Facilitators Guide: How to Develop Effective Training Sessions to Cultivate Multicultural Competent Student Leaders


This guide has been created for student affairs professionals in the higher education setting who are responsible for training student leaders to be multicultural competent leaders. Those who may find this document useful may work in the functional areas of New Student and Family Orientation, Multicultural Student Services, University Housing, Career Development Center, International Student Services, Student Life, and any other office where student leaders have direct contact with others (read: all offices and all student leaders).

This guide was created to aide professionals in the development and implementation of social justice education trainings for students; however, this guide and its concepts can be used to educate faculty and staff as well.

As the reader explores this guide, they will find information on curriculum design, facilitator tools, and group facilitation techniques. In addition, activities and case studies will be provided that the reader can use during their trainings. Furthermore, an appendix will be provided with additional resources (these may be in the form of a link to a pre-existing resource).

Curriculum Design 

The success of a training aimed at cultivating a student leader’s multicultural competence is dependent on the design and implementation. Organizations and leaders must be brought through a series of follow-up sessions to raise their awareness, knowledge, and skills (Cox, 2001). It is important to note that a single training will set up participants for failure; especially, if the training is conducted in too short of a time frame. The following information is a guide to help facilitators plan and implement training sessions for student leaders with the goal of increasing their multicultural competence.


Before creating and implementing a training for student leaders three questions must be asked:

  • What is the focus of the training(s)?
  • What are the characteristics of the participants who are taking the course?
  • (Influenced by the two questions above) What should be the goals of the training?

To obtain this information, facilitators should request that participants fill out a pre-assessment, answer these questions during the interview process (See the following resource for appropriate interview questions –> http://www.pdx.edu/hr/sites/www.pdx.edu.hr/files/Interview%20Questions%20Regarding%20Diversity.pdf), or both for a more comprehensive understanding of the group.

(Obtained from Bell & Griffin, 2007)

Goals of Training

The three goals of a social justice education training are listed below. The facilitator should use these goals to guide the development of the training session for student leaders. It is important to note that the emphasis and depth placed on each of these goals will be dependent on the experiences and knowledge of the group (which should be previously determined through the pre-assessment).

Increase Personal Awareness

This includes helping participants learn more about their own socialization and social identities. In addition, participants should be made aware of their own conscious and unconscious assumptions and prejudices. Through this obtainment of personal awareness, participants will be able to responsibly identify and challenge their own beliefs about themselves and others. Furthermore, participants will be able to conceptualize how their beliefs were created through a system of unearned power and privilege (Bell & Griffin, 2007).

An increase in personal awareness is obtained through activities that allow participants to explore both their privileged and oppressed aspects of their identities (Bell & Griffin, 2007).

Expand Knowledge

To accomplish the expansion of knowledge within student leaders it is important to expose participants to the historical, economical, and social data that defines and reflects oppression (Bell & Griffin, 2007). Trainings that focus solely on the participants experience but fails to move into theorizing the impact on a larger scale do not provide an educational platform where students can achieve competency. Facilitators must provide participants with statistical information via videos, readings, lectures, and discussion to engage participants and provide them the tools to examine the structural and institutional features of oppression. Facilitators can begin the trainings by asking participants to compare the similarities and differences between the various “isms” in order to obtain an understanding of the parallels and interconnectedness among the various types of oppression.

Encourage Action

The final portion of the training must provide action steps that will help guide student leaders/staff into change agents. Students/staff should feel equipped to assess situations, plan and implement interventions, and evaluate the outcomes of their actions (Bell & Griffin, 2007). 

Allotted Time

As stated above, the trainings we provide our student staff cannot be a single, one-two hour event. Facilitators must provide a comprehensive training that provides students both the tools and education to engage in difficult conversations. Below is a table of three suggested timelines.

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In addition, it is important to note that conversations about inclusion, access, and equity must be diffused into all aspects of your training! This means that these topics should not be applied during only the “diversity” workshop(s). Facilitators must infuse concepts of inclusion, access, and equity into EVERY aspect of their training. These concepts do not reveal themselves independent of other topics.

Other areas where you can talk about equity and inclusion include: customer service, student organizations, admissions, policies, health services, counseling services, career development, crisis management/emergency information and off-campus information. We must train our students to think about how identities and systems of oppression impact student experiences. Students must reach a point where they are consciously and proactively asking the question, “How will this impact someone of [insert identity]; or, “what is absent from this narrative?”

Please see an example of these topics infused into a new student orientation training curriculum. The topics listed are most likely an already existing area of your training for students. The questions and considerations listed below the topics are areas that students should include in their narratives about each area when they educate incoming students.

Diversity Infusion Curriculum

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Sample Topics 

The below table provides topics that facilitators should include throughout their trainings. Each topic is labeled under the appropriate heading (i.e., increase personal awareness, expand knowledge, and inspire action).

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Case Studies

The following case studies have been provided to showcase an example of an incident that could occur due to the lack of student and/or staff preparation/guidance. Facilitators are free to use these case studies during their trainings.

Case Study:

Orientation has been off to a great start. The next session that the orientation leaders will be facilitating is on the topic of diversity. The students will be hosting a series of skits that highlight the various forms of oppression that are found on college campuses. The skits highlight the following topics: racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. At the conclusion of the skits, the audience was split into small groups to discuss what they witnessed. Then, the group was brought back into a larger setting for a question and answer portion. One student raised their hand and asked, “Isn’t affirmative action racist? Doesn’t it discriminate against White people?”

Debrief Questions:

  • How does one address this statement?
  • How can our orientation leaders ensure that the learning objective of the session is achieved?
  • When is it appropriate for a professional staff member to step in and address the conversation?

*It is important to note that facilitators must recognize that preparation will help prevent a negative experience but cannot guarantee it. Therefore, facilitators must recognize that they must be prepared to step in appropriately. A student should never feel as if they are alone when assisting in these difficult conversations.


A list of activities are provided below. Each activity is divided into the following three goals: (1) increase personal awareness; (2) expand knowledge; and (3) encourage action.


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Identity Wheel: http://www.innovativeeducators.org/v/vspfiles/IEfiles/06_23_PersonalIdentityWheelExercise_592.pdf

Personal Self-Assessment, ADL: http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/education-outreach/Personal-Self-Assessment-of-Anti-Bias-Behavior.pdf

Privilege and Disadvantage Inventory: http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/9780415892940/data/Appendix%203M.PDF

Beads of Privilege Activity: http://www.differencematters.info/uploads/pdf/privilege-beads-exercise.pdf (other variations as well)

Privilege Walk: http://www.albany.edu/ssw/efc/pdf/Module%205_1_Privilege%20Walk%20Activity.pdf (other variations as well)

Bias Language Workshop, Arizona State University: http://www.life.arizona.edu/docs/default-source/social-justice/biaslanguage.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Teaching Tolerance: Responding to Hate and Bias at School: http://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/Responding%20to%20Hate%20at%20School%20ONLINE_3.pdf

Raising the B.A.R: 35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say, Dr. Maura Cullen

Addressing Bias Language: http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/education-outreach/Responding-to-Bigoted-Words.pdf

Social Justice Lens: https://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/SocialJustice/Publications/SJLens.pdf

Group Facilitation Techniques

In this section, the reader will be exposed to different types of facilitation techniques that can help guide conversations around social justice education. Some of these techniques are social justice themed while others are more generally focused. The reader is encouraged to use a combination of these techniques in their trainings.


This technique is cited by Freire as a facilitator (or Freiran critical teacher) “…who asks thought-provoking questions and who encourages to ask their own questions. Through problem-posing, students learn to question answers rather than merely to answer questions. In this pedagogy, students experience education as something they do, not as something done to them” (Shor, 1993, p. 26). This technique enables participants to develop “critical consciousness” (Adams, as cited in, ). Problem-posing draws on personal experience to create both social connectedness and mutual responsibility.

During this type of facilitation, the room should be set up in a circle (rather than rows). The facilitators role is to provide structure and questions until the participants begin to ask questions of themselves and others. This will provide an environment of critical thought. Furthermore, the facilitator can use small groups to provide spaces for group listening or action brainstorming.

This technique (and Freire’s pedagogy) should be used to encourage “the oppressed to understand that oppressive forces are not part of the natural order of things, but rather the result of historical and socially constructed human forces that can be changed by humans” (Adams, as cited in Adams, Bell, and Griffin, 1997).

Theater of the Oppressed (1985)

Boal’s work opened up actor-audience dialogues about oppression and liberation. This type of facilitation is common within orientation programs.

Resource: http://knottedline.com/images/Analyzing%20Themes/Boal_Tableau_Forum_Theater.pdf

Flipped Classroom Technique

Resource: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf

Frameworks for Social Justice Education Practice (Adams, 1997).

  1. Balance the emotional and cognitive components of the learning process
  2. Acknowledge and support the personal (the individual students experience) while illuminating the systemic (the interactions among social groups)
  3. Attend to social relations within the classroom
  4. Utilize reflection and experience as tools for student-centered learning
  5. Value awareness, personal growth, and change as outcomes of the learning process

Expanding Identity-Conscious Services in New Student and Parent Orientation


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Adams, Maurianne, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, eds. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook and Readings for Diversity and Social Justice both now are in their second edition. Routledge

Cox, T. (2001). Creating the multicultural organization: A strategy for capturing power of 

diversity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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