Social learning experiences, like cohorts, communities, and social learning networks, create spaces that can support organizational efforts to be inclusive.
Just sticking people in a room-- whether that room is physical or virtual-- will not do the work of helping them feel connected or the much harder work of repairing relationships.
You need to create genuine opportunities for allyship and cooperation.
So let's talk about how to do just that.
Take the spotlight off the facilitator.
As Robert Cialdini points out in his book, Influence, we learned in school that to do well we had to compete for our teacher's attention, perform for praise. Young kids practically jump over each other trying to show the teacher they know the answer or bluffing to appear to have done the work. Then, the teacher calls on one of those eager students and publicly judges their response.
Quite frankly, work meetings and corporate instructor-led training isn't all that different.
The facilitator stands in the front of the room, runs their slideshow, and occasionally asks for reactions or does a quick quizzing to assess the room's ability for understanding. The participants who speak most during these sessions are often seen as intelligent or high-performing. They get more opportunities.
Unfortunately, both of these situations reinforce many of the social power dynamics that we recognize are counterproductive to a thriving society, like racism, classicism, and ablism.
So the first step to making your training better is to stop making the facilitator the "sage on the stage" in instructor-led sessions.
And stop putting your moderators at the center of every conversation in online learning communities.
Give 'em their lines.
You can shine the spotlight on your audience by creating an environment where plays a part in solving a common problem. Ellito Aronson's concept of the jigsaw classroom gives us one way to do this. With jigsaw learning, each participant has a bit of information that the others will need to find a solution.
Jigsaw learning can be incredibly powerful. When everyone has their own role to play, cooperation becomes a necessity. It helps to call people in, even those who are shy or reluctant.
And in these environments, allyships can form, the kinds that help people to see the value in others who may be unlike themselves and improve the chances of breaking typical social divides (Aronson & Gonzalez, 1988; Nalls & Wickerd, 2022; Williams, 2004). While you certainly have other elements that will impact the building of these kind of relationships, jigsaw learning is a way to start making space for them.
Go from performer to stage hand.
Put your faciliator in the role of the stage hand rather than the leading actor. Rather than delivering all of the content, they can:
explain the expectations for participation and the purpose for the group meeting to keep everyone aligned
encourage connection with preplanned question guides (not scripts, just suggestions) and activities
offer rubrics to help audience members self-assess
offer strategies for delivering meaningful peer feedback -- because not everyone knows how to do that or how to do that in a new context
praise positive behavior (Weigel, Weiser, Cook, 1975)
respond to inappropriate behavior and moderate when necessary without overly policing the group
connect participants to resources aligned to their goals and needs
When the curtain closes on your training, if you're putting the actions above into practice, you're going to see something amazing happen:
the audience will be buzzing, maybe even cheering
the audience will keep talking about the training for weeks
the audience will REMEMBER the things they learned because it's staying top of mind as a result of the emotional experience of solving a problem AND the continued conversation about the topic
the audience may ask for an encore-- Just image the shout of the crowd: "One more training. One more training..."
because most of us want to see something produced from our work and we want to feel connected to other humans. And when we do, we feel the experience was valuable. And perhaps most importantly, we want to share it.
Ready to ignite innovation and collaboration through training?