I recently wrote about roadblocks to making our workshops inclusive and accessible and two tools to overcome that; focusing on design and delivery, and individual and structural issues. Here are two other tools.
Unfortunately, there are so many ways to block learning and frustrate learners, which make learners feel left out and not included.
That said, there are ways to fix this. It’s time to flip the learning, so access and inclusion issues are at the center. Here are two more ways to do just that.
Use design and delivery tools that are accessible and inclusive
Quick! Imagine I just put a new techno gizmo in front of you that you’ve never seen before and have no clue how to use. In order to learn how, would you first tend to:
- ask someone to explain how to use it
- read the instructions
- jump in and start pushing buttons
This is a quick way to examine your learning preference or how you prefer to get learning into that big, beautiful brain of yours. As workshop designers and teachers, we can inadvertently design with our own learning preference bias, which means we’re excluding learners who don’t share the same preference as us.
For example, if we like to learn using audio methods, we’ll automatically include lots of talking in our workshops. This will leave out those who prefer to learn by seeing and doing. Make sure to design and teach in a way that includes audio, visual, and kinesthetic (doing).
It was at this point in a training of trainers workshop I facilitated that a woman stood up and said, “That’s what flipcharts are for, I never really understood the purpose of them before!” Can you tell what her learning preference wasn’t? She was not a visual learner.
Another tool for ensuring equitable, accessible workshop is Life Lenses™. This is an assessment I designed which looks at the lenses we wear that frame our perspective. Our Life Lenses™ frame what comes onto our radar easily, naturally and comfortably and what doesn’t because we deem it awkward, strange, unimportant etc. It quickly and easily points out our natural strengths and the areas we need to work on as workshop designers and teachers.
Finally, a third example of using tools that have a focus on access and inclusion focus are what I call S.A.K.E.s©. When using the S.A.K.E.s © tool we include all four: skills, attitudes, knowledge and experience. As with learning preferences and Life Lenses™, we as instructors tend to have biases. If you adore getting to the interaction / “let’s try it out” part of workshops, that indicates you prefer Skills (the S part of S.A.K.E.©).
And to be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a preference, just make sure you include the other learning preferences, Life Lenses™ and S.A.K.E.s© as well to be accessible and inclusive.
So, you’ve hunkered down and paid attention to design and delivery issues, you’ve got structural and individual issues in mind and you’ve used tools like learning preferences, Life Lenses™ and S.A.K.E.© in your design and delivery. Way to go!
You may be feeling a bit weary at the thought of all this effort. Don’t worry; I’ve got your back. The fourth tool in designing accessible and inclusive workshops may surprise you at first. It’s about self-care.
It’s not easy paying attention to all of these issues (though, wow is it worth it when you create learning that is very powerful and inclusive). Taking care of yourself becomes important so you can take care of your learners.
I recommend creating a self-care kit that’s custom fit for you. It should be filled with things that help you relax and be your best self, so you can serve others with calm competence. Here are some examples:
- a mirror (to check you don’t have anything stuck in your teeth or nose (!) right before you start teaching for example)
- aromatherapy to relax you (lavender), energize you (peppermint), or soothe jangled nerves (Rescue Remedy) – if you’re teaching in person just be mindful of potential allergy issues
- a candle
- a fidget spinner
- extra supplies (scissors, pens, post-it notes, tape etc.)
I’ve never taught a training of trainers workshop yet where someone couldn’t articulate an example of being left out or excluded. “Leave no One Behind” – it sounds good; however, often workshops often do just that. Most learning events are not designed using an inclusive approach. As a result, we leave both learners and valuable insights and potential solutions to pressing social problems behind.
I introduced four tools for designing and teaching inclusive, accessible workshops:
- Design and delivery
- Structural and individual
- Inclusive design tools like learning preferences, Life Lenses™ and S.A.K.E.s © and
By using these four inclusive steps that anyone can use for face to face and online/blended workshops, to overcome bias in workshop design and delivery, not only will everyone have a seat at the table, but they will be able to meaningfully engage.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead.
- Find out more about Life Lenses™
- Not sure what your learning preference is? Take my learning preference survey.
- Contextualizing learning is an important part of the individual and structural step. Here’s a funny example of getting it wrong.
- Act 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.
Lee-Anne Ragan, M.Ed., B.SW. is the learning and development expert behind the internationally award-winning Rock.Paper.Scissors, Inc., where great minds come to play. By combining humanity, humour, inclusion, and the capacity to see infinite possibilities, she takes people and organizations from gridlock to greatness — and everyone walks away with a smile on their face.
Her engaging training for corporate, non-profit, and academic organizations and incisive one to one work have made her indispensible to everyone from the United Nations to individual entrepreneurs. Original, adaptable and ever-inspiring as a trainer and teacher, her work has taken her to Africa, Asia, the Arctic, Mexico, from coast to coast in Canada, and to the United States.