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ATD Blog

4 Barriers to an Inclusive Training Environment

Thursday, September 16, 2021

What is inclusion? Is it sufficient to incorporate diverse images and gender-neutral pronouns into your training and call that inclusivity? There are so many other factors that tend to be overlooked but play a critical role while we think of inclusivity in training. To start with, let’s define the term inclusion.

Inclusion is the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.

When we ignore the factor of being inclusive, learners are affected; their experience overflows into psychological effects of exclusion, which may lead to negative health effects.

Barriers to Inclusive Training

Let’s look at four common barriers and strategies to overcome them. These apply to young and adult learners in classroom and online settings.

Many factors weigh in when we consider communication in a learning environment.


English is not the primary language for all, and the time taken to comprehend information in English for nonnative English speakers will differ. Using simple language to build content decreases difficulty in understanding. Clearly stating instructions to activities without too few or too many details also is helpful.

Lack of Motivation
When learners are less motivated, there is a direct impact on their performance. During a class, imagine a learner hears no feedback from the facilitator about how they are doing. This leaves them in a state of confusion and guessing the next steps. They begin to question the process and their learning journey takes a downturn.

Quality feedback is one method to improve motivation. It increases communication and connection between the facilitator and the student. Feedback talks about the learner’s strengths and areas for improvement.


Wrong Materials
Most pieces of training are accompanied by support resources such as presentations, documents, and videos. Facilitators need to be aware that not all learners are the same. They have different work and life experiences, physical demands, and so on that they bring to the learning environment. The mode of learning is different for each person for reasons such as physical limitations or personal preference.

To accommodate all learners and to give them an equal chance to succeed, content should be available in multiple formats. This gives the learner a choice and empowers them in the learning journey. Examples of materials that back inclusive teaching are audiobooks, closed captions for videos, and electronic versions of the documents with zoom-in capabilities.

Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias is assumptions a person holds in their mind against another individual or a group of people. Being aware of one’s actions is the primary step. Acknowledging the fact that unconscious bias is a thing and having an open discussion around it eases up the tension around it. One common feedback from learners is that their voices go unheard in the learning environment due to bias, and we can overcome this perception by using technology. The use of polls and chat features allow learners to respond anonymously, reducing the thought of being termed wrong.

About the Author

Rachita Srikanth is an instructional designer for Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center and Foundation.

1 Comment
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This is a really important topic. Thank you for posting on it. I found your comments very helpful!
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