Monday 20 July 2015

Value for money in training?

In an evaluation of a large initiative designed to help changing social norms on gender-based violence (GBV), I found out that each of the many different organisations involved carried out training workshops. The training participants were mainly for police, staff in health services, religious leaders, social workers and other people who tended to spend no or very little time at universities or other academic venues. That is, the trainees were people who were not used to sitting and listening attentively to complicated presentations. 

Yet, most of the training workshops were organised the "academic" way: The trainer would take the audience, seated in neat rows, through a more or less lengthy set of "power point" slides with plenty of text. Often, the content of the slides was highly theoretical, presenting definitions with plenty of terms people would never use in everyday language. The audience would sit and listen and ask the occasional question, if they dared to. People don't want to look stupid - so if a presenter uses lots of big words the audience are not familiar with, changes are that there won't be many questions.

Arguably, that type of training is a waste of time and money. There is a large and growing body of experience on adult education - and education in general - which shows that one of the most effective ways to acquire new knowledge and skills is learning by doing, by solving problems.