National and international consultants are used for evaluations of projects and most have a thorough knowledge of their own specialism. Increasingly, though, projects have training components that also need assessing, even though the consultant is not really a trainer. This paper assumes that s/he is not very knowledgeable and could use a few suggestions.

The key issue in training is that it must ensure that participants can DO something – carry out a new task or do an old task in an improved way. And they must be able to do it to a certain standard. With vaccinations, they must not infect the site; they must treat relatives well so that the baby comes back for the next jab etc. With Pump Attendants learning to put a new rubber seal into a pump, they must they must learn to do it precisely, so that there are no leaks.

Training is about learning to do a new task to a good standard. And for participants to learn a new task the training course must have the right activities. Nobody learns skills from listening to lectures

The first thing to check is the training documentation. Is there a clear statement of the job that participants will learn to do?

The training documents should have learning objectives, saying something like “By the end of the training the participants will be able to do the following…”. The objectives should include action verbs. However, sometimes they are just not there.

According to the documents or the staff, are there good reasons for teaching this skill? Was there a mismatch between the job descriptions of the participants and their skills? Was a sample of workers observed on the job and found wanting?

Look at the timetable and activities. If the programme is all taken up with lectures then the course is in trouble. Think about the skill that has to be learnt (a safe vaccination, a rubber seal replacement, an example from your own field).

Skills are leant mostly by practice. How many times should that skill be practised – in a role-play or simulation in which an orange is injected rather than a baby?

How many participants are there, who must each practice that number of times - and more if they are weak? How long does each practice take?

How many people are available to supervise as they practice? Is there a checklist for supervision? Often, training is weak in this whole area.

Type of information Possible conclusions
At the end of the course, you see participants carrying out the new task correctly with clients You can assume it was a successful training. Give a cheer!
At the end of the course you see participants carrying out the new task correctly in role-plays You can assume it was a successful training
Participants practiced during the course and were assessed with checklists – all scored well by the end. If you can assume that no cheating went on, you can assume it was a successful training
Participants can describe the new task, correctly answer a questionnaire etc. You can assume that participants can talk about the new task – you can not assume that they can carry it out well
Participants express enthusiasm for the training You can assume that the training was a good experience and that trainers were enthusiastic but you cannot assume that participant can do the new task.
The report says that the training was successful Unless you know that the report writer is a great trainer with integrity, and if you have no other information, this tells you very little.
The documents show that participants will be visited in the field, weeks or months after training to check skills.
This is good – the trainers have thought through what they are doing
This is good – the trainers have thought through what they are doing

Is there a quality level that participants should reach when doing the new task? In most cases we would hope so. It should be stated in the course documentation. If it is not, try to put together a checklist you can use. An example of a checklist is below.

What else can you learn? The consultant may feel limited, but trainers know that assessments are necessary; participants can be told that you are not assessing them, you are assessing the training.

Equip yourself with good role-plays and checklists.
For example a health project may claim that all their workers have been trained to demonstrate condom use and to explain how use can prevent HIV transmission. So have condoms and a model in your pocket and every time you meet a health worker, ask her or him to demonstrate. This tests one technical skill – the condom – and also communication skills. It will also tell you whether the programme is taking care of the basics – if a health worker cannot demonstrate condom use properly, what else in the programme is poor?

The role-play: you could say something like this: ”I am a small farmer and my wife and I have two girls. I think we should wait before another baby. How do I use a Condom?”

After the role-play you fill in the checklist:

Did the health worker…
1 Have both condoms and model? Yes No
2 Address the client politely? Yes No
3 Use understandable language? Yes No
4 Explain about the sexual transmission of the HIV virus? Yes No
5 Explain when to use condom? Yes No
6 Show how to open packet carefully? Yes No
7 Show how to pinch the nipple and why? Yes No
8 Show how to unroll the condom? Yes No
9 Explain about removing and tying condom? Yes No
10 Discuss disposal? Yes No
11 Check the interviewee’s learning? Yes No
12 End interview politely? Yes No

There should be at least nine “Yes” answers to show that the health worker has reached an acceptable standard.