Modules: Anti-Oppressive Training
Ten years of implementing Inclusive Post-Secondary Education in BC has taught us a lot about the fine art of facilitating the student experience at the post-secondary level. Just like every student comes to University or College with a different experiences and expectations about their student life, staff are hired because they have a variety of work experience and perspectives on inclusion and citizenship.
Through reflecting on the kind of training that is required or helpful to do this work, it became clear that there is a gap: we are failing to explain the ‘why’ of our perspective. The staff who have an understanding of the ‘why’ have articulated that they gained it through a combination of intuition, values and repeated conversations about deconstructing the norms and expectations society has for people with developmental disabilities. This training is intended to provide staff with the tools to learn to think about the ‘why’ intuitively.
There are several traditional training methods that we are borrowing from other social movements and social justice training. The first is an overview of anti-oppressive training. This is designed to help staff be aware of their position of power over students, and to think about the systems of inequality within society that we are seeking to disrupt with inclusive post-secondary education. Connected to this are tools and perspectives for social change that help us to think about how the day-to-day pieces of our work connect to the bigger picture of changing society to think differently about the meaning of developmental disability. We also are drawing on some facilitation tools from these disciplines that can be directly applied to working with allies and through challenges while pushing the boundaries of inclusion. The other key component that we notice is particularly important for staff to develop is a habit of self-reflection. Embedding this reflective perspective into daily practice prevents staff from getting stuck in one way of doing things, or ignoring the instinct when something doesn’t feel quite right.
We also recognize that there is a history of stereotypes and segregation around developmental disability that some staff may be unaware, regardless of their experience in their field. We feel that being informed about this history helps to keep staff from being unaware of when they may be unintentionally replicating historical patterns, triggering someone who has experienced exclusion or reinforcing stereotypes.
There are also some interesting ways of thinking about inclusion and exclusion that have been developed by others in this field that can be helpful for staff to draw upon. This includes bigger picture thinking on inclusion, as well as pieces of Social Role Valorization theory. This information will be helpful in articulating our philosophy to others, as well as give context to the perspectives of families we work for.
We understand and respect that learning this way of thinking is a process. Staff are not expected, in fact are actively discouraged from, reading this and assuming that they can now tick a box that says they have learned “how to” be a facilitator. This information is intended to provide a foundational critical perspective for all staff to build upon in their day-to-day practice. These conversations will be revisited ongoing at all-staff meetings and additional training opportunities related to these topics will be offered when and where they are applicable.