Producing training materials
Several models can be considered when developing training materials but most of them will require one or more of the following steps:
— Needs identification. Once the curriculum, subjects and learning outcomes of a course have been identified, course resource persons will need to identify the required training materials in support of this. If available, they will have to be evaluated and eventually adapted; if not available, it will be necessary to produce new ones.
— Development of criteria/guidelines. An agroforestry course will often require several resource persons and care must be taken to harmonize the training materials production process to obtain consistency in content and quality. This is best assured by a training materials coordinator who works closely on the overall process with course resource persons.
— Author(s) identification. In most cases, course resource persons will be the main authors of the training materials. This is especially true for agroforestry courses and topics since their nature requires multi- and inter-disciplinarity.
— Content development. This is the main responsibility of the resource persons since they are subject matter specialists and thus ultimately responsible for the quality of the content of the materials.
— Review (internal/external). Peer review, and input by different stakeholders who have relevant expertise or experience, is an important step in the training materials development process since it will enhance the quality of the materials. This review can be organized internally or involve outsiders. It is always useful to also include non-subject matter specialists or potential course participants to see whether they can correctly interpret the materials.
— Value-adding services. In many cases, it will be necessary to add services such as proof-reading, editing, graphics, desktop publishing, translation… to obtain high quality materials. These services can be very costly and this needs to be taken well into account when deciding on the production of new materials.
— Field-testing and evaluation. Once a good final draft becomes available, it can be field-tested and evaluated during an actual course so that changes can be incorporated for future courses.
— Production and distribution. The final steps in the process deal with mass reproduction and the distribution of the materials to participants and other interested parties. Again, this can be quite costly depending on the quality of reproduction and mode of distribution and must be taken into account at an early stage in the development process.
An individual with a good technical background to understand and look at content issues best coordinates the process of training materials development. This person will also have to be knowledgeable and experienced in instructional design, communication and publication. A training materials development coordinator will provide guidance to resource persons at the start of the development process and coordinate all other steps leading to the final product. Close collaboration with training resource persons is needed at all stages of the process in order to obtain a quality product appreciated by all.
Most training courses will require the development of some written materials. Formats will be different from course to course and can be lecture notes, a textbook, a manual, technical leaflets, and so on. An important aspect is that the content must support the teaching and reflect the course and topic aims, objectives and learning outcomes. The following tips can be helpful when considering the development of a variety of printed materials.
Tips for trainers
— Based on the expected learning outcomes of the subject to be taught, develop a clear and logical outline of the document to be produced. Again, this needs to reflect the way the presentation(s) will be made during the training event.
— Develop a short and clear title that indicates what the subject is. Subtitles and other headings must also be short and to the point.
— Conduct the necessary research and collect all the source materials, references and other materials that will be needed to develop the content. Do not underestimate the time needed to produce good quality instructional text, in terms of research, information collection and writing.
— Produce the first draft of the text. Make sure it focuses on what is essential and avoid unnecessary elaborations. Consider the literacy levels of your audience; several tools exist to analyse the readability of texts for audiences with different educational levels (Fog index, Fry graph). The Fog Index looks at the number of words and sentences, average number of words per sentence, number of ‘hard’ words (words of 3 or more syllables, abbreviations and symbols) and measures readability of a given text in terms of years of schooling needed to read it with ease. The Fry graph looks at the average number of sentences and syllables per randomly selected 100 words in a text. Long sentences and words with many syllables are more difficult to read at lower educational levels. Constantly think of your audience – what do they know, what do they need to know, what will they understand, how can something best be explained?
— Identify the illustrations (photos, line drawings, graphs…) that will be needed to clarify the text. Provide clear captions that reinforce the message. Do not use more illustrations than really necessary and make sure they can be reproduced without loss of quality. Black and white photographs reproduce better than colour, line drawings can be clearer than photos and a sequence of illustrations can demonstrate motion. Illustrations must help readers to learn and stimulate interest in the topic.
— Have some people review the content of the text. Address their questions and comments and incorporate their proposed changes.
— Think of which ‘instructional components’ can be added to facilitate the use of the document by learners or other resource persons.
— Where possible, let a specialist lay out the text and the illustrations so that it is easy to follow and attractively presented. Keep it short and simple (KISS principle) and provide for lots of ‘white space’; densely spaced text documents can be discouraging to read and follow.
— When several authors contribute to the development of course materials, a coordinator (editor, proof-reader) must ensure some harmony for what is developed in terms of style, length and format.
— If materials will be used for several courses over a prolonged period, consider a new, revised edition when the content becomes out of date.
Since most people learn by what they see (and do), the use of appropriate audio-visuals in support of a training topic is of paramount importance. Most teachers and lecturers will use overhead transparencies or slides (pictures, text) when presenting a theoretical subject; some may use film or video. It is beyond the scope of this Toolkit to provide guidance on film or video production since this requires specialist technical expertise.
Tips for trainers
The following tips may help in preparing the more common audio-visual aids (text and image slides, transparencies) used in support of a presentation:
— Audio-visuals must support important parts of the presentation, help learning and stimulate interest. They are a means, not an end in itself, and often complement the spoken word and written materials.
— Their content must be correct and reinforce the message they support.
— Audio-visuals should not show bias or be offensive to an audience.
— Colour, unless required for content should be used meaningfully and realistically. Consider legibility, contrast and harmony. Limit yourself to two or three colours. Colours have mental associations and provoke emotional responses. Cool colours green, blue, grey) are best for backgrounds; warmer colours emphasize the message.
— Text slides: Develop a clear title for the whole series and one for each slide. Readability from a distance is the key. Choose a good size text font that can be read from a distance. Use short bullet points or sentences that summarize your key messages and no more than five to seven bullets per slide. Intersperse text slides with graphics and photos that make the point. Number the slides and mark them so that it is easy to put them in a projector tray.
— Photo slides: Select or take good quality photo slides that are correctly exposed, sharply focused, well composed and clearly show what is intended. Avoid distractions on a photo slide that divert the attention from the subject.
— Overhead transparencies: Same rules as for text slides. Print text, rather than handwrite. Photocopies of document text on transparencies hardly ever works. They offer the possibility to build up a final message using a sequence of individual transparencies. They can also be developed or finalized during the presentation while on the projector.