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Effective Approaches to Imparting Skills

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Trainers Notes

How to train community mobilizers and facilitators in stimulating community participation in appraisal

If you have the task of training and/or co-ordinating mobilizers in techniques of promoting the participation of community members in evaluating and assessing the needs, priorities, problems and constraints of their own communities, then there are several principles and methods to consider.

Learning by Doing; (A) In a Training Session:

You may, of course use the common methods of getting PRA/PAR principles across to trainees: lectures, audio visual presentations (slides, overhead transparencies, videos films), seminars, debates, and small group discussions. Here we recommend that such traditional approaches be used for supplementary training, and that "Learning by Doing" be central to your methods.

You and your trainees will be well rewarded if you focus on several contexts where the trainee facilitators can engage in some "doing." These contexts can include: (1) structured role playing, (2) simulation games, and (3) a group process.

The group of trainees can become the target community, and they can be facilitated to identify group needs, resources, constraints and priorities. This latter is not just a hollow exercise, but should lead to producing an inventory that will contribute to the further training and operations of the group. Trainees can take turns to lead such processes.

When you compare learning by doing in a training session, which is a controlled context, with learning by doing in the field, which is less controlled, you will see pluses and minuses in both. In the controlled situation, best used for beginners, you have more structure and more "safe" environment to unsure trainees. In the field situation you may have less control over what happens, but the experience is more real and realistic for the trainees.

Learning by Doing; (B) In the Field:

Practice in the field is a less safe but more intense learning context for facilitator trainees. Field training comes in different sizes and shapes.

Examples include:
  1. where the trainee helps an experienced facilitator,
  2. where the trainee organizes and co-ordinates a session in the community while the trainer assists (and is available to step in if needed),
  3. where the trainee is given responsibility for everything, and the trainer merely sits in and monitors.

In each case, a debriefing session after the session is valuable. That makes it more of a learning experience for the trainee.

It gives the trainee a chance: (1) to record and analyse the process that went on, (2) to consider the steps of the process based on a real experience, (3) to ask detailed and specific questions of the trainee, and (4) to formulate principles and practices for future work.

It gives the trainer a forum (1) to provide feedback based on her or his observations, (2) to make recommendations based on concrete events, and (3) to guide the trainee on observing, analysing, making records and writing reports.

Learning from Written Material:

Written material is not as immediately effective as "doing" in encouraging and teaching a trainee to learn skills. It is, however, useful as a review and reference, and it helps by confirming what the trainee learns by doing. Trainees tend to relate more to written material, and are able to read and comprehend more of it, if they have recently experienced a "doing" session on the same topic.

Written material (like different kinds of "doing") can be used at different levels as a trainee learns to be a mobilizer or facilitator. At the introductory level, it can be simplified, illustrated, and provided directly by the trainer to the trainee. .. All of the handouts and most of the other training material on this web site belong to this kind of simple training material. It should be presented in simple, un-convoluted language (local language where appropriate), in a clear, unambiguous matter. Illustrations are valuable supplements to this level of written training material.

Trainees that have had some field experience need a higher level of written training material. It can be more sophisticated. The caveats and exceptions can be noted, and the uncertainties pointed out (these may discourage newcomers). More importantly, however, the intermediate and advanced written material (digested or not) should not be freely given to the trainee. As with the empowerment methodology, if the trainees struggle or sacrifice a bit to obtain it, they value it more. Give the trainee some pointers, point her or him in the right direction, and instruct the trainee to do his or her own (literature) research.

Learning by Teaching:

While "doing" is perhaps the best way to learn a skill, the process of handing skills on to others can itself be higher level learning experience. Faced with the prospect of having to pass on skills to trainees, even mock trainees at the same level of experience, a trainee will find herself or himself more intense in ensuring that those skills are understood.

Encourage your trainees to attempt modest "How To" handouts and guidelines. (Preparing training material is another form of teaching). Let them use these handouts in practising on each other. After each session, ask if the skills and principles were understood. Did the recipients understand the presenter? Discuss each presentation and written exercise with all your trainees.

Teaching can be practised by trainees in several ways, including the giving of presentation and the preparing of written material. Encourage both (ands other ways) among your trainee facilitators or mobilizers. Ask your trainees to prepare written material in as simple language as possible, using simple grammar and common vocabulary. Encourage your trainees to also prepare training material in local languages wherever possible. To provide more encouragement, copy and publish the trainee's training material, circulate it in local or group newsletters, local papers, professional magazines and journals wherever possible. This will acknowledge and recognize the efforts of the trainees, and encourage them.

Keep On Learning:

Always remind your trainees that learning about this profession should be a life time calling or vocation. "When you stop learning, you are dead."


Training Community Facilitators:

Training Community Facilitators

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
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Last update: 2012.06.08

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