The written word


Material Information

The written word the neglected media of international training
Physical Description:
27 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Hively, Margaret L
Fender, Frank A
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural extension work -- United States   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Study and teaching -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- International cooperation   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Statement of Responsibility:
Margaret L. Hively, Frank A. Fender.
General Note:
Caption title.
General Note:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 646827515
lcc - S544 .H58 1980z
System ID:

Full Text



Margaret L. Hively
Frank A. Fender

For several years we have been involved in the design,

development and presentation of specialized training courses

and workshops for international participants. These

participants come from the agriculture/rural development sector

of Third World countries. Most hold mid- to senior level

positions within government organizations and many have

previously received degrees from U.S. universities.

These courses and workshops cover a wide range of subject

matter areas--small farmer credit, agricultural marketing,

policy formulation and analysis, various aspects of project,

program and organizational management, technical agriculture,

extension and training of trainers. They range from 3-8 weeks

in length and focus on issues affecting Third World countries.

The training is highly interactive so participants can share

ideas with each other as well as with the trainers. Courses

are designed and conducted with a mix of practical experience,

field work, classroom activity and back-home application so

trainees can gain not only new cognitive knowledge but also

practical skills for putting the concepts into practice within

the realities of their own work environment. Courses emphasize


a problem-solving approach in order to provide participants

with the knowledge and skills most relevant to their

situations. This training is conducted both in the U.S. and

overseas. Overseas courses are focused on specific country

needs and can also be conducted in the native language.

Our experience has brought us into contact with many

different professors, consultants and contractors and just as

many different philosophies and theologies of how it "ought to

be done."

Generally the training presented has been good. However,

experience has led us to conclude that the art and science of

developing and using effective written materials to support

these training presentations has been sorely neglected. This

is one of those areas where rhetoric greatly outdistances the

tangible product. We find this especially amazing since

everyone talks at length about the importance of having such

materials for use with the course--and then don't. All too

often course participants are presented with masses of

independently xeroxed articles from a wide variety of sources

with no continuity and sometimes little apparent relevance to

the course topic. And the trainer then does not use them

directly or indirectly to support the presentation. Thus, much

of the training appears out-of-context and confusing to the


participants. They find it difficult to find, follow and

understand the common theme of conceptual content running

throughout -the various training activities and may fail to see

how these activities apply to their own situation.

This is especially true for participants who are

attempting to use English as a second or even third language.

Written materials can assist them in understanding the concepts

presented and activities conducted in the classroom. They

permit the participants to review at their own pace and

reinforce when understanding of the spoken word is not totally


Training materials should meet the information needs of

the audience. This audience includes both the trainers and the

participants. Well-prepared materials provide the basic text

and reference materials throughout the course, serve as

guidelines in preparing the course design, can be used as a

reference after completion of the training and provide a

resource for training co-workers.

A well-organized set of training materials with a variety

of activities can:

A. Assist in meeting the different learning styles of

the participants. Research has shown that different

people learn in different ways. Some excel at

assimilating facts into a coherent theory while

others are best at deductive reasoning. Some are

best at logical and rational perspectives while

others prefer to do things and involve themselves in

new experiences. Reactions to learning situations

are determined by the individual's learning style.

In order to provide activities which give an

opportunity for all in a group with differing

learning styles to learn, a variety of methodologies

must be used to present any given concept.

B. Give discipline, order and structure to a training

program. Many foreign participants have stressed

that the orderliness of training is very valuable to

them. Again, this is especially true for those

struggling with the language. Materials designed

with a beginning, a middle and an end can provide

discipline, order and structure to the course

design. This organization establishes a framework

which increases a trainer's ability to train and the

participant's ability to learn.


C. Provide guidelines for the trainer and quality

control for the sponsor. Well-organized training

materials with a diversity of training experiences

can be used by a variety of trainers for various and

diverse audiences. As pointed out in a trainer's

report, "a manual tying the training materials

together into a course, with instructions and

suggestions for group activities and other

techniques to cover the subject matter would be

extremely helpful and time-saving for the

trainers." Or, as another trainer noted, "the

absence of discreet modules of material on specific

subject topics, training designs and directions on

how to use the written materials can have a serious

impact on the quality of the course. While

modifications of previously prepared materials and

associated designs will and should occur to

accommodate the participant's needs, adequate

materials and designs are the course foundation and

must be developed beforehand."

D. Provide for efficient and effective presentation of

the core conceptual content. This is especially

important for training of participants from the

Third World. Very few training materials exist which

are appropriate for this audience and relevant to

.the "real-life" situations they encounter in their

daily lives. The limited availability and access to

good libraries in these countries make it extremely

difficult to obtain reference materials.

E. Provide essential support for the use of more

participatory training methods. With the emergence

of applied behavioral sciences there is a continuing

shift in the mix of training methods being used.

They are becoming more experiential. Indigenous

training materials are, however, a prerequisite for

the most effective use of these methods.

Unfortunately, these materials simply do not exist.

F. Serve as a reference after course is completed.

Many former participants keep their course manuals,

books and other training materials in a position

where they can be easily retrieved during their wo-rk

day. One particular participant in a management

course indicated that he had read and reread the

entire course manual, book and handouts three times

within five months since the course in an attempt to

find ways to improve his job performance. Since no

management books were available in his area, these


course materials were not only his best, but sole


G. The shorter the training, or for training scheduled

intermittently over time, the more important are

good materials. Especially for senior-level people

with lots of demands on their time, there is a

tendency to schedule a series of short

interventions. Well-prepared training materials

allow the trainers to cover the major topics most

relevant to the participant's needs during the

sessions. The participants can then expand their

understanding by studying the materials in greater

depth between interventions. The materials can

provide a linkage and continuity between


Reasons for Neglect

One can postulate various reasons or excuses for the

discrepancy that exists between the amount of talk and action

regarding the development and use of training materials. It is

unfortunate, but true that few understand what good training

materials are. A case in point; ;when requested by contract to

prepare materials for a particular training course, one group


of well-qualified subject-matter specialists responded with

three 3-inch notebooks filled with computer sheets, copies of

overheads, independent exercises and no explanation of how one

thing related to another or even what it was. And this was

after they had been given a specific example of what was

needed. Unfortunately, far too often this is the rule rather

than the exception!

Developing good training materials is not synonomyus with

gathering up, xeroxing and assembling a collection of

readings. Rather, materials development involves a thoughtful

process of literature search and review, writing, rewriting,

synthesizing and organizing a variety of activities in such a

way that they improve understanding and help the participants

apply the concepts to their own situation.

Various activities included in good training materials

are (1) learning objectives which point out what one is

expected to learn, (2) readings which present the core

concepts, (3) review and discussion questions that provide

greater understanding of the concepts, (4) short exercises to

practice concept application, (5) case studies, role plays,

simulations which allow looking at applications in a more

complex, real-life situation, (6) field work to view the

concepts in the real world and (7) self-evaluation to determine

if the learning objectives have been met.


There also appears to be a somewhat widespread inability

to write in a simple, straightforward, explanatory manner

understandable to foreign nationals. Therefore, there is an

apparent lack of resources to turn to that have the capability

to create the kind of product desired and needed.

There is often a shortsightedness about the value of the

materials development process. The development of good

training materials is a time-consuming and labor-intensive

process. Good materials are never really completed. Rather,

they are prepared, used, reviewed, evaluated and revised. Out

of course presentations, new examples, exercises and case

studies are always being discovered that can be incorporated

into existing materials. It is an interactive process of


Many people, especially those in government

bureaucracies, tend by nature to be action-oriented. This is

reinforced by daily on-the-job pressures to move the paper,

move the dollars, and get things done--soon. In general, they

do not, or perhaps cannot, place a high value on

time-consuming, labor-intensive activities such as the develop-

ment of good materials.


For many organizations this is shortsighted since such an

orientation and working environment can often result in the

neglect of "organizational overhead" which provides financial

support and recognition to those involved in product

development and improvement. In the long run, failure to

support this creative process and focus attention only on

marketing--course presentations--will cause the activity, and

consequently the organization, to suffer since adequate

resources are not given to maintaining product quality. An

example from industry is appropriate. If a chemical company

does not recognize and pay its research chemists, it will not

continue to have a quality product to sell. Just because the

research scientists do not bring in revenue by selling the

products does not mean their work is not important to the

company. Similarly, if a training organization does not

support and recognize training design and materials development

as an important aspect of its work, its product line will

become outdated and it will lose its competitive edge in the


If a training institution devotes its time to conducting

more and more courses while failing to develop and accumulate

appropriate case studies, readings, etc., it quickly falls into

a rut of conducting the same course over and over again. This

leads to training based on expedience rather than need. One


senses the influence of expedience when one hears the statement

"Country X and Y are both developing countries. They can't be

that different. We'll use the same case studies--besides, we

already have 100 copies!" Such behavior quickly negates the

ability to tailor, modify and adapt materials to meet

participants where they are and relate the content to specific

region, country or organizational situations. This obviates

the very essence of what good training is all about and

adversely affects the viability of the organization.

Another reason for the paucity of good materials is the

lack of understanding by many of the difference between

training and teaching. Many in the academic world who do have

time to write, prepare textbooks which can be used to teach but

do not provide an adequate resource for training. These

textbooks relate only concepts, they do not present a body of

interrelated activities. They are usually written in a

technical manner, using the jargon of the subject matter area,

and are difficult to understand--especially by those for whom

English is a second or third language. No attempt is made to

relate the content to professional responsibilities of the

target audience and consequently they, by themselves, lack the

flexibility necessary to meet the needs of the target

audience. These texts can often be quite useful as supple-


mentary references in the training course but not as the

primary training materials.

Currently, there is a strong emphasis on the "process" in

training. While this is generally beneficial, it sometimes

leads to a neglect of content. Written materials are wrongly

perceived as providing only the content--when, in fact, good

training materials can help provide an appropriate blending of

the process and the content. Content and process should be

mutually supportive and integrated. Content supports the

process and process supports the content. The written

materials should be prepared in such a way as to provide entry

points for the process skills and organize the activities so

their relationship to the content is clear.

Associated with this emphasis on processs" is the growing

use of video as a training tool. While video technology can be

extremely useful in the presentation of training programs, it

still has serious limitations for use in much of the Third

World. According to a 1982 United Nations study only 3.6

percent of indoor assembly places worldwide had an electric

outlet within fifty feet. (They failed to estimate how many of

these worked!) Under any circumstances, the use of video does

not in any way preclude the need for written materials.

Written materials and video technology are not media


substitutes ;' rather they are complementary. For best results

from both, they should be designed together and used as an

integrated system.

Criteria for Determining Type of Materials Needed

Many factors need to be considered when developing,

adapting and modifying written training materials. Working

through the following set of criteria is most useful in

deciding what are the most appropriate characteristics of the

materials needed for a specific training program.

A. Training Objectives. Are the objectives of the

training to impart new knowledge, influence

attitudes or develop skills? What level of

knowledge, attitudes and skills? The types of

materials developed need to be consistent with the

training objectives. For example, if the objective

is to help the participants develop skills in

problem solving, then the materials need to provide

some activities in which they can practice solving

problems. Only readings on problem-solving

techniques are not sufficient to meet this objective.


B. Nature of Content. Is the content of the training

technical, behavioral, scientific, administrative?

'Again, the materials must be specific for the type

of content being presented. If the content is the

calculation of a benefit-cost ratio, then there must

be reading materials which present the formula, the

necessary calculations, and examples as well as

exercises where participants, with paper and pencil,

can practice using the formula and working through

the calculations. If, however, the content focuses

on the collection of data to determine the benefits

and costs, then the materials need to include more

interactive activities so the participants can

practice their interviewing skills with each other

and in the field.

C. Characteristics of Participants. The materials must

be developed so they are appropriate for the

participants' age, educational level, work

experience, reading ability and cultural

background. This is essential for the participants

to understand the materials and be able to relate

the content to their own situation.


D. Trainers. How many trainers will be involved with

the presentation? What is their training experience

and subject matter knowledge? The availability and

competence of trainers is an important consideration

in materials development. If trainers with limited

experience or different trainers are used for each

presentation, then the trainer's materials need to

be more extensive. They need to provide more

detailed instructions for each activity and

suggestions for teaching the specific topic. A

wider array of suggested course designs for a

variety of audiences, course lengths and trainer

styles may be necessary.

E. Space and equipment. The materials must match the

space and equipment available. If the materials

include activities for small group discussion, then

space is needed for the small groups to meet. If

materials are developed to be used with a

computer-assisted simulation, then the required

computer equipment is needed, in working condition

and with an energy source. If the materials are to

be used in a variety of settings, then activities

which can be used in a variety of ways may be most



F. Time. How much time is available to prepare the

materials? How long is the training? During what

-time of day will the training be conducted? If time

is short for preparing the materials, it may be more

realistic to modify and adapt already existing

materials. The amount of materials and the

activities which can be effectively used will vary

with the length of the training. If the materials

are to be used with varying course lengths, then

flexibility to add or subtract from the materials

becomes critical.

G. Costs. Both the costs of developing the materials

and preparing copies for each presentation need to

be considered. Not only the writing and editing

costs, but also the typing, proofing, duplicating

and assembling costs must be included.

Both content and resource factors are important in

designing training materials. If content-oriented criteria are

ignored--the materials will be ineffective. If resource-

oriented criteria (time, space, cost) are not considered--the

materials will be impractical. Determining the best approach,

based on the above criteria for the specific training program,


will greatly assist in developing materials which will meet the

needs as well as be readily available and useable.

Characteristics of Good Training Materials

One of the main characteristics of good training

materials is that they are understandable by the participants.

They certainly must be technically accurate but, just as

important, the participants must be able to clearly understand

what is being presented. The idea is to have the participants

struggle with the relationships and relevance of what is being

taught--not with trying to understand and decipher the written


Developing materials which are easily understood by

international participants requires using a vocabulary and

writing style which is easily (1) understood by people who are

using English as a second or third language and (2) translated

into other languages without losing the original meaning. This


1. Use simple language ; e.g., "do" rather than

"acc omp lish", "use" rather than "utilize", "try"

rather than "attempt".


2. Use consistent terminology: e.g., do not use

objective, goal and target to express the same

concept. Pick one and use it throughout so the

participants are not spending their time trying to

figure out the difference between objective, goal

and target if t-here is none.

3. Do not use contractions.

4. Use active verbs ; e.g. "The project officer should

interview all farmers" ; not, "All farmers should be

interviewed by the project officer."

5. Although variety is important to avoid monotony,

sentences and paragraphs should be relatively short

and use simple construction.

6.Avoid using jargon and idioms. The marginal revenue

is "in the ballpark" leaves the participants

wondering what the relationship of income and

expenses has to do with playing ball. In addition,

its meaning is practically impossible to translate.

7. Explain any terminology which may be unfamiliar to

the participants but is essential to the content.


In many cases, a glossary at the end of the unit can

be most useful as a reference for the participants.

Other characteristics of training materials which we have

found useful when dealing in the international arena are:

1. Ease of handling and carrying (otherwise, the

materials will not be used)

2. Able to withstand rigors of mailing/shipping.

3. Flexibility for different course lengths and content.

4. Actively involve participants.

5. Address varying ability and background of

participants and trainers.

6. Variety to hold interest.

7. Organized so new trainers and trainers with

different training styles can use.

8. Standard format for similar course.


Materials which will meet the -above criteria need to be

presented in a cohesive package yet with maximum flexibility.

This way the materials can be added to and subtracted from with

ease, yet look like they were developed especially for each

particular presentation. This can be accomplished by preparing

discreet units or modules each of which will provide a variety

of training activities to cover one concise topic. Each unit

stands alone--even to the point of being separately page

numbered. Then the most appropriate units to best meet the

specific needs of a specific group of participants can be

selected and packaged into a cohesive package for each course


To form a cohesive package, each module should be

developed using the same format. Then, as various modules are

combined, they still appear to have been specifically developed

to form this particular package. The format for each module

which we have found most useful and flexible includes:

A. Rationale and objectives to explain what the

participants will learn and why.

B. Key points which indicate briefly the major content

items of the unit--what the participants need to

know to understand and perform the skills presented

in the module.


C. Core material which presents the major content to

support the achievement of the objectives.

D. Discussion questions, case studies, role plays,

problem-solving exercises and other activities to

help develop the participants' skills.

E. Self evaluations for the participants to evaluate

their own knowledge and skills.

To company the participant's module, there needs to be

materials for the trainer. These provide guidelines for using

the module and help to design and organize the session. These

might consist of:

A. Suggested designs of varying lengths which use the

materials and activities in the participant's module.

B. Guidelines for conducting the various activities.

C. Reference to appropriate audio-visual materials

related to the topic.

D. Reference to other articles and activities which

could be used to expand on the topic when



E. Answer keys to the problems and exercises.

Such materials can greatly aid the trainer, knowledgeable in

the subject matter, to quickly and easily design a session

which will include the materials and activities most

appropriate for the specific audience.

"Tricks of the Trade"

The development of good training materials should not

neglect the importance of the typing and reproduction process.

The appearance of the typed material on a page can impact on

the impression given about the content. Sloppy pages give the

impression of sloppy content. Good quality typing, formating

and clean pages are more easily read and give the impression of

high quality content.

The typed format can have a major impact on making the

materials more readable and understandable. The amount and

location of the white space on the page determines the

attractiveness of the format. By increasing the white space

and spreading out the typing, complicated concepts can look

less complex. Thus, the participants are less likely to get

the impression that the material is too difficult for them and

give up before they try to read through it.


Providing variations in the format can increase the ease

of reading and give emphasis to the important points. Some

types of variations which can be used are:

A. Frequent and multi-level headings.

B. Lists of items.

C. Tables and graphs.

D. Drawings.

E. Indentations.

F. Setting off equations, important phrases, etc., from

the main text.

It is important that the format be consistent'with the

content and the purpose of the materials. For training

materials, it is important to avoid being "cute" for the sake

of variety. This can be distracting and the participants can

become more engrossed in the format than in the content.

How the materials will be duplicated and assembled needs

to be determined before finalizing the format and typing. If


different colors can be used, then this needs to be taken into

consideration when designing the format. If materials will be

assembled in three-ring notebooks, then appropriate margins

must be provided for the punching.

By giving attention to these many considerations when

designing the materials, many unforeseen "hang-ups" can be

avoided once the materials are ready for final typing and

reproduction. This can increase the speed of accomplishing

these more mechanical parts of the process and more likely

result in the materials being available on time for the


Resources for Materials Development

The development of guood training materials requires

people who have an interest in, understanding of and skills for

the designing, writing, editing, typing and reproduction

process. As noted earlier, one of the reasons for the neglect

of good materials is the seeming paucity of people with these

talents. This may be somewhat due to the attempt to find all

the required skills in one person.

Development of training materials requires subject matter

expertise, knowledge of training design and methodology, and


writing ability. The best possible product can be created by

having people with the various types of expertise interact and

work together under the direction of someone who understands

what constitutes good training materials.

One approach which we have used quite successfully is to

have a group of subject matter experts, trainer and materials

developer interact together about the (1) target audience, (2)

training objectives, (3) necessary content to meet these

objectives, and (4) most appropriate training methodologies.

Using this information, the subject matter experts) drafts the

content material. The training materials developer then edits

the content into- an appropriate style, develops the activities

and trainer materials, prepares the format, and supervises the

typing and reproduction process. During this whole process the

subject matter expert and materials developer work closely

together to assure that the materials are technically accurate

as well as easily read and used by the participants and


As the materials are used they are evaluated, by both the

trainees and trainers. These evaluations are used to revise

the content, training activities and trainer materials to keep

the materials up-to-date and relevant to the needs of the

participants. Good training materials will only remain good if

this continual evaluation and revision process is maintained.


In Closing

We have written this article to (1) stress the importance

of well-prepared written materials to the conduct of successful

training programs, and (2) to put forth our belief that the

professional development and effective use of such materials

have been greatly neglected. These things we do believe! We

have indicated:

A. The need for good training materials

B. Reasons for neglect

C. Criteria for determining type of materials needed

D. Characteristics of good training materials

E. "Tricks of the Trade"

F. Resources for materials development

While we have suggested that infatuation with other media

forms has possibly contributed to the neglect of written

materials, we do not want to leave the impression that we are

against other types of media, We are not. The appropriate use


of various media enriches the training experience and enhances

learning. Rather, the point we seek to make is that the

availability of good written materials increases the

effectiveness of other media forms. For best results, training

programs should be designed, developed and presented using all

appropriate media as an integrated system. At present, the

written word represents the weakest link in this media system.

Putting renewed emphasis and effort on the development and use

of written materials will result in a more comprehensive and

stronger media system and in more effective training.