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3 Effective Ways towards ‘Doing Diversity Differently’

There have been lots of articles and media interest recently suggesting that Diversity training isn’t working. Big corporations spend huge amounts on ‘training’ their workforce in Diversity issues, only to find that they’re not getting the results they’d hoped for. This article considers why this might be, and then it goes on to highlight the ways in which our Musicbuds’ courses are streamlined to produce successful, long-standing and life-changing results for all our participants!

WHY ARE THESE EXPENSIVE COURSES NOT WORKING WELL?

It’s not as if there isn’t a need for some sort of successful Diversity training! Take this as an example: in 2016/17, researchers from Oxford University sent out around 3,200 job applications for both manual and non-manual jobs in response to job adverts posted by a recruitment site. The completed applications were identical apart from the applicant’s name, which was based on one of several varying ethnic backgrounds.

The results showed that ‘British citizens from ethnic minority backgrounds have to send, on average, 60% more job applications to get a positive response from employers compared to their white counterparts’.

a group of diverse children holding hands and dancing and singing in a circle

So if the need is there, why is the training not producing the required results?

Well, researchers have reviewed many studies that consider just how successful Diversity training is. Here’s a description of some of those studies and a few of the findings:

In 2018, The Equality and Human Rights Commission undertook a study of 18 research papers called ‘Unconscious bias training: An Assessment of the evidence for effectiveness’ where one of the authors, Dr Doyin Atewologun – states that unconscious bias and diversity training is ‘usually part of the employee induction and lasts about 30 minutes to an hour’.

Then in 2019, Professor Edward Chang undertook a Harvard study and found that ‘our results suggest that the sorts of one-off trainings that are commonplace in organisations are not particularly effective at leading to long-lasting behaviour change.’

Following that, in 2020, the psychologist Patrick Forscher conducted a systematic review of 492 studies into unconscious bias and diversity training. (This included more than 87,000 participants overall). He concluded that the training favoured by large corporations and institutions doesn’t work. This type of ’short-term’ training (over the course of a few hours) wasn’t associated with long term changes in the behaviours of individuals.

According to two recent research studies, a high quality Diversity training needs:

  • to be delivered over a prolonged period of time and ideally have some ongoing support and follow-up for the participants. There needs to be a realisation that Diversity awareness is embedded within a developing personal practice rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all, tick-box’ exercise
  • the training needs to be multi-faceted: It should contain practical and interactive elements that support and complement the theory – participants need to view the issue from a variety of marginalised perspectives – they need to ‘walk in another’s shoes’. They need to understand the origins of stereotyping and unconscious bias in order to eliminate defensive behaviours and attitudes
  • it should also include a self-reflective element so that participants can (i) recognise the aspects of their own behaviours which may be biased and (ii) take ownership of their own journey towards improvement

All these points reinforce our approach, because our carefully crafted ‘Simple Steps to Diversity Awareness’ for teachers and carers of 3 – 7 year olds ticks all these bullet points!

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Our aim, in offering these courses is, simply, to make a positive difference one little step, or one simple song, at a time!

So what are the 3 Effective Ways to ‘Doing Diversity Differently’?

Taking the three bullet points above as our framework, we’ll now briefly itemise the way that our approach takes Diversity training (primarily for teachers and carers of 3 – 7 year olds) to both a higher, and deeper, level.

  1. Our courses ARE delivered over a prolonged period of time (- 6 teaching weeks for each single course or 12 teaching weeks for the combined course – with the option of extending your personal study time beyond that if you find you need it). There is plenty of ongoing support in the form of discussion opportunities within the course itself, live weekly/fortnightly coaching calls with the Musicbuds team members and further follow-ups (such as peer mentoring) for the participants. And, we take the time to demonstrate (using practical activities throughout the course) that Diversity awareness IS embedded within your own developing personal practice rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all, tick-box’ exercise. We understand that every person, and every setting, is unique.
  2. Our training IS multi-faceted: It contains practical elements in the form of worksheets, quizzes and personal reflection, and immediate interactive elements, such as suggestions to take away and use in your own settings, that support and complement the theory. Participants ARE encouraged all the way through the course that they need to view the issue from a variety of marginalised perspectives – they need practise to ‘walk in another’s shoes’. We explain and chart the origins of stereotyping and unconscious bias, and demonstrate how these often result in negative types of strident and confrontational defensive behaviours and attitudes, and we offer strategies and suggestions for how to reframe and/or eliminate such reactions.
  3. Because all our lessons follow a ‘Read’ ‘Relate’ ‘Reflect’ framework, the self-reflective element of our approach runs through the course just like lettering through a stick of rock! We guide our participants through the ways in which they can; ‘(i) recognise the aspects of their own behaviours which may be biased and (ii) take ownership of their own journey towards improvement’ but furthermore, we offer mindful ways of doing so, in order to instil confidence and trust in our participants rather than feelings of guilt, anxiety and fear when they realise they may be complicit in prejudicial behaviours.

Our aim, in offering these courses, is not to make bucket-loads of money. It is, simply, to make a positive difference one little step, or one simple song, at a time!

Dr Clare Seymour
Clare has spent much of her professional career (over 30 years) in international settings. Part of her Doctoral research involved exploring the often hidden aspects of institutional racism. As a result she has a longstanding interest in, and passion for, promoting positive Diversity.

In addition to school music-teaching, Clare also has over 10 years’ experience working as an international music examiner – an understanding and respect for Diversity is so crucially important in every aspect of her practice.