When was the last time someone asked you how you prefer to learn? Has someone ever asked if you need assistive technology?
As a trainer and facilitator, I definitely miss the mark sometimes on inclusive training. It’s hard. There’s no way around it; it’s not easy to design or deliver training in a language, structure, platform, etc. that works well for every learner. It’s hard, but it’s so important to try.
There is robust research out there about learning styles, learner variability, and inclusive curriculum design. Let’s look at this excerpt from research about Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a “framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn”.
UDL is based on the premise that learner variability is the norm. UDL researchers emphasize that there is no “average” or “typical” learner and that all learners have varied abilities, strengths, experiences, and preferences… aspects that can be dynamic and changing depending on one’s context and development…
As an instructional design framework, UDL provides a structure to proactively build in supports that address the learner variability that exists within any group. Taking learner variability into account, the process of planning instruction in alignment with UDL guidelines allows educators to consider and integrate flexible and supportive options that are helpful for all learners from the outset.
UDL-based instruction can make existing educational practices more inclusive, by providing support to a wider range of learners.
Here is a graphic from CAST, the creators of UDL, that outlines the three major components of UDL and questions to ask yourself as a trainer or educator:
What is your team doing to acknowledge and understand different learning styles? How are you accommodating differences?
One great, free resource for understanding learning styles is The VARK Questionnaire. This is a free, simple quiz that anyone can take on a smart device. VARK stands for Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic – the four primary learning styles. The quiz measures a person’s preferences for each style and includes a Multimodal Style for those of us who prefer to learn through more than one method.
Once we understand the instructional design piece, we need to think about inclusive training from a participant perspective. Who’s in the room? Is it only top leadership? Only junior managers? A combination?
Here’s research to consider from the NeuroLeadership Institute about “everyone-to-everyone” learning, a practice that shifts the paradigm of traditional training to a model that allows all team members to engage with learning at the same time.
Because social norms are based on the assumption that everyone else is doing something, if people aren’t engaging in the new behavior — which is likely in a company of 10,000 people if only 100 of them learned new habits — they’ll continue to engage in old, undesired behaviors since that’s what they see.
A better approach is what we call ‘everyone-to-everyone learning’.
In this model, the entire organization goes through the same learning experience at the same time. Instead of day-long or multi-day, in-person workshops — which can’t be administered to all employees at once without bringing the organization to a standstill — learning consists of memorable, bite-sized sessions delivered virtually.
Simply put, you’re able to shift from a model of teaching a few people a lot slower to teaching a lot of people a little bit very quickly. And at an organizational level, this ends up being far more effective.
Is everyone-to-everyone learning something you can implement? Could this model be adapted for your organization’s structure and needs?
Ultimately, it’s not easy to design learning for everyone, but it’s important to do the work and make our best effort at inclusive training. Talk to your team about their preferences and needs, and do some research and experiment. Be the first domino!