Your health education teaching materials should be properly planned and organised. They should suit the mental level of the audience. For example, if you are planning to educate a rural family on personal hygiene, a poster or picture could be good health learning material if it is supported with talks. But a leaflet with lots of text would not be a good teaching aid because a large number of rural people are unable to read. All your teaching should be presented in a meaningful and interesting manner. It is also important to encourage learning-by-doing. When we talked about the characteristics of learning, we referred to self-active learning — learning-by-doing is one very good way of active learning. For example, if you are teaching a family about the utilisation of bed nets, it would be good to encourage them to demonstrate back to you how they would attach them — after you show them how to do it for the first time. Saying things again and repeating them in a meaningful manner, as well as practice, are important for learning and the audience must be encouraged to learn through activity. Consequently, the use of lectures and health talks should be kept to a minimum. Learning can then be reinforced by simple testing, which is informal, but includes feedback. In this way, the audience would know how well they are doing and they will also be encouraged to learn new skills.
For example, if you want to teach a mother about proper position and attachment for breastfeeding, it is good first to demonstrate the correct position to the mother. You can then test whether she has learnt this correctly by asking her to demonstrate the proper positioning and attachment back to you. You should encourage her to practice it until she gets it right. This should continuously be accompanied by your comments and feedback on her level of achievement.
We've just given two examples of active learning. Now think about it yourself. Assume that you are planning to educate a family about proper utilisation of insecticide treated bed nets (ITNs). Consider the following questions:
- What types of health learning materials could you use to deliver your health education session?
- Where would you prefer to teach them about ITN? At their home or at the Health Post?
- After you teach them about ITN utilisation, how would you plan to test your audience about what they have learned in the session?
You may have suggested the following answers:
- Health education information could be reinforced with flip charts that are continuous pictorial presentations that demonstrate the steps of using the bed nets, and posters that would demonstrate how to solve problems related to torn nets.
- Home would be preferable, so that it could be a very realistic demonstration for them in how they can use the nets based on the real bed, floor and roof arrangement in their own households.
- The best way to test whether they have learnt the skill is to ask them to put up the bed nets while you are observing them. Remember to give them feedback and encouragement on their practice.