Look at each of the questions in turn and think carefully about how they relate to your own training experiences. Then click on each box to see tips, advice, guidance and further information.
Use teacher education practices that create an inclusive learning environment
1. Think about a training session you’ve been in or a group of teachers you’ve trained. Did all trainees have the same position? Were they all equally included?
In any group of trainees there is always diversity. For example, there will be women and men, younger and older teachers, less proficient and more proficient users of the language of training, and so on. Trainees may also have different roles and status, e.g. unqualified teachers, junior teachers, school managers, head teachers, inspectors and education ministry officials.
There may be many hierarchies, both seen and unseen, which can affect the way teachers experience the training. As the trainer, being aware of the differences can help you to include everyone, and let everyone participate equally.
2. In some training sessions, a small number of teachers dominate. Why does this happen? How can the trainer include everyone equally?
A good trainer will make sure that it’s not just the loudest people who dominate the training. Sometimes those who talk the most don’t really have much to say. When training, you might encounter some of the following situations.
- Some teachers may be nervous or shy to talk in a group that includes people in senior positions, e.g. ministry officials/head teachers. Some officials also think it is their responsibility to provide all the answers.
- In some groups, male participants may think that it is their responsibility to represent the group. This may be as a result of cultural norms, and the females in the group may accept this as normal.
- Confident speakers of the language of instruction may dominate, with those who are less confident in this language remaining quiet or silent.
As the trainer, it’s important to build a climate where everyone feels free to participate. Here are some ways you can do this.
- Discuss the importance of including everyone at the beginning of the training. Make the teachers aware of everyone’s rights and responsibilities.
- Provide different ways for people to give feedback so that they do not always need to speak in the group.
- Nominate less-dominant trainees to give feedback, rather than asking an open question to the group. Be careful about doing this if you think it might stress or upset them.
- Don’t be afraid to stop speakers from dominating. This doesn’t have to be a big issue. For example, you could say: ‘Thank you for being so keen to share, but can we hear from others as well?’
3. What can you do to build an inclusive environment from the beginning of the training?
Developing ‘training norms’ at the start of training lets everyone know what is appropriate behaviour. Participants feel involved in the process and respected by you. It also means that if any participants behave inappropriately, you can point to the list of training norms and say that they agreed to them.
When making the list, ask the group to brainstorm and give ideas on how the sessions should work. They can discuss in small groups, and then feed back to the whole group. However, remember that as the trainer you have the final say. The norms must reflect the kind of training environment that you want.
Make sure that the norms include:
- freedom to share a point of view without interruption
- respect for each other
- full participation for everyone.
You can even get participants to sign the training norms list to make it more official.
4. How do you make sure everyone has an opportunity to participate and speak freely during the training?
Here are some strategies to do this.
a. Activities which encourage group work: Use pair and group work before holding discussions in the main group. This gives everyone an opportunity to talk to at least one person.
b. Change group leaders regularly: Don’t let groups choose a leader and let that person do all the feedback. Choose a leader at the beginning of each activity, or let the group choose a different leader each time. This way, more people are given a voice.
c. Avoid repetitive feedback: If groups are giving feedback after a discussion, encourage the group leaders to add only information that has not yet been shared. This allows more time for sharing. However, make sure you rotate the order in which the groups share.
d. Select specific participants to answer questions: Don’t rely on the few who raise their hands first to answer the questions as these will often be the dominant members. You can include everyone by:
- selecting names from a list
- drawing names from a bag
- saying only people whose names start with a specific letter may answer
- asking the oldest or youngest person in the group to give feedback
- asking for people wearing a particular colour to answer.
e. Provide different types of feedback: Don’t always expect oral feedback – sometimes it can be a drawing, a role play, a song or a piece of writing. This also includes different learning styles.
5. What challenges do you anticipate in developing an inclusive training environment? What could you do, and what could you say to participants, to minimise these?
As the trainer, it is important to anticipate challenges by identifying the different hierarchies in your group. Here are some challenges you might face.
- Male teachers who don’t give female teachers an equal opportunity to speak: As a trainer, select people to answer questions, lead groups, etc., making sure to include different numbers of men and women.
- Senior officials who use the training sessions to ‘show how much they know’: It’s important to acknowledge the presence of officials and emphasise that they are participating and learning like everyone else. Keep the training on track by sticking to the topics and timings. This should help you include all the teachers; you may have to speak privately to anyone who tries to take over.
- Teachers who are too shy to speak in front of officials and school management members: Ask for a lot of examples of how the training applies to the classrooms of the participants. Emphasise how extremely important classroom teachers are. Ask for their advice on challenges that the training highlights.
What changes are you going to make in your training sessions to make them more inclusive?
This is up to you. Building an inclusive training environment starts with you. Make sure that you keep being inclusive at the forefront of your mind while planning and implementing.