| Tools for teaching - A visual aids workshop, and instruction manual for health educators |
In January 1986, the Integrated Provincial Health Office in Iba, Zambales asked me to teach a continuing staff development seminar on visual aids. In response to this request, a workshop was designed to train primary health care facilitators and health educators from throughout the province in the construction and use of low-cost supplementary learning materials that would be both socially relevant and participatory in nature. Presentation strategies were included as an integral part of the curriculum in order to support the goal of responsible primary health care education which seeks to promote individual and social awareness leading to active grassroots involvement. Indeed, visual aids can never be an end in themselves. By definition, they are a means to an end, tools to stimulate people's powers of observation and reason, unequivocal prerequisites for responsible decision-making and self-reliance.
In addition to providing technical skills, an opportunity to explore the creative process, and practice in participatory presentation strategies, we also wanted to conduct the workshop in such a way that the initial participants would be capable of transferring their newly acquired knowledge to other members of the primary health care team through repetition of the original workshop at periodic intervals. With the knowledge, then, that we tend to teach as we have been taught, lectures were eschewed in favor of an experiential, participatory approach. Thus, both the form and the content of the workshop are rooted in the truism that we generally forget what we hear, remember what we see, know what we do, and use what we discover for ourselves. The most profitable learning takes place when all of our senses are engaged in the process.
Three major benefits were realized at the conclusion of the seminar and a fourth emerged soon thereafter. First, a number of health professionals from throughout the province of Zambales acquired sufficient technical skills to enable them to create a wide variety of low-cost visual aids in support of health education at the local level. Second, several of these same individuals were able to transcend an educational tradition characterized by the closed triadic system of authoritative lecture/passive audience/rote memorization to become proficient in open-ended, participatory teaching strategies and evaluation techniques. The third benefit was realized in terms of tangible assets: projects created during the workshop have become the core of an expandable supply of visual aids available for use by all primary health care personnel in the province. In addition, each district has a minimal set of tools and supplies (T-square, triangle, exacto knife, marking pens, silkscreen, squeegee, etc.) to enable them to construct future projects as required. Finally, our hope that the first group of participants would be able to replicate the workshop successfully was proven in practice. Five months after the first seminar was completed, it was repeated on the district level with two first session "graduates" serving as co-facilitators.
The curriculum presented here has evolved out of these two continuing staff development workshops. All the lesson plans have been tested and revised as necessary. The original eight-week training schedule was lengthened in the second workshop to ten weeks in order to provide a more realistic time frame for the completion, testing, and subsequent modification of each project. The primary emphasis throughout the workshop is on the design of supplementary learning materials that will both support and enhance the educational message. Equal attention, however, is directed toward the development of accompanying presentation strategies that will motivate the audience to think things through and discover solutions for themselves.
There is, additionally, a strong evaluative component built in to the lesson plans. It is operative not only in terms of the classroom critiques and community field tests for individual projects, but with respect to the workshop curriculum itself. Education at all levels is a dynamic process, an evolving dialogue between student and teacher. By working closely with participants during regularly scheduled sessions and by observing the community pretests, the facilitator should be able to get a fairly good idea of how well the concepts are getting across and how successfully they are being put into practice. S/he should feel free to adapt, revise, or add to the lesson plans as needed to make sure that the seminar remains responsive to the specific needs and learning styles of the participants while still realizing the course objectives.
The take-home examination which workshop members are asked to complete during the final week of the seminar also serves as a means of evaluation. It should be made clear to participants, however, that the purpose of the exam is not so much to test them (there are no grades given for the visual aids workshop) as it is to test how effectively the educational message was transmitted. The exam will also provide participants with a final opportunity to review the concepts and techniques they have learned. A lot of "performance pressure" will be eliminated if participants are told that there is no need to sign the examination. For the purposes of evaluating the workshop, it is not necessary to know who knows what, but whether or not the majority of the class understands the material.
Finally, participants are asked to submit, anonymously, a subjective review of the seminar: its strengths and weaknesses, whether they consider it to have been a fruitful educational experience, how it might be improved; etc. The wise and sensitive facilitator will then use these sources to plan subsequent workshops and modify the curriculum accordingly.
As presented here, TOOLS FOR TEACHING is both a workshop curriculum and an instruction manual. The curriculum includes ten 3-hour lesson plans designed to be presented once a week for ten consecutive weeks. The time lapse between sessions is necessary to ensure that workshop participants have sufficient opportunity to complete each homework assignment before the next meeting. Three major instructional manuals (Principles of Communication Design, Making & Using Visual Aids, and A Silkscreen Manual) are incorporated into the appropriate lesson plans as handouts to be reproduced and distributed to each workshop participant.
The curriculum has been organized to provide the facilitator with a course outline and syllabus, suggested list of supplies, comprehensive lesson plans, supporting visual material and instructional handouts, project evaluation sheets, and a take-home examination. An action plan form to be filled out by participants at the end of the workshop and a record sheet for optional use by the facilitator are also included along with a sample certificate of completion.
Each lesson plan includes the following components:
3. materials needed
4. preparation instructions
5. activity sequence, including estimated time for each activity
6. step-by-step outline for each activity
Each page is clearly marked with the session number and the activity number in the upper right corner. All supplementary learning material is similarly numbered to correspond to the activity for which each item is intended. These supplementary materials are located immediately following the introductory page of the session in which they are to be used.
Before beginning the workshop, it will be necessary to do the following things:
1. Read the complete curriculum carefully to familiarize yourself with the content and method of presentation.
2. Photocopy the course outline and syllabus. Authorization to conduct the workshop is standard operating procedure in the Philippines (so that you can purchase supplies, be eligible for travel reimbursement, etc.). Both the course outline and syllabus are presented in a form acceptable to the Ministry of Health. Make sufficient copies of each to submit to the appropriate MOH officials through channel. Be sure to fill in the required course-specific data on the course outline (Item VII, Operating Details: date/time, venue, instructor's name; and Item IX, Materials and Supplies: how will these be funded?)
3. Arrange for a place to conduct the workshop. The room should be large and well-lighted. You will need three or four good-size work tables, a chair for each participant, storage facilities for supplies, and a convenient source of running water.
4. Prepare canvass sheets following the suggested list of supplies.
5. Purchase all necessary supplies before the workshop begins so that you won't be caught short once the sessions are in progress.
6. Prepare supplementary learning materials and reproduce handouts for Session 1.
NOTE: You may prefer to reproduce and collate all the workshop handouts at one time, filing them in separate folders labeled with the appropriate session number. Store these folders along with the art supplies for use as needed.
The success of this visual aids workshop rests clearly in the hands of the facilitator. The extent of its effectiveness will be a direct result of the facilitator's ability to avoid authoritative lectures in favor of role-modeling the participatory teaching strategies that are advocated in the curriculum. This does not mean that the facilitator relinquishes control. It means, rather, that s/he perceives the participants to be adults capable of assuming responsibility for their own learning because it is to their ultimate advantage to do so. The challenge lies in setting up the kind of positive, supportive atmosphere in which this kind of learning can take place. It also lies in the facilitator's willingness to guide, rather than to direct, the learning process, to keep the participants motivated and focused on the subject at hand, and to maintain the pace of the activities so that the objectives for each session will be realized according to schedule. The fulfillment comes from tangible results that reflect the increasing technical expertise, creative ingenuity, and audience awareness that develops in participants as the workshop progresses. It also derives from the interest and enthusiasm expressed by most community audiences in response to educational strategies that don't simply tell them what they should do but allow them to explore alternatives, voice opinions, and make decisions - in other words, to participate fully in their own education.
A visual aids workshop demands a great deal of time and effort from facilitator and participants alike. It is hard work. Hands will get dirty. It is, however, a thoroughly satisfying and eminently rewarding experience for everyone involved.