One of the factors that has prompted us to launch our specialised rural survey service has been the survey workshops that I developed with Kerry Bell – a whiz with numbers and statistics! Kerry and I had been co-running the University of Queensland’s ‘Evaluation of Projects and Programs’ Masters course for a number of years.
We had about 2 hours during the one week residential to devote to survey design and analysis and were always left frustrated at the end that we could not do it justice – and it was an area that students were very interested in. So we finally developed a course where we could devote 2 days rather than 2 hours to helping people understand the whole survey process! And we’ve been pretty satisfied with the results and the feedback from participants.
When I was Director of the then Rural Extension Centre (a joint Department of Primary Industries and University of Queensland venture) we developed and ran courses mainly for people already employed and engaged in extension or educational activities themselves. We applied ‘adult learning principles’ in the way we ran our courses to maximise the value that people got out of the experience. We focused less on the ‘bit of paper’ and more on the practical value to participants. And people responded!
This lesson has stayed with me since – don’t be an ‘aloof teacher’, but be a ‘learning facilitator’. Build on the knowledge and motivation that the course participants already have….ground it in their own experience so that they own it and can use it when they leave.
Although training is not my major focus now – it is something that I have undertaken across a range of topics, place, groups and circumstances over the years. From the formal UQ courses in Evaluation and Research Methods held on campus to training in evaluation, extension, facilitation, and participative development across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines – and also once in South Africa! In all cases, I have used adult learning principles – and gained as much from the interaction as the participants did.
After completing a review of extension around Australia for the Cooperative Venture in Human Capacity Building, Kate Roberts (an evaluation consultant based in Melbourne) and I ran courses in the evaluation of different extension models – and evaluating ‘empowerment’. One exercise that we did in the training was to have the participants design a symbol capturing the range of interests of the group in the context of the learning that they were undertaking. One example is shown in the picture – a strong symbol of people standing together and caring about the natural environment which they shared. It also symbolised how we can learn from each other to make a difference!