As diverse as we are racially, ethnically and culturally, we are also very diverse in how we learn. When we train, facilitate or write guides, we should pay attention to different learning styles. For example, some people need graphs and charts to understand information, and others need a written explanation. Still others need to hear a presentation. Some people thrive in a group setting, while others need time for self-reflection. There may also be various levels of literacy or English-language skills within groups.
To develop discussion materials that will make your dialogues more inclusive of varying learning styles and literacy levels:
1. Add color and graphics to highlight important information.
Your materials are probably filled with a lot of text, so using color and graphics can help highlight the important points. Also, plenty of white space can help people digest the information more quickly.
2. Use simple language.
It’s always good practice to avoid run-on sentences, but you should also watch out for difficult terms and jargon. Think to yourself, “How would I explain this to my 10-year-old neighbor?” Using simple language will help everyone better understand the process, especially people with lower literacy levels or for whom English is not their first language.
3. Define vocabulary.
If you can’t avoid using certain terms, create a glossary or define difficult words in the sidebars. For concepts that may be hard to define or that may have multiple definitions, you can invite dialogue participants to have a discussion about the terms if there is disagreement among the group.
4. Include an audio option as a guide supplement.
Since some people absorb information more quickly through hearing the information instead of reading it, you might want to consider including an audio CD or links to podcasts with your guide. The entire guide doesn’t need to have an audio component, but having an audio component for the introduction and key concepts for each session would be a useful addition to your guide.
5. Use an animated visual, like a comic strip, to explain the process.
This helps visual learners to quickly understand key concepts and helps cut down the time needed for explanations.
6. Provide alternatives for visual information.
Whenever you present a graph or chart, also include a verbal explanation for the information you are presenting. This allows people to absorb the information in a way that’s easiest for them.
7. Translate materials.
In your dialogue groups you may have people who don’t speak any English. If you have the resources, consider translating materials into the most widely used language(s) in your community. If you can’t translate the entire discussion guide, another option is to create handouts for each session that could be translated into other languages.
8. Include activities that allow for physical movement.
This increases interactivity, but also helps take into consideration learning styles that call for more physical interaction.
9. Include activities in which participants can role play/ switch roles.
These activities not only help make the discussions more interactive, but they also help participants experience an issue from a different perspective.
10. Allow time for reflection.
Set aside a few minutes at the end of a session for journaling or self-reflection for those people who need a few moments to process information.