FAO Capacity Development

Follow-up: ensure learning is translated into practice

What is follow-up support?

After a learning activity such as training, e-learning, or study tours, participants have acquired new knowledge and skills and need to translate their learning into practice. Follow-up is a way to accompany learners from being recipients of learning activities, to actively utilizing these new skills and knowledge and ultimately being active agents of change in their own environments.

Much research has indicated that participants are more likely to use what they’ve learned when they receive follow-up support. In addition, maintaining follow-up contact with participants enables organizers to develop a much greater understanding of how useful the learning initiative has been. Obstacles that participants face in implementing their learning can also inform the design of future learning activities.

How do we provide follow-up support?

The kind of follow-up support depends on the needs of learners and the objectives of the initiative. Effective forms of follow-up support include:

  • Mentoring programmes which pair learners with more experienced counterparts
  • Coaching programmes to maintain momentum and motivation
  • Communities of practice for ongoing peer support
  • Internet forums linking participants for mutual support
  • Refresher courses in-person or online
  • Technical assistance to help adapt learning to specific environment
  • Help-desks or established focal points, for ongoing access to resources and advice
  • Toolkits and web-based materials for continued reference

Planning follow-up activities

Ideally, follow-up activities should start to be planned during the design phase of a capacity development initiative. These can then be refined as the initiative is delivered and additional information is disclosed by participants.

Example from Farmer Field Schools (FFS)

In Mali and other project countries, alumni of FFS meet as a group in one of their own fields on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, rotating each time to the field of a different group member. Here they discuss specific problems and advise each other on possible solutions. If solutions are not forthcoming, the facilitator has access to district and national level expertise; this encourages two-way flows of information between communities and technical support networks. The cost of these follow-up activities (only the facilitator’s transportation cost) is only a fraction of that of an FFS.

It is also useful to assess the work environment(s) in which the learning is expected to be integrated, using the information gathered during the previous steps of the learning management cycle. This can reveal opportunities that can be taken advantage of for supporting follow-up activities, as well as challenges that may need to be overcome to support effective follow-up.

Commonly used tools

Guidance sheet – developing a plan for follow-up support

Suggestions for developing a follow-up plan. Should be used in conjunction with the template for a follow-up plan.

Types of follow-up measures

An overview of common types of follow-up measures, together with examples of FAO’s use of those measures, where applicable.

Template for a follow-up plan

A table template with follow-up examples.

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