Shawn T. Givhan, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change
This dissertation study chronicles the creation of a computer-based, asynchronously delivered diversity training course for a state agency. The course format enabled efficient delivery of a mandatory curriculum to the Massachusetts Department of State Police workforce. However, the asynchronous format posed a challenge to achieving the learning goal of fostering critical reflection in employees because it did not allow participants to interact. One construct found in diversity training and training design literature is that interpersonal interaction stimulates critical reflection in adult learners (Billett, 2002; Paluck, 2006). Further, diversity training researchers have associated valuing of diversity, and enactment of support for diversity practices, with capacities developed through critical reflection such as openness to multiple perspectives (Avery, 2011; Roberson, Kulik, & Pepper, 2009). Thus, the purpose of the study was to evaluate the validity of a proposition that critical reflection can be fostered for participants in a computer-based, asynchronously delivered diversity training course if the framework for course development and delivery is (a) a model of proven design principles for computer-based instruction, (b) derived from a constructivist methodology for workplace learning, and (c) supported by a clear organizational commitment to diversity that begins at the highest levels of management.
Several impediments derailed implementation of the course and the study as initially planned. Consequently, four employees participated in interviews about their experience with the course. The interview transcripts were evaluated via textual analysis to determine if any participant accounts satisfied criteria for experiencing a measure of critical reflection. The sample was too small to generate definitive conclusions although some participant accounts supported the proposition for how to foster critical reflection. The study’s results offer insight into how factors such as gender schemas (Bem, 1981; Cundiff, Nadler, & Swan, 2009), organizational culture (Weick, 1995), and motivation to learn (Wiethoff, 2004) influence employee potential to experience critical reflection through training. The findings illuminate similarities in how diversity and organizational culture impact information processing and meaning making in workgroups, and how role identity issues constrain efforts by human resources managers to conduct organizational research (Choi & Rainey, 2010; Sommers, Warp, & Mahoney, 2008).
Key Words: diversity, critical reflection, computer-based training, asynchronous, workplace learning, human resources