You’ve signed up for that workshop you’ve been wanting to take. It’s started. You’re in. You’re motivated. You want to feel included. You’re learning… well sort of. Okay, not really. You’ll learn how to make your teaching workshops inspiring, engaging, and accessible to all. But first…
Enter major roadblocks to your learning.
Here are some examples I bet you can relate to.
When you’ve taken a workshop in the past, have you ever experienced any of the following?
- The content was too lecture based.
- You were pushed to take action/to implement your learning before you were ready.
- There was nothing to look at; no handouts, PowerPoint, images, flipcharts etc.
- There was nothing to do, nothing to take action on, it was all theory.
- The instructor droned on and on and on.
- You felt like you needed to take care of the instructor (for example they weren’t a subject matter expert, they had trouble with the technology or were flailing for some other reason).
- The power dynamics were really off. For example one guy talked the whole time and the instructor did nothing.
- None of the examples included had anything to do with you. For example the pictures of people the instructor used didn’t look anything like you.
All of the examples above are common ways to block learning and frustrate learners. They’re also ways to make learners feel left out and not included.
It’s time to flip the learning so access and inclusion issues are at the centre.
I’ve written about these access and inclusion issues in the past (for example, The surprising reason workshops and webinars tend to suck, it is not what you think) but today we’re going to take a deeper dive.
This post is based on a webinar I did for the fabulous organization Humentum, which helps organizations “working for social good by managing compliance and risk, juggling finances, designing programs, and helping people perform at their best.”
Great learning is powerful learning and when we set out to create powerful learning, we need to take note of the art and science of learning and development and how to not only make the learning materials inclusive and accessible, but also the teaching.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it’s stupid. Albert Einstein.
What’s accessible and inclusive for some, isn’t for everyone, as you can clearly see from the above cartoon. And when someone doesn’t feel included then not only do we block their learning, but we block us learning from them. Everyone loses, individuals, organizations and our communities.
It’s challenging to create inclusive and accessible learning but far from impossible. In fact in order to create workshops that are inclusive and accessible, we need to start by paying attention to these four critical steps. I’ll explain the first two here and the next two in next week’s post.
1.Designing and delivery learning
Let’s return to those eight examples of roadblocks to learning above. Which ones did you relate to the most? Every.single.time I talk about this issue workshop participants bring up frustrating, vivid examples of the times they experienced roadblocks. Here are two truly true and horrible examples I experienced that have to do with pockets and pointing.
Let’s get back to those eight examples. They’re divided into two types: the first four are related to designing learning materials and the second set of four are related to delivering learning.
Notice that none of the examples have anything to do with the subject matter. Access and inclusion issues often have nothing to do with the actual content but rather the roadblocks are related to design and delivery. Therefore the first step to putting access and inclusion at the center of learning is recognizing that subject matter expertise is only one part of the equation.
What’s a workshop designer to do? Put access and inclusion both at the centre of design and delivery.
2.Structural and Individual
The second step to designing accessible and inclusive workshops is paying attention to both individual and structural issues. I often see weary change makers blaming themselves for not being able to effect social change. This amps up to extreme levels when working with communities that have experienced a lot of oppression. In other words we can blame individuals for structural issues. This is unfair and unjust. I call it the “If only I work harder, I’ll make it” blues.
Our learners come in all sizes and shapes and all sorts of experiences with individual and structural issues and challenges.
Weaving in those issues into our design and delivery, makes for better more inclusive learning for everyone (us as instructors included). You’ll know your audience best and therefore which set of individual and structural issues to pay attention to but here are some examples:
- Socio economic
- Orientation to time, physical space etc.
- Sexual orientation
- Trauma (including ACEs or adverse childhood experiences)
- Overall power, privilege, and oppression issues (often related to the above)
The need to belong is powerful for all of us. The results of feeling included are many, including healthier, more diverse communities and organizations.
So now it’s your turn. Try your hand at using the two tools (design and delivery and structural and individual) above, the next time you’re creating a workshop.
And stay tuned for next week where I’ll introduce you to two more tools (inclusive design tools like learning preferences, Life Lenses™ and S.A.K.E.s© and a tool that will surprise you).
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead.
- Dig into what makes for Powerful learning here by taking this quick survey
- Check out the work of Humentum for which this blog post was based on a webinar I did for them @humentum_org
- Wrestling over how to make your workshops accessible and inclusive? Take a breather and have a laugh over this very different type of wrestling.
- Take action now. Use one of the two tools above when designing your next workshop. Your future participant will thank you.
P.S. Check out my Workshops that Work online workshop so you can learn 4 steps to taking that beloved subject matter expertise of yours and start teaching it to others.