Developing the training agenda

In general, training for a micronutrient survey takes about two weeks. The specific duration depends on various factors, including the number of trainees, their prior experience, the complexity of the survey, the indicators to be assessed, the length of the main questionnaire, the number of working hours per day and the number of working days per week.

The agenda should include a mix of classroom and practice sessions throughout the day, and should be flexible to allow for additional days in case trainers find that fieldworkers are not yet ready to begin the pilot, or if the pilot highlights issues that need review and additional practice before actual data collection. The ”Generic Training Agenda” online tool contains a sample agenda.

In a typical training course, the first day consists of overview sessions for all trainees together. These sessions familiarize the trainees with the rationale, objectives, and design of the survey, and on the respective roles and responsibilities of the survey team. On subsequent days, trainees may be divided into groups according to their role in the survey. For example, the interviewers are trained separately from the phlebotomists and field laboratory technicians. Depending on which staff are assigned to anthropometry, those sessions may be scheduled and conducted with one large group or limited to certain team members. Box 12.1 presents some general guidelines for planning the training.

Planning the training: venue, trainees and trainers

Training venue

The training venue needs to be big enough to accommodate the larger plenary group and have suitable smaller spaces for the skill-specific groups. In addition, it should have spaces for smaller breakout groups to role-play and practice new skills. The venue should have electricity, access to food and refreshments, restroom facilities and comfortable seating for all participants, preferably at tables or desks. Most venues need to be booked well in advance with a flexible arrangement to allow for potential delays in the start date for the training.

Training on biological specimen collection will also require

  • work benches or tables
  • electricity
  • a source of clean water
  • secure storage for laboratory supplies and equipment.

Ideally, different training sessions can be conducted in parallel at a single training site. This helps to maximize the consistency of information, allows for answers to queries that may arise during the course of training and builds team relationships. Depending on fieldwork procedures, this also facilitates cross training as needed. If it is necessary to use separate sites, try to use sites that are easily accessible to each other, with reliable and frequent contact between them. Costs for transportation between sites should be included in the budget.

Box 12.1. General guidelines for planning training for a micronutrient survey

  • Training should last no more than eight hours per day; preferably six or seven hours.
  • Short breaks should be scheduled for mid-morning and mid-afternoon, in addition to the lunch break.
  • Consider the local cultural context (such as religious holidays) and logistical setting (whether trainees are lodged at a training facility or need to commute to the location on a daily basis), and adapt the training accordingly.
  • There must be opportunities to practice all procedures with members of the population groups to be assessed, especially young children:
    • Plan the training venue to allow participants to practice anthropometry and biological specimen collection at a nearby day care facility or clinic, or make arrangements to bring caregivers and children to the training site. This step will require communication and arrangement with local officials.
    • It may be possible to practice both anthropometry and the collection of biological specimens with the same volunteer participants.
  • At the end of each day, trainers should meet to debrief, to evaluate the day’s work and to plan for the next day. This usually takes about one hour.

Trainees

In general, the fewer the trainees, the better the quality and shorter duration of the training. The number of trainees in each skill-specific group should be limited to 40. Initial plenary sessions should involve a larger number of trainees prior to separating them into these skill-specific groups.

In addition to the fieldwork teams, people to consider for selected parts of the training should include:

  • Household listing and mapping teams. If the mapping has not yet been conducted, these teams could benefit from understanding the survey objectives for the purpose of community engagement when they visit the selected clusters.
  • Data managers and data entry supervisors (where data collection is paper-based). Data managers and data entry supervisors need to have prior in-depth understanding of the questionnaires and of the characteristics such as data limits and skip patterns. In order to be able to brief data entry staff on the questionnaires, they should participate as trainers in the sessions on detailed questionnaire review, interviewer training and questionnaire completion.
  • Central laboratory staff. Training central laboratory staff will allow them to contribute to and understand what to expect from fieldwork procedures for specimen collection, processing, transport, storage, and tracking.

Detailed training sessions for these roles are usually conducted separately from the main training, thus separate materials will need to be developed. The exact content and duration of these sessions vary, depending on the complexity of the tasks and the previous experience of the trainees. Sample materials can be found by searching for “instructions” in the online tools.

Trainers

Trainers need to be identified and involved early on in the planning process. They should have expertise in their assigned topics and understand the expectations and commitment required to prepare for and lead relevant sessions. Examples are staff from ministry of health or from a national nutrition organization who can train others on anthropometric measurements, and Technical committee personnel from the national statistics office who can conduct sessions on household mapping and listing.

It is critical that all trainers have detailed knowledge of the survey protocol, including methodologies and planned fieldwork procedures, and that they understand how the different sessions of the training fit together so that contradictions and potential confusion can be avoided. The person responsible for the overall training (usually the Survey coordinator) should brief all trainers ahead of time so that they are aware of the objectives and procedures to be followed in the survey.

A lead trainer should be assigned to prepare, review and coordinate the overall training process (including presentation materials and activities for each training session). Presentations should be appropriate for adult learning and should be focused on the assigned topic, reviewed for consistency and unnecessary duplication, practiced in advance of the training and fit within the allocated timing for the session. Including more than one trainer for major sessions may help maintain interest and improve the variety for both trainers and trainees.

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