Expand Antiracism Initiatives Beyond Diversity Training

Institutions should view diversity training as a part of larger antiracism initiatives due to its small to medium impact on diversity learning effectiveness.

Reviewed by Sakshee Chawla


Using theory and research, Kalinoski and his colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 65 studies to assess the impact of diversity, attitudes, and training on affective, cognitive, and skill-based outcomes. This research aims to serve as a tool for researchers and practitioners to begin managing diversity within their organizations and develop effective diversity training. Human Resources and training managers can use lessons learned from this research to defend and improve diversity training within their respective institutions. Generally, diversity training had a small to medium-sized effect. Cognitive-based or skills-based diversity training was found to have a stronger effect in comparison to affective-based interventions. Training targeting explicit attitude change had a larger impact on implicit attitude change. Active training (e.g., exercises) compared to passive training (e.g., lectures, videos) had  a stronger influence, the researchers found, as with face-to-face training compared to computer-based training. 

The authors of this paper are interested in training and development, diversity and cross-cultural collaboration, motivating individuals and teams, as well as organizational development among other topics. Zachary T. Kalinoski is an associate scientist at Aptima, Inc. He earned his PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Wright State University. Debra Steele-Johnson is an associate professor of Psychology in the Industrial and Organizational Psychology PhD concentration at Wright State University. She received her PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Elizabeth J. Peyton, Keith A. Leas, and Julie Steinke completed their MS and PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Wright State University. Nathan A. Bowling is a professor of Psychology in the Industrial and Organizational Psychology PhD concentration at Wright State University.

Methods and Findings

The researchers searched for articles using keyword searches such as diversity training, cultural diversity training, racial awareness training, and multicultural education post-1964. Analysis of articles was limited to those with numerical data but all study designs (e.g., training vs. control groups with pre-tests and post-tests) were presented in the meta-analysis. A total of 200 articles were found but 74 were disregarded due to no numerical data and 61 articles were disregarded due to inadequate data. Two of the authors of this study served as coders and were trained on coding strategies, definitions, criteria, and decision rules. The two coders discussed any discrepancies. Studies were either categorized to have affective-based outcomes, cognitive-based outcomes, and skills-based outcomes. Affective-based outcomes refer to attitudes and motivation, while skill-based outcomes include changes in behavior and cognitive-based outcomes include verbal knowledge as well as cognitive strategies. Further, moderators and trainees were assessed on metrics such as task interdependence, training duration and medium, types of participant, and training setting.

The authors found that factors such as the presence of a needs assessment, training choice, diversity of the group being trained, and rigor of the training design had a limited impact on the effectiveness of diversity training, where the authors define effectiveness as a change in attitudes and processes.


The authors found that diversity training has between small and medium effects on diversity learning. Diversity training revealed a medium to large impact on cognitive-based and skill-based outcomes, whereas it revealed only a small- to medium-sized effect on affective-based outcomes. Training that allowed for more social interaction was found to be more favorable for affective-based outcomes. Kalinoski et al.  examined existing theory and research on diversity, attitudes, and training to identify potential differential effects of diversity training on affective-based, cognitive-based, and skill-based outcomes. This study provides critical information to Human Resource and training managers, practitioners, and researchers to understand the impact of diversity training on different learning outcomes and across different circumstances and can be used to develop and design effective diversity training. The authors identified the homogeneous set of studies used in this analysis as a limitation of the study. Further, organizational generalizability may pose a challenge and the sample size may also be seen as a constraint. Additional research on integrating attitude and training theory or models into design of diversity training can provide more information. Also institutions should not limit their antiracism work to diversity training, but should view it as a component of a larger set of diversity initiatives.


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