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close this book Community Nutrition Action for Child Survival
close this folder Part III - Project management systems
close this folder Unit 1: Training community nutrition workers
View the document Session 1: Introduction
View the document Session 2: Assessing training needs/writing objectives
View the document Session 3: Choosing training methods
View the document Session 4: Scheduling training content

Session 3: Choosing training methods


Trainees compare didactic and participatory training approaches and discuss their usefulness in the training of community nutrition workers. They also discuss the characteristics of community workers and review general statements about adult learners. The session ends with a review of specific participatory training techniques.

Time: 2 hours


- Trainer's Reference - "Role Play: Training Styles" with copies for role players

- Handout - "Characteristics of Adult Learners"

- Handout - "Participatory and Experiential Training Methods"

Preparation :

- Copy the description of the role play and the handouts.

- Assign roles and practice the three role play situations.

- Select five or six trainees or trainers to participate in the role play.

- Prepare questions for discussion.


1. Introduction: Introduce this session by telling participants that we are now at the stage in the planning process when we need to decide on the exact information to be included in each of our training programs and the training techniques we will use. In this session, we will take a look at several different training approaches and the techniques appropriate for use in community training activities.

2. Role Play: Training Styles. Role players assume the roles of Trainer and Trainees to demonstrate three different types of training: didactic, participatory and experiential. (See instructions attached.)

3. Discussion: Ask participants to comment on the role play by asking the following questions:

- What happened in each of these three situations?

- What was the role of the facilitator in each of the situations?

- What were the differences in the three approaches to teaching the same subject?

- In which one do you think the participants learned more about the topic?

4. Write participants' comments about situations 1,2,3 on separate sheets of newsprint. When you have finished the discussion, write at the top of the sheet for situation 1, didactic; situation 2, participatory; and situation 3, experiential.

5. Give examples of training situations in which each of these styles might be appropriate. Ask trainees to describe the type of training that would be most effective with the community nutrition workers they want to train.

6. Distribute the Handout - "Characteristics of Adult Learners, " and review the eight points about how adults learn. Encourage trainees to use participatory and experiential techniques in their training as much as possible. Write the following information about retention of knowledge on the flipchart and discuss.

We retain


10% of what we hear,

20% of what we hear and see,

30% of what we do, and

40% of what we do in a real situation.


7. Distribute the Handout - "Participatory and Experiential Training Methods, " and review with participants.

8. Close the session by telling trainees that while we would like to use highly participatory techniques whenever possible, there are certain things that determine which techniques we choose in our training. To select training methods, we must answer the following questions:

- What method or combination of methods will insure that trainees learn the necessary information?

- Will trainees be able to understand the training method and participate fully?

- How much time do we have? Is the time required for a certain method justified by what the trainees will learn?

- What resources are required (materials, money) and can they be made available?




1 Trainer


3-4 Trainees


Choose a nutrition topic that will involve trainees in a practice activity, e.g., making weaning foods, growth monitoring, promoting family planning.

This role play is done in pantomime (without speaking) by having players wear name cards "Trainer" and "Trainee." This helps focus the participants' observation and discussion on the training approach used instead of training content.

Situation 1

The Trainer, standing in front of the seated Trainees, presents the topic in lecture form. He/She may use visual aids. Trainer does not ask questions of the Trainees. Occasionally Trainees raise hands to ask questions which the Trainer answers.

Situation 2

The Trainer, seated with the Trainees, presents the same topic using visual aids which are passed around. Trainer asks many questions of Trainees, which they discuss among themselves and respond to. Trainer may demonstrate something, asking Trainees to help.

Situation 3

The Trainer and Trainees are working together on a project, moving around the room, discussing visual aids and reference materials, making weaning food, weighing children in role plays, etc.


1. Roles should be assigned and the three situations should be practiced prior to the session.

2. Tell Trainees they will be watching three role plays and that you want them to observe the interaction between the Trainer and Trainees in each of the cases.

3. Each situation should last 3-4 minutes with players leaving the room and re-entering for each new situation.

4. Discussion

(Adapted from Bridging the Gap, Save the Children)



1. Adults must want to learn.

2. Adults will learn only what they feel a need to learn.

If an adult does not feel dissatisfied with his/her own performance or deficient in a given area, he/she will not learn what is needed to correct the deficiency or poor performance. When adults are dissatisfied, they are interested in learning something new that can correct the problem, and will actively seek opportunities to learn.

3. Adults learn by doing.

Active, not passive, methods provide the best learning environment. Through involvement and action, adults increase their understanding of new concepts and skills and their confidence to apply these. The facilitator must provide time for assimilation, testing and acceptance.

4. Adult-learning centers on realistic problems.

Hypothetical cases or situations that do not correspond to real life conditions do not motivate an adult to learn. Examples and exercises in a training program should be within the possible, if not actual, reality experience of the adult.

5. Experience affects adult learning.

Past perceptions, actions and results experienced by an adult determine what he/she accepts or does not accept as new knowledge.

6. Adults learn best in an informal environment.

An atmosphere which encourages risk-free learning through participation in shared discussions and activities, motivates adults to be open to new concepts and skills and to visualize and experiment with how these concepts apply to their personal needs.

7. Vary learning methods in teaching adults.

Learning methodologies (case studies, role play, small group discussion, etc.) should be varied to capture and maintain adult interest. Constant repetition of any method will cause adults to become bored and fatigued.

8. Adults want guidance, not grades.

Adult learning is very individual, and goals for achievement are set by determining "What do I need to improve myself?" Adults seek feedback on "How am I doing?" to correct poor or substandard performance. They do not compete in knowledge and skill acquisition nor seek authority, recognition, or reward for their learning.



1. Audio-Visual Methods

These include posters, slides, flannelgraph, films, etc. They make the transfer of information easier and more interesting. They are very useful when training workers to recognize the signs of malnutrition, contraceptive methods, etc.

2. Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a technique for generating new ideas by drawing ideas from the group, instead of depending on the ideas of a few leaders or participants. Brainstorming helps to convince participants of the value of the whole group and its ability to generate creative solutions to problems.

In brainstorming, all members of the group are encouraged to contribute ideas. All ideas are accepted and written down. There is no criticism or rejection of an idea. This is important because it encourages everyone's participation. As many responses or ideas should be generated as possible. When the group has finished, the facilitator may choose to categorize, select, comment or judge responses depending on the purpose of the exercise. Care is taken at this stage not to discourage any member from future participation. The brainstorming process produces a final result that is a group product.

3. Small Group Discussion

A large group is divided into subgroups of no more than five people, and the group is given a topic for discussion, a list of questions to answer or statements to react to. The subgroups discuss and list their comments. Returning to the larger group, subgroups present their comments. Questions may be asked or comments made.

Dividing a large group into subgroups can be done at random or on the basis of interests, experience, region, profession, etc. You may also divide groups to separate more and less vocal trainees, giving the latter the chance to participate freely.

4. Demonstration

This includes showing and allowing participants to practice certain techniques and skills. The following have been demonstrated during past workshops:

- Growth monitoring techniques

- Preparation of oral rehydration solution

- Preparation of a variety of weaning mixtures

Facilitators should take care that ingredients, amounts and utensils are exactly those that will be used by trainees. It is a good idea to use a poster and/or a handout to reinforce information given verbally during a demonstration.

5. Games

Nutrition games have been developed by several organizations and countries. Games, if followed by discussion, can be very useful for reinforcing information presented in lectures or discussions. Board games, like Nutrition Snakes and Ladders, are a good way to reinforce information about the relationships between diarrhea, hygiene, feeding practices, child-spacing and malnutrition. Card games can help groups understand food classifications, and still other games might help participants practice allocating household resources to achieve adequate food intake for the family.

Games should be used sparingly, and always with plenty of explanation before and discussion of lessons learned afterwards.

6. Case Study

An actual situation or problem is presented in writing or verbally, sometimes with the use of slides or transparencies. The group or subgroups are asked to discuss the situation presented. Discussion can be focused on a set of questions to be answered, on a controversy or problem in the case study, etc.

A variation of this method is the incident method. In this type of case study, a situation is described, but the solution or way it was handled is not. Subgroups or individuals are asked how they would handle the situation. They may be asked to present their solutions to the entire group. The facilitator can lead a discussion comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each subgroup's solution. The exercise might end with a description of what really happened. It should be emphasized that the solution chosen is neither right nor wrong but merely one of many solutions that could have been chosen.

7. Role Play

Trainees are assigned roles similar to real life situations and given guidelines indicating the attitudes and expectations of the people they are playing. After acting out a situation before the group, discussion follows. Role plays may be planned as one would write a play, or the situation and characteristics of players may be described with details left up to their imaginations.

This is an excellent way to help trainees understand the attitudes and problems of the population groups they are working with. Simulated meetings between volunteers and community members, health workers, etc. could be used. Role plays we have used in nutrition training include the following:

- A home visit by a volunteer to the family of a malnourished child

- A community (women's group) meeting to discuss the problem of malnutrition

- A volunteer or worker trying to introduce the concept of family planning to a small group of women

- Other problems faced by workers and volunteers in their work

Discussion at the end of a role play is very important. The group should be encouraged to say what they thought about the situation and the behavior of the players. It is also important that the facilitator prepare some open-ended questions about the role play situation to stimulate discussion.


- What did you like about how the nutrition volunteer handled this situation?

- What do you think the mother was feeling? Do you think she understood? Why? Why not?

Role playing can make learning fun and easy. It can also help participants see new ways to approach situations and solve problems.

8. Project or Agency Visit

Trainees are taken to a specific project or institution such as:

- A nutrition rehabilitation center

- A maternal child health /nutrition clinic with outreach program

- A nutrition/family planning clinic supported by a community income-generating scheme

The purpose may be to demonstrate the activities of an on-going project and/or to expose participants to malnourished children and their families. In ideal cases, trainees are able to practice the skills they have been learning, i.e., weighing and charting the growth of children or using the arm circumference tape or other tools to assess malnutrition, counseling the mother of a sick child, etc.

In all cases, trainees should be properly briefed about the purpose of the visit and areas for observation should be defined before the visit.

9. Practice in the Community

It is often useful to have trainees practice the skills they are learning in a community, under the supervision of trainers and resource specialists.

If prior arrangements are made, trainees can:

- make home visits;

- measure children and assess nutritional status;

- prepare and lead a discussion on a given topic with a group of mothers;

- conduct a weighing activity with community leaders, etc.

In fact, any time it is possible to do so, you should create the opportunity for trainees to do in training the things you expect them to do after training.