3 Strategies To Overcome Cultural Barriers Between You and Your Learners

Cultural barriers between providers and community members are well-known for people like you who work in a health-based background. But they also stand between learners and professional training.

Professional development training in the United States, like in many other countries, can sometimes accidentally leave people from different backgrounds feeling left out or disadvantaged.

Training programs may leave out people from other backgrounds due to many reasons, including cultural biases, language barriers, lack of diversity in content, implicit bias, stereotyping and financial constraints.

But your training doesn’t have to be that way. You can take steps to work toward making your training programs more inclusive and fair for people from all backgrounds. Read on to see three strategies you can use to improve training.

Why It’s Important to Overcome Cultural Barriers

Bridging cultural barriers is important if you want your training investment to pay off. Learners need to see how training material connects to them to benefit from courses. If they have the idea that a course is better suited for someone who is completely different from them, they’ll disengage quickly. That will be wasted time and money.

Disengaging because of barriers, cultural or otherwise, kills communication in the course, with team mates, and even could affect your program.

Cultural barriers can lead to less enjoyable time spent together, less trust, less helpful attributions about each other’s motives, and less communication among team members, according to an article published in the Harvard Business Review.

3 Strategies To Overcome Cultural Barriers Between You and Your Learners

  1. Make it easier for learners to get to know each other.
  2. Make assessments easy for everyone to understand.
  3. Provide training in various languages.

1. Make it easier for learners to get to know each other.

Some people think online learning makes it hard to get to know each other. It’s true that in-person training that brings people together over time is a great networking tool.

But it’s totally possible to create community in an online course too. And it’s not that hard.

Build a sense of community among your online learners to increase engagement from the start. Do so by encouraging — not forcing — a team effort. Encouraging conversations and exchanges among peers.

You can do this by taking advantage of your learning management system’s (LMS’s) chat or forum tools, planning for a 15-minute section at the end of each session for questions or open conversation, or reminding learners to connect outside the program. Meet via any web meeting software (here are some ideas for virtual training tools).

2. Make assessments easy for everyone to understand.

US training is focused on tests and evaluations. It’s easy to understand why. It’s a very clear way to measure knowledge-gain.

However, not every country relies on tests to measure learning. If you’re asking learners from other countries to take a test, they may be at a disadvantage if they’re unfamiliar with them.

There are many ways beyond a test to measure learning. Here are a few:

  • Written assignments. Ask learners to write something that shows learning. This could be a sample dialog with a client or a strategy for helping someone find screening.
  • Final presentation. Work up to a final presentation, and have learners display their work. It can be a photo essay, a PowerPoint presentation, or a case study, for example.
  • Practical skills assessment. Have learners show what they’ve learned. For example, they might show how to enter data into a health information system.
  • Peer assessment. Structure an assignment that lets others in the course assess other learners.

3. Provide training in different languages.

Training is basically about sharing information. If you don’t provide your agency’s educational material in a way that people can easily understand, your learners will struggle.

To make sure everyone can learn fairly, you should offer training in many languages. This is important for things like understanding different cultures, staying safe, doing the job well, and following the rules. In many public health programs, there are workers who don’t speak English as their first language, come from other countries, or need to communicate with people who speak a different language. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), language barriers are a factor in 25% of work-related accidents.

Cultural barriers can be challenging to break down. But it’s possible. Start with these strategies for inclusivity, and you’ll be sure to protect your training investment and make sure your learners do their job better.

Scroll to Top