The development of successful learning materials for CHWs requires significant collaboration among stakeholders and a careful balance of priorities. At Partners In Health, the training team includes staff from the US and offices across the globe, working with our sister organizations in Rwanda, Haiti, Malawi and Lesotho. The training team members work closely with clinical and non-clinical programs to develop curricula that reflect programmatic goals and use adult learning methodologies.
The methodological support our department provides differs depending on the training initiative; sometimes we help identify appropriate learning objectives and key audience members, and then create the learning materials, and other times the content is drafted by program leaders or clinicians and the training team adds participatory learning activities to strengthen the presentation and uptake. For example, prior to a recent cancer training in Rwanda, oncology experts drafted presentations with key clinical topics and the training team added participatory activities, such as brainstorming, a jeopardy game and a handbook to help with information review.
We have learned that CHWs—like most adult learners—process new information best through a variety of activities and solidify their understanding of content through practice, discussion and asking questions. Trainings that engage participants using images and role plays and are based on participants’ knowledge and experience are more successful than those that rely on a didactic approach.
The challenge we often face when developing learning materials is three-fold. It takes more time and resources to design and implement interactive, participatory sessions than to simply rely on didactic methods. Often, participants and trainers are more comfortable with didactic teaching styles, and struggle to understand how to use participatory methods effectively. Similarly, participants who are not familiar with group work or role plays can be distracted by the need to understand both new methodologies and new content, and it is often difficult to build local curriculum development capacity. Finally, for programs which are ambitious in their goals, we struggle to ensure that training materials are sufficiently focused to appropriately support learners while also satisfying this strategic vision.
Despite the varied nature of CHW training initiatives, the balance between content and accessibility is paramount. We strive to ensure that our training materials allow participants to engage actively with focused, relevant information while addressing programmatic goals and adequately supporting trainers. We are still learning how to best develop materials that meet all of these competing priorities.
With this in mind, our questions for discussion are:
- How do you support clinical and non-clinical departments to ensure that training initiatives address key content goals while also meeting the needs of learners in the field?
- How do you structure discussions with CHW program departments in order to respect their identified content or priorities while also leaving room to incorporate best training practices?
- How do you teach curriculum development to those without specific experience in education or curriculum design?
- How do you teach staff to design and use participatory learning activities (such as small group work or role play) if they have been exposed to primarily didactic methods in their prior teaching or learning experiences?
- How do you appropriately support both training facilitators and participants to use teaching and learning strategies which may be unfamiliar, while incorporating other learning styles that may feel more comfortable?
Celia Reddick, M.Ed., has worked for the past two years as the Curriculum and Training Specialist at Partners In Health’s sister organization in Rwanda, Inshuti Mu Buzima. Before working for PIH, Celia spent a year at Canon Apolo Primary Teacher’s College in Uganda, developing a literacy and language curriculum for primary school teachers and designing classroom libraries for teachers-in-training. Prior to this, Celia taught literacy, science and history for three years through the New York City Teaching Fellows Program. She is interested in the intersection of health and education and the ways that clinical content can be made relevant for diverse audiences.