The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) is a leading advocacy, research, and training organization that provides support and education for healthcare centers across the country. A piece of this work is designing educational offerings for a diverse range of settings and contexts, with a diverse range of people. These trainings may be in person or virtual, and participants range from first-time employees at health centers to experienced directors, and people operating in rural areas or major cities.
Armed with learning theory, design, and research skills, we joined with the Training and Technical Assistance division of NACHC to create a learning strategy that would increase the transfer of knowledge and skills from these technical trainings. They wanted to redesign their portfolio and create a set of tools that would yield greater engagement. But this also presented a unique design challenge: what would it look like for their portfolio to reach all of these people effectively?
How We Did It
After completing our initial research — which included qualitative interviews and a landscape analysis of the existing training portfolio we dove into workshop design. The first two workshops focused on aligning the participants on learning theory and core pedagogies.
But throughout these workshops, we noticed some misalignment between what we were teaching and the team’s existing methods. Some participants liked the concepts in theory, but received good reviews and feedback on the trainings they delivered, so they didn’t understand why they needed to change.
So we pivoted and did something a little different — we used a third workshop to present the results of the interviews and landscape analysis to help the participants see that even if recipients enjoyed the trainings, they weren’t actually as effective as they could be.
Once we got the buy-in of the participants, we returned to the co-design process. Together we created ‘test tools’ — dirty, messy tools that we could prototype and test and seek feedback on. Our goal wasn’t to redesign the specific trainings for NACHC, as they had the content expertise. Instead we wanted to furnish them with the tools they needed to redesign them themselves or support their SMEs to redesign them. This was crucial because NACHC staff do not always deliver the training themselves, but did need to be equipped to coach those who did. By combining what we call ‘train the trainer’ and the co-design process, we ensured that the protocols and tools we designed were accessible for the trainers — and the trainers’ trainers.
By combining our teaching and strategic planning expertise, we helped the team develop a strategy — and more importantly, learn the tools they needed to make that strategy a reality. We co-designed a flexible set of tools that the trainers could use to meet the unique needs of their training. This set became an a la carte menu from which a trainer could choose the tools that best suited their context or the people they would be working with.
One tool participants found particularly useful was a coaching matrix. Depending on the type of learner (enthusiastic beginner, self-reliant achiever, disillusioned learner, or capable but cautious) the matrix offers suggestions for how to best engage the individual and improve transfer of knowledge.
All of the new concepts the participants were exposed to throughout the process landed. Without realizing it, they had developed the skills, abilities, and expertise they needed to be better trainers and meet the diversity of needs they face on a daily basis.
And that’s not all: the synergy between us and the participants was so high that this one project has led to two opportunities to extend our work together.