Understanding Participatory Approaches to Learning
Participatory approaches to learning are active approaches that encourage people to think for themselves. Participants actively contribute to teaching and learning, rather than passively receiving information from outside experts, who may not have local understanding of the issues. The approach encourages people to share information, learn from each other, and work together to solve common problems.
As people become more experienced with the approach, they take increasing responsibility for planning their own learning sessions. They learn how to work together in a group. They also gain experience in using the activities and visual tools to do their own fieldwork.
Participants can bring what they have learned back to their own organisations and communities, and continue to use facilitator techniques and participatory tools locally. Participatory learning also ultimately provides people with a framework of skills that they can use in any situation to explore issues and take action.
Participatory approaches are used in situations where a number of people must work together to resolve a common problem.
Good problem solving requires input from a variety of people with many types of experience and expertise. It also includes everyone who is interested in finding the best solution —the stakeholders. Experience shows that when everyone contributes to the learning process, then people feel more ownership of the problem and develop more appropriate solutions for their context.
HIV/AIDS is an issue that often involves the whole community. It requires that people from international, national, regional and local organisations work together. Participatory workshops can be very effective in bringing people together, from members of local communities to national NGOs and international policy-makers.
When people at international, national and regional levels have the opportunity to learn and to work together, there can be better co-ordination of services.
The workshops can raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, as well as developing knowledge, skills and attitudes relating to HIV/AIDS. However, participatory approaches have disadvantages as well as advantages.
Advantages and disadvantages of participatory approaches to learning
This is an extract from A Facilitators' Guide to Participatory Workshops with NGOs/CBOs Responding to HIV/AIDS, published by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in November 2001.
To download the whole document, complete with graphics, in pdf format
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Copyright 2002, International HIV/AIDS Alliance