As you work with diverse WIL students, employers, and other stakeholders it is important to consider that they will likely bring values, beliefs, and related behaviours that are different from your own. This includes different ideas about professionalism.  For example, some people have been raised to believe that direct eye contact is rude, whereas some people view direct eye contact as a way of building trust. Coaching WIL students as they enter into a new culture (whether it is workplace, school, Canadian, or International context) is best done by acknowledging different world views and behaviours as well as the potentially different meanings attached to them. Understanding that different interpretations exist becomes the starting point for an appropriate response versus telling someone that they are "here" now so need to conform.

By exploring your own lenses you can better recognize the roots of your own personal tree and how they inform your behaviours.  When you are able to recognize that there are multiple ways of viewing the world and that there is not one "right" way or "better" way, you will be better able to help bridge differences with your students in ways that enrich their own appreciation of diversity while still recognizing what is needed in the context of their WIL experiences.  It is important to also remember that as much as we learn to appreciate different world views we can never fully know another's view.  See the video below.

When working with the diverse stakeholders in WIL, it may be helpful to remember to start with seeking understanding first. You may find the metaphor of the cultural tree useful in conversations addressing perceived cultural gaps in expectations, or use the sunglasses analogy in to help explain how we can share views but never truly see only the other person's view as we ourselves are already wearing lenses that impact how we see and interpret things in our lives.

Often WIL professionals are presented with workplace problems to mediate (e.g. "students don't even look me straight in the eye"; or "students don't have my daily work ready for me to start each morning") and many times the interpretations of the "problematic" behaviour are heavily influenced by dominant group norms that perpetuate inequities.  Being able to engage in a conversation that does not get into right and wrong but acknowledges legitimate differences and then situates the response within the cultural expectations of the WIL experience often leads to better results, and learning for all concerned.

Pulling it All Together

It is important that we understand the ways in which we were raised and educated as this impacts how we behave as an educator.  Exploring one's own "cultural tree" helps provide insights into our world views and where they come from. The lenses through which we evaluate each other are many and varied but truly impact how we see and experience our world together. In the upcoming sections ("WIL Quality "and "WIL Theories and Program Design") we will look more deeply at practice considerations for designing and delivering more inclusive WIL programs.