The focus on diversity has never been greater than it is today. The growth of the Special Needs Population has raised awareness in the corporate environment that this awareness has grown past the moral idea of the “right thing to do” to the “right thing for business”. With a minimum of the sales pie exceeding 20% of the total population it is not a market share to be ignored. The Racial/Ethnic population is continuing to grow with the Latino population in California eclipsing the 50% mark in 2014 with a national projection of this occurring in 2040. These two shifts have created a huge focus in corporate America in both areas of customer and employee relations. Diversity and Social Inclusion training is essential for corporate America today and in the foreseeable future.
Before AIAB included social constructionist and post-modern ideas into programs and events, past clients were interviewed for feedback. The AIAB analysis sought to make sure that these ideas would not offend clients. Not only did AIAB receive universal approval of the ideas, concepts and approaches, but also something else was noticed. All of the people interviewed were decision-makers and people of color. We believe this is great news. Our assumption is that people of color have in the past been on the outside seeking social inclusion and now that they are on the inside they will strive to make sure social inclusion happens.
AIAB programs are unique and innovative. It is experiential and fun. While it specifically focuses on the symptoms of autism, the training applies the learning more broadly to the total population. To the best of our knowledge, no other program is even similar to our approach. The statistical data illustrates that the training is not only effective but also enjoyable and life changing.
AIAB delivered programs to more than 2000 employees. Easter Seals Southern California has embraced AIAB to provide trainings for Vons/Safeway, one of their treasured national sponsors. 225 Vons store managers and assistant managers have been trained by AIAB under the Easter Seals brand and the results are very positive. AIAB has trained approximately 700 Los Angeles Police Department uniformed officers as part of their Autism Symposium Days. The Los Angeles Unified School District leaders in the Special Education Department have also successfully been trained by AIAB.
The focus on diversity and inclusion has never been greater than it is today, and it is imperative that this focus begins at an early age. The world is becoming increasingly interconnected; people of different backgrounds, beliefs and cultures are increasingly interacting and working together across borders and barriers. As a result of these changing boundaries and philosophies, U.S. classrooms are becoming more and more diverse. There is a growing movement to see special Education students taught in inclusionary rather than separate settings. Classrooms are rich with a diverse cultural, religious and racial makeup. As a response to these changes within schools, there has also been a change in the way students need to be taught. With a national call to action to develop 21st century learners, there is an increased focus on communication and collaboration, creativity and innovation, and problem solving and critical-thinking. Interdisciplinary experiences that combine social education, art education and real-world problem-solving will help build the 21st century learners that are essential for the world of today and tomorrow
Businesses, non-profits, governmental and other organizations are finding it necessary to adopt a diverse and innovative mindset in order to remain viable and relevant in the modern workplace. As organizations recognize the importance of developing greater interpersonal and inclusion competence, diversity practitioners continue to be at the helm spearheading this work. This makes sense, as these professionals have long been engaged in helping individuals and organizations manage and leverage difference in ways that allow people with varied backgrounds and abilities to hear and be heard, understand and be understood, and work together productively
AIAB programs improve hiring, accountability, teambuilding, innovation, trust, productivity, and communication in the modern workplace and schools.
AIAB’s Diversity Training Experience creates an outcome that provides participants a greater motivation to include people of difference into their professional and personal lives resulting in a positive approach to diversity in their workplace and personal lives.
AIAB’s Facilitator Certification Program creates an outcome of leveraging the Diversity Training Experience to more organizations. Organizations can utilize AIAB or in-house trainers under this program.
AIAB’s Workplace Consulting Program provides an in depth understanding of diversity in the modern workplace paving the way for customized diversity plans that reflect each organization’s needs resulting in outcomes of sustainability and ROI.
AIAB’s Social Creative Curriculum thru the media of art provides children with the same approach to diversity as the adult programs creating an outcome of social inclusion.
AIAB’s Inclusion Event allows organizations to leverage the Diversity Training Experience to larger populations at one time. Peer to peer training produces outcomes of credibility, empowerment, positive roll modeling, and cost-effectiveness. The Inclusion Event also produces outcomes of increased revenue and attraction of “casual fans” at sporting events.
Awareness in a Box® (AIAB) is committed to educating people in societies throughout the world to understand, respect, and accept people of different backgrounds for the purpose of creating an inclusive world by providing experiential trainings and events resulting in a shift from judgment of to celebration of people’s differences. In order to meet this mission, AIAB’s foundational educational material has been grounded in best practices not only for knowledge transfer, but also for cultural and paradigm shifts within the organizations to which it presents. AIAB couples this evidenced based foundation with a solid philosophical positioning utilizing cutting edge psychological theories and corresponding values to create a more inclusive world.
Learning is a journey and AIAB acknowledges it as such. However for a participant to commit to taking this journey and the hard work that it may entail there must be a hook that starts them on this path. Lee Shulman’s Taxonomy of Learning (2002) describes the process of moving from initial engagement to the development of commitment where people become “…capable of professing [their] understandings and [their] values, [their] faith and [their] love, [their] skepticism and [their] doubts, internalizing these attributes and making them integral to their identities.” It is this very type of commitment by the participants in an AIAB training that is required to insure the end goal of inclusion for those who are of varying degrees of ability.
Participation on the AIAB journey begins with engaging and motivating speakers, activities and discussions that open the door to greater knowledge and understanding. This directly corresponds with the first two phases of the AIAB continuum (Figure 2). As participants move from baseline knowledge and understanding, they will be better equipped for the behaviors and reflection required for a reshaping of beliefs during the acceptance and inclusion phases of learning journey.
Ultimately, at its root AIAB seeks to create a “perspective transformation” in which participants benefit from the learning process by examining their understandings of themselves and the people around them while incorporating a broader more inclusive viewpoint that empowers them to take action to change and resolve past limitations (Mezirow, 1981).
AIAB states that meaningful learning occurs when it is constructed through experiential learning modalities. AIAB trainers are not deliverers of information, but rather facilitators that allow participants knowledge and understanding to be born (von Glasersfeld, 1995). However, experiential delivery is one means of delivering meaningful authentic experiences. At the core of AIAB’s foundational instructional materials, there is a focus on experiential learning that accesses authentic, real-world contexts where multiple perspectives are valued and lauded; these types of experiences are the hallmarks of constructivist learning (Murphy, 1997; Jonassen, 1991). As many of the audiences for AIAB will primarily consist of adult learners, this constructivist focus on real-world contexts and approaches to problem-solving is apt and more likely to create meaningful commitment by its participants because of its connection to concepts that “…exist in a person’s cognitive structure” (Jackson, 2009).
Furthermore, AIAB experiences where participants wrestle with diversity concepts and challenges in real-world environments through discussion, simulations and other practical tools are more inclined to “…build a rich implicit understanding of the world in which they use the tools…” in which the learning becomes a “…life-long process resulting from acting in situations.”(Brown, Collins & Duiguid, 1989).
AIAB subscribes to the belief that in order for participants to truly construct understanding, they must be able to piece together the connection between what they are being taught and how they will use the learning in their lifetime.
Experiential learning (EL) methodology, including but not limited to project-based learning, reflective learning and cooperative learning, is a key tool in providing the necessary transfer and connection for this type of deep learning and understanding (Furman and Sibhorp, 2013). It can be argued that the success of EL methodology transforms the experiences of the participants in authentic contexts and as a result leads to learning (Kolb, 1984; Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgarner, 2007). Kolb and Kolb’s (2005) model of experiential learning is broken down into four sub processes including reflective observation, concrete experimentation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation.
These sub processes are at the root of AIAB’s methodology. Participants use key EL methods for reflective observation during fishbowl activities (e.g., Shirt and Socks), which have been shown to allow for meaningful learning (Hoover, J.D., Giambasta, R. & Belkin, L.Y, 2012). Participants benefit from concrete experimentation exercises (e.g., Overloaded) where they actually grapple with the challenges that exist for those with a DIFFRABILITY ™. Exercises where abstract conceptualization occur (e.g. Water Bottle Exercise) promote the use of higher order thinking skills necessary for long term and deeper understanding (Bloom, 1956). Finally, participants work together in active experimentation experiences (e.g., Empowerment) in order to assess their workplace and create potential policy change to provide more acceptance and inclusion. With EL at its core, AIAB is committed to creating deep and meaningful learning for transfer.
AIAB begins its instructional seminars with the powerful story of one of its founders. Woven throughout the course of the participant experience are the opportunities for personal narratives to be shared both by the presenters and by the participants. The use of narrative by design is powerful and allows for an “…atmosphere of motivational learning to exist in the classroom….” due to the “…mutual sharing of personal experiences, values, beliefs and course content…” (Abrahamson, 2011). However, it is more than the goal of motivation that lies behind this intentional use of personal narratives.
At its root, humans have “basic stories or deep structures” that allow for the internalization and ordering of experience and create a “bridge of understanding between one another” (Herrnstein-Smith, 1978; Scholes, 1981; Maguire, 1998). As Mink (1978) powerfully points out, “Narrative can be described as a primary and irreducible form of human comprehension, which is a defining characteristic and human intelligence and of the human species...helpful in the comprehension and application of new knowledge.”
Throughout its instructional seminars, AIAB uses narrative hooks both from the facilitators and the participants in order to foster the very comprehension and application required for cultural shifts to inclusion of a diverse population.
Connection between the AIAB facilitator and the participant was of the utmost importance when developing the educational foundation for AIAB materials. Critical questioning serves not only as a means for connecting the facilitator and the participant through discussion, but serves as a means to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate the complex and ever-changing world with an aim for inclusion. Questioning is a critical means for facilitators to discover baseline information about participants such as interests, perspectives, preconceived notions or biases, as well as for introducing new material and fostering analytic and exploratory discussion (Paul & Elder, 2008.)
Questioning is not a novel approach to instructional design; indeed, the Socratic questioning has been used for centuries. However, while this method may seem unremarkable on its surface because of its frequent use, it is important to underscore it as a means for developing the necessary critical thinking skills required to tackle situations without clear cut answers, such as those where people wrestle with issues of diversity. Questioning is a significant tool for developing the reflective, creative and evaluative skills that are hallmarks of higher order thinking skills (Qatipi, 2011). Discussion prompted by critical questioning can create the “…disciplined executive level of thinking, a powerful inner voice of reason to monitor, assess and reconstitute, in a more rational direction, our thinking, feeling and action (Elder & Paul, 1998). AIAB considers development of these thinking skills as vital for they will serve as critical tools for participants as they work towards acceptance and inclusion of a diverse world around them.
AIAB states that in order to meet participants where they are for greatest impact and learning, there is a fundamental need for instructional design to respond to the cultures of participants. At the root of this philosophy is the Motivational Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching, a framework that inseparably links individual motivation with culture (Wldokowski and Ginsberg, 1995). Therefore, there is requirement to develop instruction in a manner that honors the ideals of “establishing inclusion, developing attitudes, and enhancing meaning and engendering competence.”
When these four elements are present in educational design, participants are far more inclined to act as active and intrinsically motivated learners (Wlodkowski, 1999). Beyond motivation lies AIAB’s desire to create a safe and caring environments for learners where facilitators pay attention to and teacher in a manner that matches instruction to the learning styles of diverse learners (Gay, 2002). AIAB prides itself on building sensitivity, acceptance and inclusion in its participants, but also on modeling these qualities throughout its instructional seminars through words and actions.
While many programs focus on either character development or art, AIAB has chosen to integrate these two areas in order to allow students to develop greater meaning making around the AIAB conceptual tenets while helping students integrate new understandings about others into their belief system. From a cognitive perspective, learning integrated into art allows students to access higher ordered thinking skills including, but not limited to, “…problem solving skills, creative thinking skills, evaluation skills, adaptation, assimilation, and association skills which are vital in a child’s ability to apply the information that is taught...” (Scott, Harper & Boggan, 2012).
Learning through art experiences has been demonstrated to provide a means for students to build a shared understanding of community issues (Brouilette, 2010). Arts have been demonstrated to allow students to reflect upon their own belief systems and to provide validation of their understandings of society and culture (Binder & Kotsopoulo, 2010). This cultural understanding built through art education extends to that citizenship, community and human relationships (Hyunksook, 2014). There is an empathy born from learning through art, as well. Students who participate in learning integrated in art may develop a keener sense of the thoughts and feelings of others as communicated through artwork (Hadjiyanni, 2014). As students develop this empathy and attentiveness to the perspectives of other through artwork, they are more likely to understand the complexities of the idea of culture (Hadjiyanni, 2014). AIAB’s integrated character development uses art purposefully to allow students to better explore the concepts of community, identity and culture.
AIAB also recognizes that there are two schools of thought in regards to how shifts in belief and behavior occur. AIAB sees the relationship between behavior and belief as reflexive. There are times where behaviors can be an agent of persuasive change in belief, however it is those very changes in belief that lead to a change in behavior. AIAB’s curriculum is designed to honor this reflexive relationship between behavior and belief.
Theoretical Underpinning Matrix
|CONSTRUCTING UNDERSTANDING||NARRATIVE HOOKS||EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING||CRITICAL QUESTIONING||CULTURAL RESPONSIVE|
|SAFE SPACE: TOGETHER||x|
|TABLE COLLABORATION: ICEBREAKER - SAMENESS/ DIFFFERENCES||x||x||x||x||x|
|WIIFM: BENEFITS OF DIVERSITY AWARENESS||x||x||x|
|YOUR FEELINGS: THE SOURCE||x||x||x|
|SHIRTS 8. SOCKS||x||x||x||x||x|
|A MAGICAL NIGHTS OF SOCIAL INCLUSION||x||x||x|
|SOCIAL INCLUSION & YOU||x||x||x|
|WATER BOTTLE EXERCISE||x||x||x||x||x|
|MULTIPLE TRUTHS. COMMUNITIES AND IDENTITIES||x||x||x||x||x|
|CASE STUDY: AUTISM||x||x||x|
|EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: PHRASE & REPHRASE||x||x||x||x||x|
|EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: OVERLOADED||x||x||x||x||x|
|TABLE COLLABORATION: UNDERSTANDING||x||x||x||x|
|ARREST MY SISTER||x||x||x|
|PAIR SHARE: ACCEPTANCE||x||x||x||x|
|EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: THUMBALL||x||x||x||x||x|
|TABLE COLLABORATION: EMPOWERMENT||x||x||x|
|APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION||x||x||x||x|
Theoretical Underpinning Matrix
|CONSTRUCTING UNDERSTANDING||NARRATIVE HOOKS||EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING||CRITICAL QUESTIONING||CULTURAL RESPONSIVE|
|1. FACES OF DIVERSITY||x||x||x||x||x|
|2. MY CULTURE||x||x||x||x||x|
|3. THE MOST FEROCIOUS ANIMAL||x||x||x||x||x|
|5. MULTIPLE IDENTITIES||x||x||x||x||x|
|6. COMMUNITY DRAFTING||x||x||x||x||x|
|7. COMMUNITY BUILDING||x||x||x||x||x|
|8. SHARING OUR COMMUNITY||x||x||x||x||x|