly difficult goal of changing the way that people see and interact with the world. First, there is the challenge of helping individuals transfer what they learn back to their everyday settings. “Just because employees attend diversity training does not necessarily mean that they will implement the knowledge, skills, and attitudes into their work environment,” said Cunningham (2012). The learning environment is sterile and safe and attempts to help individuals abstract their plan and develop the self –efficacy to use it, but the application to one’s old work environment is always difficult. Second, the training gives people tools and mindsets to apply and take action, however it does nothing to make the process of confronting social injustice any less uncomfortable. It may be easier to just pretend that multiculturalism is someone else’s problem and forget about the training. The focus on diversity through self-efficacy and the ongoing relationship network should help to counteract this limitation, but it can still be difficult.
Potential Obstacles to Implementation
In addition to the limitations, there are several obstacles that could prevent the success of this program. First, diversity training may actually make some people less inclined to pursue a multicultural way of thinking. deMello-e-Souza Wildermuth & Wildermuth (2011) cite Bennett’s model of diversity (denial, defense, minimization, acceptance, adaptation, and integration) to show how the movement through various stages includes some points (defense, minimization) that might drive learners to overlook or even attack the validity of other viewpoints in order to protect their own sense of cultural identity. For this reason, the seminar attempts to move people to at least stage 4 or 5 of Bennett’s model where they no longer have to deal with hostile feelings.
A second obstacle to implementing this plan will be found in the dismissive or apathetic response that some decision makers will display when approached with the opportunity of purchasing this training experience. Cunningham (2012) highlights this problem by asking the question: how do you design a program that does not alienate those who need it the most? The participation of the majority culture is essential for the success of multiculturalism, but these are often the people who see no need for the training. It may be helpful to employ some of the research from this article showing the benefits of diversity for those who seek to understand it and the hazard that diversity can become for those who do not.
A third challenge to this program will come from engaging a diverse group of people in the same seminar experience. Although a great deal of room has been left for individuals to insert their needs, cultures, and perspectives (Banks, 2007), this relies on their willingness to speak up and participate. Many people will not be expecting to do more than listen in a diversity training program and may not have experience with the process of communication or reflection. Furthermore, some cultures may display communication patterns that don’t align with the needs of the seminar (Nieto & Bode, 2008). None of these challenges are certain, but can be met in three ways. First, if individuals seem unsure of how to proceed with the seminar action steps like reflection, the facilitator can provide additional information and guidance to make the process more accessible. It may also be necessary to reveal the purpose or rationale for some of the steps to encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and participate. Thirdly, the process is mostly self-directed, so the facilitator and assistants can spend time one on one supporting those who find participation difficult.
This kind of relational support is recognized by Nieto and Bode (2008) as key to the sustainability of the process of multiculturalism. Jennings and Smith (2002) have also linked the ongoing development of a multicultural perspective to ongoing engagement with a network of other individuals. For this reason, a key part of Learn By Doing: Diversity is a digital network of individuals and information that participants will be able to access after the seminar. With permission, copies of the letters summarizing participants’ thoughts about the benefits of diversity and suggestions for implementation will be compiled, organized and shared with other participants. After this, online discussions, invitations to events, success stories, and requests for help can provide a continual source of inspiration, interaction and practical ideas to encourage the process of developing multiculturalism.
From another perspective of sustainability, this seminar is designed to be a profitable educational business. Yet in the interest of promoting its concepts, the materials for facilitating this training will be freely available to anyone who attends the seminar and wants to bring the concepts to their home community. Additional training for facilitation will be offered to these future facilitators and ongoing consultation services are available for implementing and applying the strategies from the seminar in particular circumstances. Thus, the sustainability of this plan comes both from the spread of its ideas and the profitability of its business model.
Because it operates within a demand driven business market, the seminar will be able to assess its tangible value on the basis of requests for details and purchases of the training experience. To specifically understand the value of the seminar, surveys are given to individuals in the last step and follow-up survey requests are emailed in the coming weeks. These will reveal what’s working and what can be improved with the seminar. Ongoing monitoring of the online discussion channels will reveal whether people are continuing to use the process and take advantage of their learning communities to develop their multiculturalism.
Finally, the companies that purchase the training likely have certain goals and metrics for diversity that they track regularly. In addition to taking measurements before the training and again one year later, it would be helpful to provide them with Chavez and Wesinger’s (2008) three goals by which to measure the success of diversity training. These are first, a culture that identifies itself as a collection of unique and valuable differences, second, a self-motivated pursuit of the process of multiculturalism, and third, a corporate strategy that incorporates the benefits of multiple diverse perspectives. Each one of these measures provides a unique insight into the benefit of the plan, its design, implementation, and potential for future improvement.
In summary, multiculturalism is not a set of facts, but a way of thinking and viewing the world that continues to evolve in the context of relationships and experience. Because the problems of diversity do not necessarily exist in expression, but in the institutional, social, and civilizational mindsets that empower them, the journey toward a multicultural mindset must begin with a shift in perspective. This shift in perspective takes place through the development of confidence and a plan of action that empowers the individual to recognize and respond to diversity in ways that are profitable. The seminar outlined here employs the transtheoretical model of transformation to move individuals from a state of unawareness to a position of maintaining and repeating a process of critical inquiry. Along the way, they are equipped with the mindsets, tools, skills, and relationships to develop a context that both values and maximizes the potential of a culturally diverse organization.