We have put together seven tips to approach diversity in training! We hope they support and inspire you to boost your training and your trainees’ learning.
Diversity is a very broad subject and it can easily be connected to the other educational content areas. It is important for your trainees to understand not only how they are connected but also why.
For example, you can emphasize the relationship between diversity and conflict & resolution, where many of the conflicts that occur in the world are due to how diverse we are, especially with regard to the way we think! Remember that conflicts are necessary because they allow us to appreciate our differences; imagine if everyone thought the same and did the same, there probably would be no conflict, but do we want that? The key is to approach conflict and discuss our differences in a peaceful and constructive way. When facing such situations, think “how can I take advantage of a conflict of ideas and turn into a learning opportunity?”.
Finding the connections between the content areas isn’t hard, however as trainers it is better to allow your trainees to figure them out by themselves, and for you to facilitate this discovery. Give them stimuli and challenges, such as appealing to memories they may have of former trainings, activities, or life experiences!
When we talk about diversity, sensitive and difficult topics come up easily such as racism, sexuality, social class, gender fluidity, competing religious beliefs and taboos, politics, etc. Trainees can ask you tough questions, wanting to learn how to deal with specific situations if they come up in a camp, or in an activity. As a trainer, you do not need to have all the answers, but you can help trainees to reflect on the best approach considering our learning and educational environment. Whenever in doubt, it helps to think “is this topic/question related to our approach to peace education?”, if yes, then you can frame your answer in a way to show trainees how to make it relevant to CISV goals and principles.
You can turn the question back to your trainees asking them to reflect on what is the approach they can take to the situation that will be respectful, inclusive, and just to everyone involved, and turn it into a learning situation.
If the question is sensitive and should be discussed in a smaller group only with members that are okay discussing this topic, you can suggest having a meeting in smaller group to discuss the issue. This can be during an informal time or after the training session.
A big question we must ask ourselves as trainers is: are our methods the best to make sure there is diversity of thought within our group? This question allows us to make sure that our activities do not become echo chambers, where only one opinion is being said and repeated by everyone. All of our educational activities are created with the purpose of teaching Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge, but, most importantly, they are created to teach the participants to think for themselves and have a critical opinion on a subject. Is this possible if only one opinion is allowed in a debriefing?
If we analyse our debriefing methods, we notice that there are many, and that they serve different purposes, and each has its own specific limitations! Let’s look at big group debriefings, the traditional way of debriefing in a CISV activity. Usually at big group debriefings you have only a small group of people participating, and the rest either listening or ignoring the debate. This can be either because they are shy, they believe they have nothing to contribute, or their opinions and ideas are so different from those that are being discussed they have no intention of sharing them. The people who are discussing, are often talking in circles, repeating the same things over and over again but in different words, and usually one specific idea.
Try different debriefing methods. For example, have two people discuss for a few minutes and then switch partners. Have the participants write their opinion in a piece of paper, as well as what they believe could be the opposite opinion, divide them in groups of four, and have them defend one or the other. Have your debriefing questions written on large pieces of paper and put them around your activity room, and have the participants write and draw their feelings and opinions. Make them stand in front of a small group and monologue and act what they believe they have learned of the activity.
Make sure to teach your trainees not only different debriefing methods, but also why they are important, how to create them, and, most importantly, how to facilitate them!
One important tip is that each person’s opinion has to be considered by the trainer. An easy way to show interest and to be grateful for one’s opinion is to say “Thank you” after a trainee has participated in a discussion.
Trainees feel more engaged when they can understand and relate to the topic discussed. Choose examples that are part of your trainees’ reality (or at least of some of them). In this way, they will feel more willing and confident to share their thoughts, give their opinions and tell their experiences on the topic. That allows to richer discussions and outcomes!
If you are also giving a lecture, tell personal stories that allow the trainees to relate to what you are saying. Make it engaging. However, make sure that your personal approach doesn’t impose itself upon the other’s potential experiences!
Try to learn who your trainees are before your training starts – if necessary, ask them about who they are and about some aspects of their life experience a few weeks before the training so you can adapt your training session better. That will help you adapt your topics for discussions and prepare them to connect with the group on a more personal level (see #4 above). During your training, be aware that people come from different places, carry different experiences in life – and sometimes, some traumas and hard feelings on some issues -, have diverse backgrounds and cultural perspectives. It is important to pay attention to how you speak to everyone and how you involve people in activities. Make sure you use inclusive and respectful words, have sensitive approach to people being willing or not to touch another person, and value everyone’s differences to create a positive environment.
Understand that not everyone speaks perfect English, give them time to understand what you are saying. Have many different examples prepared ahead of time, specially because people from different contexts may understand them in different ways! Always ask if there are questions, and prompt them to explain what they have learned.
Do you know the idea of 7 types of intelligences? Depending on which of those intelligences is most developed will influence the way we learn, how we process internally our experience and the way we recall information. Therefore, make sure your sessions include different ways of teaching: Mix the dynamic of your training, big and smaller group of trainees, passive and more active session, change the room if you can, use images, music or written posters… adapt your ‘rhythm’ to what you are trying to achieve. In brief, make sure that your training day…is diverse!
Look for resources that you yourself find useful, like videos, images, talks, books, articles, that may allow your trainees to have a better understanding of Diversity. You can share it with them either beforehand, or after your training! Trainees always appreciate it when the trainers take the time to give them resources to learn from.
If the opportunity arises, ask your participants to share resources with you and the rest of the group too! Don’t take all the educational responsibility upon your shoulders and delegate a little bit to your trainees. Every training group is very diverse, with people from many different contexts, ask them to also share with you what for them is important regarding diversity!
Remember to present this diversity blog and the Kompaz blog to your trainees.
We hope these tips will be helpful in your upcoming trainings! Stay tuned for more tips and resources!
On behalf of the Diversity Campaign Team