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.
Recognise and value diversity among teachers
1. Think about groups of teachers you’ve trained. What did you know about the teachers? Were they similar to or different from each other? How did it affect the way you trained?
In every training session the participants are diverse, even if they may initially seem to have many similarities. For example, participants may:
- be male or female
- speak different languages – some of these languages may be dominant and some minority
- come from different cultural/ethnic groups – these groups may be seen as having different statuses
- be different ages
- have a lot or little teaching experience
- have travelled a long way to get to the training, while others live nearby
- be attending the training by choice, while others may have been sent by the school or education authority
- have preferred methods of learning
- like to work with others, while others like to work on their own.
Before training, try and discover as much as you can about the participants. This will help you prepare better and deliver more effective training.
2. What are some strategies you can use to find out more about the teachers you’re training?
There are several ways you can build up a profile of the teachers you are training. For example, at the beginning of the training allow teachers to introduce themselves, e.g. where they teach, what subject, how they want to benefit from this training. Make sure that all teachers get a chance to speak and not just the dominant ones.
When you have a large training group, you won’t have time to do this. Try some of these strategies instead.
- Hand out a ‘passport’ to teachers and ask them to fill in information about themselves.
- Allow participants to introduce themselves in pairs. Each person then briefly introduces their partner to the group.
- Play a circle game where teachers give one piece of information about themselves and others try and remember it.
- In small groups, ask teachers to make a poster which tells others about their group members using pictures and key words. Look at the posters at the end of the session to collect the information you need.
3. What types of activities can help accommodate diverse learning styles within a group?
The most important thing is not to rely on a ‘chalk and talk’ or ‘listen and sit’ method. Trainees – like learners – will quickly become bored. You need to use a wide variety of activities of different styles in your training sessions. In any session you should use a mixture of strategies. For example:
- link academic research/theory to the teachers’ own experiences
- design pair and small group activities that involve discussion
- use visual cues like posters to teach new points
- use storytelling and role play
- ask teachers to give feedback on what they have learned in different ways, e.g. give an oral presentation, draw pictures or make posters, act out a scenario, teach a song
- present problems to solve rather than giving the information first.
4. How can you show your trainees that you value the diversity of your group?
As the trainer, it is important to show the teachers how valuable having a diverse group is. You need to model this so that teachers can act in a similar way with their own learners. Here are three ways you can do this.
a. Build a positive training environment: Every participant should feel valued and important. Remember that you are dealing with adults and not children, so treat teachers as your peers. Where possible, learn and use the teachers’ names. If it is a large group, ask everyone to wear a name tag or have a paper with their name on the table in front of them. Choose different people to answer questions and not just the ones who are loud or dominant. You should also affirm all answers, even if you don’t agree with them – e.g. say: ‘Thanks for your comment, what do others think?’ If you need to correct an answer, do it with respect – e.g. ‘I’m not sure that’s what the text says. If you look at …’
b. Celebrate the similarities and differences between participants: Talk about the things we have in common and also where we differ. You could ask new teachers to share their hopes and ambitions, and then ask experienced teachers to share what they have learned over the years. Ask female and male teachers questions in equal measure. Celebrate any cultural differences that are obvious. Of course, you have to be sensitive when discussing such things, but it’s important to openly discuss them rather than hide them away.
c. You may need to think about your personal bias: For example, do you prefer to work with teachers who are more mature? How do you relate to younger teachers who are more likely to argue with you? Imagine what it’s like to be in your training session, and be as fair and balanced as you can.
5. What challenges do you anticipate in training diverse participants? What could you do, and what could you say to participants, to minimise these?
As the trainer, it is important to anticipate challenges that might arise by looking at the profile of your group that you have drawn up.
Here are some of the challenges you might face.
- Teachers are reluctant to get to know people who are from different schools and communities: Use different grouping techniques to get the teachers into new groups. Repeat this more than once during the training. This way, you make it possible for teachers to get to know others without too much difficulty. ‘Mingle’ and ‘onion ring’ are useful strategies for getting people to work together for the first time.
- Younger teachers are impatient with older teachers, while older teachers dismiss any ideas which younger teachers share: From the beginning of the session, make sure that you ask both new and experienced teachers to share ideas. Discuss these ideas, showing the merits of both. Where possible make groups with both new and experienced teachers in them.
- Men and women are reluctant to work in mixed groups: This may be a cultural issue and you will need to be sensitive to this. However, don’t assume that this is the reason. Use your normal grouping strategies if possible.
- Different cultural groups approach issues such as discipline in different ways: Have open and frank discussions on the opposing views. However, there are some issues for which there are no ‘grey areas’, e.g. corporal punishment, sexual approaches to learners, and violence at school. Make your stand clear from the very beginning. Make sure you are able to control the discussion, and don’t allow any name calling or aggression. As the trainer you need to know when to stop a discussion which is going nowhere.
What changes are you going to make in your training sessions to make them more diverse?
This is up to you. You need to be sure of yourself – even if you are very different from the group you are training. See the diversity as a challenge and not as a problem. Enjoy learning about diverse teachers as you work with them.