Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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Tips for leading Successful Trainings: What Can Peacebuilding M&E learn from Adult Education?

Author, Copyright Holder: 
Ella Duncan, Search for Common Ground

Successful communication with participants is critical to the success of M&E training programs in peacebuilding. Yet many trainings in international development and peacebuilding are often designed based on the needs of the trainers rather than on the needs of trainees.

What can peacebuilding learn from the broader field of adult education to increase the efficacy of trainings?  More specifically, how can lessons from adult education be applied to M&E capacity-strengthening trainings?

Based on the Five Assumptions of Adult Learners promoted by the adult-education thought-leader Malcolm Knowles,  five key  Principles of Adult Learning are:

  1. Adult learners are internally motivated and self-directed
  2. Adult learners bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  3. Adult learners are goal and relevancy oriented
  4. Adult learners are practical
  5. Adult learners need to be respected

Then, how can we take these principles and apply them to M&E trainings?

1. Adult learners are internally motivated and self-directed

Adult learners increase their effort when motivated by a need, an interest, or a desire to learn. Trainers should encourage and facilitate participants to identify their own learning needs and how those needs may be met by the training offered. This process of needs identification will help the trainee commit to learning and find internal motivation; it will also help the trainer design the course to be most effective.

Hot Tip! Application to M&E Training: Use the training pre-test or application form as an opportunity to have participants identify what they would like to learn about M&E . This will help you design the agenda and ensure that all needs are met.  be strategic in your training activities.

2. Adult learners bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences

Trainers should enable participants to draw on their prior skills and knowledge through participatory and collaborative learning activities. Trainers must also be open to feedback from participants. Adult participants bring their own knowledge to the learning experience and can provide valuable insights into local context, particularly in conflict settings where the trainer may not fully understand local dynamics and realities.

A recent piece in the Harvard Business Review sheds light on the importance of contextual intelligence, and how it is necessary to understand differences in what constitutes value and how to motivate people.  While the article is focused on the business world, its lessons definitely hold true in the peacebuilding field as well.

Hot Tip! Application to M&E Training: Set aside time within your training for participants to share examples of methodologies, case studies, baselines and evaluations.  Enabling time for participants to share their expertise can be done through presentations or open discussion. However if you choose to incorporate sharing and individual presentations, make sure that it happens throughout the training, not just at a specific time or at the beginning of a training. Sharing examples from a variety of participants will also lead to cross-country or cross-regional learning.  It is likely to lead to the formation of a cohesive group that relates on similar challenges and lessons learned.

3. Adult learners are goal and relevancy oriented

Adults need to know why they are learning something. Trainers must demonstrate their value and that the training will work towards solutions. The need to show how learnings from training can lead to solutions is especially important in peacebuilding contexts.  

Hot Tip! Application to M&E Training: To demonstrate the applicable value of the training, base your discussions and examples on real-world case studies of ongoing projects. You – the trainer - can also have participants begin to immediately apply what they are learning; by having a lot of group exercises and designing a participatory and dynamic training.   Group exercises enables participants an opportunity to give and receive feedback on upcoming logframes, methodologies, terms of references, and M&E Plans. Make sure that every participant has an opportunity to give and receive feedback to empower participants and actively apply what they have learned.

4. Adult learners are practical

Trainers should work to address needs that are concrete and immediate, and to show how a theory may be applied to practical problems. Varied teaching methods that give practical application to trainings show value and encourage continued participation.

Hot Tip! Application to M&E Training:. At Search for Common Ground all M&E trainings include a “homework assignment” that must be completed within the training. It usually involves creating a six month action to improve monitoring and evaluation practice at the country or project level.  This “homework” enables participants to immediately envision how to put theory into practice.  Participants also  have a concrete document that can serve as a plan, which is shareable with country leadership.  The Technical support unit can easily follow up and provide coaching on any aspect that may have not been clear or needs further follow up.

5. Adult learners need to be respected

Adult training participants have experiences, knowledge, skills, beliefs, values, and interests that shape their sense of self and have been built up over time. To respect these histories and experiences trainers should use approaches that are more collaborative than instructive, and emphasize more equality between the teacher and learner.

For trainers to gain and give respect they must be aware of relational power. Relational power is fluid and can be expanded or limited as you interact by encouraging empathetic listening and inclusive dialogue.

Hot Tip! Application to M&E Training: The more advanced a participant group is, the less time the trainer should spend on introductory lectures. Instead participants should spend that time testing examples and debriefing on their learning experiences. You should also set the stage for a respectful learning environment by  1) acknowledging that there are different schools of thought around as it relates to the application of monitoring and evaluation, and 2) clearly present the standards of M&E within their organization. This serves to validate the differences in M&E approaches and levels of knowledge that participants might have, while still giving clear guidance for best practice.


As a trainer, the task is to take what is useful from the global community and apply it to the situation in the given context. Training should give participants the foundation and tools upon which they can build innovative solutions to problems in their own context.

What strategies for successful M&E trainings have you used? Share in the comments below!


Great reminder for facilitating trainings. It is helpful how you articulate these ideas (that I know I have felt as a participant at trainings!) and then apply these concepts with a Hot Tip. What especially jumped out at me is the homework tip which, to me, translated into Envision - Document/Plan - Share. What a tangible result to walk a away with to which team members who weren't there can then relate. It addresses the challenge to apply/transfer knowledge gained during trainings. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for you comment Carla! And especially thanks for sharing how you would breakdown the "homework" tip.