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How to plan and lead effective learning activities

What is a learning activity?

A learning activity is any structured intervention whose primary aim is to support improved work performance and behavioral change of individuals in FAO’s Member Countries in a way that enables them to better contribute to the development goals of their organizations and countries. 

Developing individual capacities through learning activities is a fundamental part of most capacity development programmes or projects.

When is learning effective, and why?

Training and other learning initiatives are very common activities that use considerable proportions of a country’s capacity development budget. But do investments in training yield effective results? Over the past two decades, the international community has evolved considerably in its understanding of the role of learning in developing sustainable capacity. 

In the past, it was more common to view stand-alone training as sufficient to build capacity.

Recent evaluations in this area have suggested that one-off interventions are rarely successful in developing sustainable organizational or institutional capacity.

To be effective, learning activities:

  • must be conceived, planned and designed according to adult learning principles, sound quality standards and good practices. A structured process is needed, with core aspects considered, irrespective of the scope, budget or time available
  • must be integrated/ embedded in a portfolio of interventions that address factors other than knowledge and skills (e.g. management, motivation, incentives or governance) which can support a gradual uptake of change across the organizational dimension and the enabling environment. 

How to plan learning activities effectively – the Learning Management Cycle

Good learning practice is based on the Learning Management Cycle (LMC) shown in the diagram below, which illustrated the process required to create effective learning situations  (also called the instructional design process). While all of the steps in the process are important parts of learning management, their sequence may not be the same for every learning initiative. The LMC is intended to help you plan your learning initiative, highlighting core aspects of the process that need to be considered irrespective of the scope, time frame or budget.

Learning Management Cycle (LMC)

Commonly used tools

Checklist for planning effective learning activities

The checklist helps FAO staff and managers plan learning activities according to sound quality standards and good practices. It provides a list of key questions to consider at each step of the Learning Management Cycle.

For an example of collaborative delivery of learning and follow-up, check the presentation by Emilio Hernandez, AGS, featured in this video.

More resources on Effective Learning activities are found in FAO Learning Module 3 on Capacity Development - Good learning practices

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