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Designing Training for Multicultural Learners
Part Eight: Teaching Multicultural Classes

by: Dawn Zintel

In Part Seven, I completed the guidelines for development and evaluation of multicultural learning. In Part Eight I will address the acculturalization of training through a collaborative instructional systems process.

Acculturalization of Training
In their book, "Global Human Resource Development", Michael Marquardt and Dean Engel define acculturalization as the conveying of the ideas, content and objectives of a training program across cultural boundaries to assure that the training is "user-friendly". They go on to say that an acculturalized training program has as few roadblocks for the learner as possible.

One way to make sure your programs are acculturalized is to use a collaborative instructional systems model. Let's take a look at how that process works according to each step of the model.

Needs Analysis
Because of the many differences in each culture, you should expect to spend much more time in this phase. In order that you don't lose face in some cultures by admitting that you don't know what is needed, you will find it beneficial to work with local HRD and training staff. This will also help with people in cultures which value agreement and politeness and who will tell you what they think you want to hear.

Task Analysis
There are a couple of things to check out in this step that may influence what you teach. First, you may want to determine if there are standards and testing requirements that have been established by labor ministries. There may be specific regulations for various jobs and occupations. Second, determine which is more important for career advancement - the credential (the actual piece of paper) or knowledge and skills competency. If the credential is more important, developing a competency-based training program based on specific learning objectives could be a fruitless experience.

The most important task in this step is to study the cultural learning styles to determine how the trainees will learn best: trainer-centered or learner-centered programs. Also, be aware of the allotment of time for training. What may be accomplished in one day in the U.S. may take two days in another country.

In previous articles, I provided you guidelines on development of culturally-sensitive training materials. However, there are more steps that can be taken to assure acculturalization. Tracy Sheehan and Kate Murray in an article "The Art of Training Abroad" (Training and Development Journal, 11/90), outline an eight step course of action:

  1. Local instructors and a translator, ideally someone who is bicultural, observe a pilot program and/or examine written training materials.

  2. The educational designer then debriefs the observation with the translator, curriculum writer, and local instructors.

  3. Together they examine the structure and sequence, ice breaker, and materials.

  4. They identify stories, metaphors, experiences, and examples in this culture which might fit the new training program.

  5. The educational designer and curriculum writer make changes in the training materials.

  6. The local instructors are trained to use the materials.

  7. Materials are printed only after the designer, translator, and native-language trainers are satisfied.

  8. The language and content of the training materials are tested with a pilot group.

Here are some guidelines for the trainer to appear credible and effective when delivering training to another culture. These are a summary of language and culture guidelines from Marquardt and Engels' work:

  • Try to learn a few basic courtesy phrases in the language of the trainees.
  • Learn and use the culture's body language and nonverbal cues (this should be a priority.)
  • Avoid colloquialisms or jargon unless you define and explain them.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Use visuals as often as possible.
  • Reinforce key points and ask trainees to restate them.
  • Allow extra time for the training.
  • Encourage trainees to speak and reinforce them when they do.
  • Distribute training materials in advance whenever possible in order that trainees can be better prepared to learn.
  • Be patient and listen carefully.
  • At the beginning of the program, address the cultural differences. Ask for forgiveness of any blunders you might make, and ask them to provide cultural feedback to you.
  • Explain your expectations of yourself, them, and your interactions. Be specific about behavior rules (how you want to be addressed, how you will address them.)
  • Be sensitive to local educational customs and learning habits.
  • Create a climate and expectation that trainees can ask questions without fear of offending the trainer or appearing foolish if they make mistakes.
  • Be comfortable with silences. This may be a cultural habit or it may mean they are taking time to translate and assimilate the content.
  • Recognize that trainees may base their responses on what they think you want rather than what they actually believe or feel.

Marquardt and Engel provide some excellent guidelines for acculturalization when designing the evaluation strategy. Here is a summary of their points:

  • Appoint a steering committee which forwards comments from trainees to the instructor at the end of each day.
  • Designate a person who is perceived as a leader to whom the trainees can provide feedback on the progress of the course at any time.
  • Have training team members from the local culture gather the data.
  • Design an evaluation form that asks for improving what is going well.
  • Plan to spend time following up with trainees individually.
  • Design opportunities for participants to demonstrate competency.

This article is the last one in which I will present content on a new topic. Hopefully, this overview of the collaborative instructional systems process will help you plan your next training project for multicultural learners. In Part Nine, I will end this series with a bibliography so that you can continue your multicultural learning adventure.

©1993, 1998, 2002, Dawn E. Zintel

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