Illustration of people engaged in participatory learning.

Action Learning: Teaching Others to Engage with Learners


April 1, 2018 - Author: , Hannah Livuza

Everyone can learn; it’s just that not all people learn best with the same approach.

This module offers a mixture of different teaching approaches to maximize learning by all. The purpose of this module is not to train learners with a technical skill such as contour planting but to teach others how to teach learners, using participatory approaches and action-learning. That is, one who learns alongside the learners and encourages the learners to explore the topic; asking why and how, and is willing to adjust the teaching based on the interests of the learners.

How this training module can be used

In our work, whether it is research or extension, we often rely on farmers and other “lay- persons” to help get messages out to the end-users or stakeholders. Learning how to do something requires a special skill-set that many of us have developed out of the need to “do better” in our lives.

Helping others to learn something new requires the ability to effectively share what we understand. This module offers some guidance on how you, as a facilitator with the aim to educate, can do this. This guide offers an effective way to teach others. It offers a step-by-step program to provide a way for a teacher or facilitator to deliver new information to lay-persons (such as farmers) in a fun and effective manner. The module includes activities that invite action learning, learners working together to solve real problems that includes group engagement and reflecting on the results, which often leads to stronger outcomes. In a workshop that uses this approach, the participants try out the learning process through drama and team activities—making it fun and more engaging, so promoting the teaching technique and encouraging adoption. This approach shows by example and boosts the chance that the learners will retain the information. Once comfortable in this approach they can use the approach to teach others.

Class Size: This training can be offered to small groups of 10-15 persons up to 50-60 persons. If the class is large then the class can divide into sections and one section does one activity while the other section works on the next activity. For larger classes, it is helpful to have an assistant to answer questions and check in with the groups. Upon completion of these activities, the groups share their experiences from the exercise with the whole class. Note that the size of group should not too be large, to ensure that all have a chance to participate.

What is needed:

  • One facilitator for each 15 persons in the group.
  • Flip chart or newsprint paper (Place on easel or wall)
  • Markers
  • Tape or nail to secure paper to wall or another standing surface
  • Handouts of the exercises for each participant—marked as “Handouts” found in this module.
  • Enough copies of the dramas so each group has the description of one skit. (Five skits included in this module). Note that you can also follow the format to write your own dramas and make to better fit your learners’ interests.
  • A few props to use in the dramas (e.g., farming items, hoe, bag of seed, planting stick, watering can)

This guide was produced by the Michigan State University Department of Community Sustainability and the Michigan State University Africa RISING Malawi Project. It was originally published by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.


Morrone, V. and Livuza, H. 2018. Action learning: Teaching others to engage with learners. Ibadan, Nigeria: IITA. Retrieved from



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