|Teaching for Better Learning (WHO, 1992, 197 p.)|
|Part 4: Preparing teaching materials|
The aim of this part is to help teachers to plan, write, produce, and evaluate materials that will help students to learn. These materials range from single-page handouts which are used in lessons, through to complete manuals which health workers use to help them in their jobs.
This chapter describes the initial planning that must be done. How will the material be used? Who will use it?
Chapter 14 describes ways of writing and evaluating the teaching material.
Chapter 15 explains the use of illustrations and layout.
Chapter 16 gives suggestions about methods of producing and distributing copies of the teaching material.
In each chapter, the first part is aimed at teachers producing material for use in their own classroom or with a small group of students. The second half gives more guidance on methods used in producing manuals for larger numbers of people.
13.1 What are teaching materials?
Teaching materials are any things that help people to learn. In other words, they are materials that teach, such as:
- notes summarizing the main points of a lesson or lecture
- a series of questions which students are asked to answer
- instruction cards for carrying out various tasks
- manuals which help health workers in the field to make a diagnosis.
13.2 Why should teachers prepare teaching materials?
Preparing teaching materials is usually difficult and often takes a lot of time. Why should teachers take on this extra work?
The reasons are:
· Students can learn from the material at any time, so they are less dependent on the teacher.
· Teaching materials help students to learn better.
· Teaching materials can make learning more active (see Section 6.6).
Of course teachers may use teaching materials prepared by other people. For example, many books and manuals have been written specifically for health workers. When these are available and suitable they should be used. But often the books and manuals are written for different categories of health worker or for use in different countries. So teachers often need to adapt these books or even write their own books or manuals for their students.
13.3 Starting to plan the material
Before you start to write any teaching material, there are some questions that you should consider. The questions are given below and then discussed in Sections 13.4-13.8.
Initial planning - A checklist of questions
· Is the material needed?
· How will the material be used?
· Who is the material for?
· Where will the health worker use the material?
· How will you organize the writing and production?
13.4 Is the material needed?
Teaching materials will only be worth writing if they fulfill a need. It is important to decide exactly what the need is, so that the material can be prepared for this specific purpose.
Examples: Situations where teaching materials may help
You may find that you have to explain how to use a particular piece of equipment very frequently. It might be easier to write down the instructions for its use, so that the students can learn how to use the equipment by themselves.
You may find that students find part of the course very difficult. So you could give them some exercises to practice what they have learned during that part.
You might prepare a list of the tasks that you expect students to be able to do. This would guide them and help them to make sure that they had learned all the necessary skills.
You might find that drugs are not being stored properly or they are being prescribed in the wrong doses. Written materials could help to prevent this.
If you find that there is a need for a manual or some other type of written material, you should also check that:
- no other suitable materials are available
- the people who you want to read the material are able and willing to use it.
13.5 How will the material be used?
There are different ways in which teaching material may be used. The style of writing, layout, and amount of explanation will all depend on the way in which you expect the health worker to use the material.
1. Used as training materials. Materials can be used to present new information or to describe skills that need to be learned by the students. In this case, the material should have detailed explanations, step-by-step instructions, a lot of examples and possibly some exercises.
Materials like this might be used during the initial training course or to explain new methods of doing a particular task. They might also be used for restraining health workers.
2. Used as reference materials. Materials can also be used to remind health workers about facts or skills that they learned during the training course.
These materials are called reference materials and are often written in the form of a manual.
A reference manual might contain dosages of drugs which the health worker constantly needs to refer to. On the other hand, the manual might contain details of procedures that are only carried out rarely. For example, medical assistants do not have to give advice about the siting of a well very often, so they will probably need to refer to a manual to find out the recommended distances of latrines from a well.
Reference materials must be well indexed so that health workers can find the necessary information quickly. Less explanation is needed because the purpose is to remind them about what they have already learned. Each part of the material must be complete in itself, because the workers will only be using one part at a time - they will not be reading through the book or manual.
Teachers and other people who write manuals should decide what kind of material they want to write at the very beginning. This is because the layout and style are affected by this decision.
13.6 Who is the material for?
Teaching materials must be designed to suit the people who will use them. Therefore you will need to find out about the audience. Below there are some questions that you should be able to answer before you start writing.
How much does the health worker know already?
Ideally, the material should not repeat information that is well known to the health worker. Nor should it assume knowledge that the worker does not have.
This ideal is hard to achieve and quite impossible if health workers come from different backgrounds. If you are in any doubt, it is usually better to assume that they do not know something. For example, there is little point in referring to oedema under a list of physical signs if some of the health workers do not understand what the word means. To overcome this problem, talk to some people who will need to use the material so that you can find out exactly how much they know.
How well can the health worker read?
Even though all the people who use the manual will be able to read, they will not be able to read equally well. This is especially important if the language of the manual is not the health worker's mother tongue. So the language and writing style must be simple enough for health workers to understand.
Test the manual with a group of health workers to find out what they understand. For example, this book has been evaluated with groups of teachers to find out whether it can be read easily.
Can the health worker understand the diagrams?
Diagrams are usually used to make an explanation clearer. A good diagram can save hundreds of words and can be remembered more easily. However, understanding diagrams is a skill that is learned, and some health workers may not have developed this skill fully. You should check whether the health workers can understand your diagrams.
Will the health worker have time to read the material?
There is no point in producing long and detailed manuals which
are not read. It may be better to write a less complete manual which the health
workers have time to use. Alternatively, you could write several shorter manuals
instead of one long one. If you do this, the health workers may feel more
encouraged to start using at least one of the shorter manuals.
Will the health worker have the time and the resources to do the jobs described?
Sometimes manuals describe jobs that are not realistic. This may be because the health worker has many other jobs to do or because the necessary equipment, medicines or space are not available. If this is the case the manual will not help.
Will the ideas in the material be acceptable to the health worker?
You should take into account the different traditions, and religious and cultural backgrounds of the health workers. For example, a manual describing methods of contraception or sterilization might be of little value if these ideas conflict with their religious beliefs. Workers with other religions or traditions may have objections to other ideas which are good from a purely medical point of view but which conflict with their culture. Ideas such as this require very careful presentation.
13.7 Where will the health worker use the material?
If health workers are taking teaching material (such as a manual) away to their place of work, the explanations must be very detailed because nobody will be available to help them if they are confused. On the other hand, if the manual is to be used where supervision or advice is available, then a briefer explanation may be better.
If students are going to use the material in a training school where they can be helped, then you have much more freedom to use unfamiliar methods of presenting information. For example, you may make more use of diagrams or flow charts.
13.8 How will you organize the writing and production of the material?
When you have decided on the general features of the material, you need to prepare a plan for writing and producing it.
This will not be necessary for handouts or very short material used by one teacher. But when a larger manual or several different people are involved, a plan is essential.
The stages which are often followed are listed below.
Stages in writing manuals and written teaching materials
1. Make the initial planning decisions - as outlined in Section 13.3.
2. Decide on the overall content of the manual and what will be covered in each section.
3. Write out a rough draft.
4. Discuss this with colleagues and some of the people for whom you are writing (e.g. experienced health workers and your students).
5. Rewrite the draft using the layout you want in the final version. Add diagrams, illustrations and index.
6. Evaluate the material.
7. Rewrite the material.
8. Make arrangements for the printing or duplication of the material.
9. Produce and distribute the first edition.
These stages are not rigid. It may be necessary to rewrite the
material several times. Additional stages may be required, such as the
preparation of training sessions in which the health workers are taught how to
use the material. There may be some evaluation at an earlier stage in the
process. However, the broad pattern will prob ably be a useful guide.
A more detailed list of stages is given at the end of Chapter 16.