A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute
The A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE
Institute Workshop Framework
The above learning principles and research guide the development of every A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute training program. Workshop trainers employ a variety of facilitation techniques that stress the importance of participation, interaction and constructivist learning. Workshops vary greatly, however the following conceptual framework underlies most agendas.
Introduction: Introductory activities are designed to create an environment for participants to explore the context for the workshop and expectations for the day. Typically an introduction includes background information about ADL, and goals and objectives of the workshop, linking the goals of the workshop to the institution's own mission.
Establishing The Environment: Creating an environment where participants feel comfortable expressing differing opinions, beliefs and viewpoints is critical to the success of anti-bias program.
A frequently used exercise to establish this environment is ROPES. In this activity a facilitator writes the words "Ground Rules" on the top of a piece of chart paper and writes the letters "R-O-P-E-S" down the left hand side of the page. The facilitator gives a rationale to the group, explaining that just as ropes can be used as a safety net, discussion guidelines, "the ROPES", generated and agreed-upon by the group, can provide a measure of safety for people participating in the workshop. Participants offer words beginning with each of the five letters, providing an explanation to the group regarding their choices. The facilitator records everyone's words on the chart paper, after which all groups members are asked to agree to be responsible for not only abiding by "the ROPES", but also for taking responsibility to see that everyone in the group also adheres to the groundrules throughout the workshop. This simple collaborative project that sets the tone for the rest of the day, and gives workshop participants some measure of control over their learning environment.
Identity: These activities provide participants with opportunities to examine their own identities and belief systems and to explore how their attitudes and behaviors are shaped by their backgrounds including their race1, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and other cultural and societal factors. In one such exercise, Four Questions, participants are asked to think about and discuss the following:
1. If I had to describe myself in terms of my heritage in four words I would say I am a: _____,________,________,__________.
2. One time that I was very aware that I was at least one of those words
3. One thing that makes me feel proud about being at least one of these four words is:________________________.
4. One thing that is difficult or embarrassing about being one of these four words is:__________________.
In small groups participants discuss the four questions while a facilitator creates a composite list of all responses from all participants to the first question. When the composite list of descriptors is written on chart paper, the facilitator selects several of the words and reads them aloud, one by one, inviting participants to stand as each word is called if the word applies to them. The composite list accomplishes a number of objectives. First, it reveals that there is diversity represented in the room, even in groups that, at first glance, appear to be homogeneous. In that way the exercise helps to define the word "diversity" broadly. In addition, seeing all the descriptors makes obvious the fact that there are a wide variety of words used to describe cultural identity groups. For example "Black" and "African American" are not the same, and it is important for to be sensitive to people's right to name themselves. Another important aspect of this exercise is that it provides an opportunity for participants to discuss feelings associated with being a member of a group that is part of the dominant culture in society and feelings associated with identifying oneself as a member of a subordinate or numerical minority group in society.
Language: Language activities provide opportunities for participants to define key concepts and terms related to diversity and bias. In this segment of the workshop participants identify manifestations of various forms of bigotry in their personal and professional lives. Many people define prejudice in terms of individual actions without including the societal and institutional components of such behavior. In ADL programs "prejudice" is defined as both personal and institutional, and defining key words is a core component of workshops. ADL's definition of an institutional "ism" is prejudice against a group or individual, supported, sanctioned, legitimized or reinforced by society. Such "isms" include, but are not limited to, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, ageism, heterosexism, ableism and classism. During the Language segment of the workshop participants working in small groups identify both personal and institutional manifestations of various "isms."
Examining Bias: Cultural diversity and anti-bias activities explore current demographics and cultural norms operating in the United States. Research has shown that the first critical step in addressing prejudice is for people to come to terms with their own unconscious stereotyping and the damage it can do (Allport 1987). One method facilitators use to address this concept in workshops is posing a question to participants: regarding a negative message they remember hearing or "learning" when they were growing up about a cultural group different from their own. Facilitators ask participants to share what they remember with one other person in the workshop. Following the dyad discussions the facilitator elicits from all participants the sources of the messages e.g. parents, teachers, media, neighborhood, religious institutions, etc. This process allows participants to see that everyone has been affected by negative messages. Establishing this concept removes some of the onus from participants for having learned these "bad" things, and it decreases the need for defensiveness on the part of workshop participants. Additionally, this exercise allows workshop participants to see that biased messages and thinking are pervasive and very much a part of the status quo of United States society.
Assessment: Personal and institutional assessment and action planning exercises encourage participants to determining necessary steps to make their classrooms inclusive and their schools bias-free.
Several workshop exercises provide educators with methods to explore their school's environment. The following are sample questions from an assessment vehicle in which participants are asked to rate the extent to which their school has examined procedures and practices related to understanding diversity and promoting positive intergroup relations.
Evaluation: Workshop evaluations are used to provide closure to individual workshop sessions and to provide critical feedback to facilitators about the content and process of workshops. Evaluations are also used to generate recommendations sent to school administrators in a workshop report.
1 Within the workshop setting, trainers will discuss with participants the fact that "race" is a social, rather than biological construct. They will also make the important distinction that despite the fact that race is socially constructed, racism is a real entity in society.