Step 2: Learn about the learners and their work setting

Effective learning interventions take into account who performs the job tasks related to the performance gap and under what work conditions. This step answers those questions with information that helps you envision possible approaches to training that will or will not work for the situation.

Knowing the characteristics of the learners--their background, experience, current or future job responsibilities, recent training, literacy/languages, gender, total number and so forth--helps you direct the learning intervention to the appropriate level.

Knowing the physical and social environment of the work setting--facility size, condition and locations; range of services offered; work team; supervisory and referral systems and so forth--helps you tailor the learning intervention to the real-life conditions of the sites where the learners work.

Factors in the work setting can support proper job performance or discourage performance. If conditions in the work setting discourage proper performance, the learning intervention may need to address these. For example, job aids, problem-solving exercises, supervisor training and changes that increase health workers' motivation to perform may be needed.


Use Tool #4 Learner Characteristics Worksheet and Tool #5 Work Setting Characteristics Worksheet to record information in this step.

  1. Find out about the learners

    Sources of information include: data from the performance needs assessments and training information databases, site visits and observations (or written reports of these), and interviews with stakeholders, managers/supervisors and a representative group of learners.

    Some of the important characteristics of learners to consider in designing a learning intervention are:
    • Job category and job description (community health worker, midwife, nurse, physician, specialist, etc.) of the workers who perform the job tasks related to the performance gap
    • Reading and writing level and language or languages they use. If workers are not used to reading, more illustrations may be needed. Will it be possible to provide information in their native language?
    • Educational background and work experience. What pre-service education have learners achieved? Are learners members of professional associations? Are learners used to referring to international standards documents or websites?
    • Computer literacy. Do learners have access to and use computers and the Internet?
    • What learning approaches have the workers experienced? How do they learn best? How do they like to learn?
    • What do learners already do or know how to do that is similar to the job tasks related to the performance gap?
    • Do health workers like learning? What motivates them to learn? (e.g., certification, personal satisfaction at doing a better job, spending time with others in similar jobs, time away from the job). What do they dislike about learning? (e.g., feeling like it is a waste of time, taking tests, time away from the job, feeling like they already know how to do the job)
  2. Find out about the work setting

    Some of the most important characteristics of the work setting to identify are:
    • Where do the learners work? (e.g., health post, primary care center, teaching hospital) What services are offered? How are the facilities staffed? What equipment and supplies are available? What is the referral system?
    • What resources (reference documents, standards and guidelines, etc.) are available on the job and are they up-to-date?
    • What is the supervision system for the workers?
    • Are training activities held at the site, or could they be? (e.g., group training, practicum site, on-the-job training)
    • What is the workload like? How efficient is client flow? Is there adequate caseload and preceptor/learner ratio for learning?
    • Are there supply problems with essential drugs and equipment? If so, this may require additional interventions focused on systems.
  3. Make notes abut approaches to learning that might be suitable

    Review the information collected on the worksheets. Think about training approaches that have been successful with similar content, similar learners and similar work settings. Keep all options in mind because there may be several appropriate training approaches. Consider the busy schedule of most providers and the possibility of several alternative, at least partially self-directed learning methodologies when appropriate. (See Step 8 for ideas.)

Helpful Hints


  1. Learner Characteristics Worksheet -- /
  2. Work Setting Characteristics Worksheet -- /