Training Guidelines: Content and Structure
The Enumerator Training is a joint effort between the Field Coordinator (often with other members of the Impact Evaluation Team) and the Survey Firm. The Field Coordinator should prepare the Enumerator Manual or make sure to be involved in its approval process. It serves as a basis for the training content, and should help develop the training agenda.
Providing the team with an overview of the background, objectives and relevance of the project is a key way to ensure the team becomes engaged and motivated to conduct high quality data collection. Conveying the importance of their role in the research will allow enumerators to take ownership of the project, a key requirement in ensuring enumerators remain committed throughout the duration of the data collection phase. This will be particularly important for projects lasting several weeks or requiring a significant amount of travel, both of which can result in enumerator fatigue.
The time dedicated to training on the questionnaire content will depend on the complexity of the questions themselves, the use of scales or experiments etc. For example, scoring scales or questions about perceptions, attitude or motivation, will require more in-depth instruction which will include a detailed review of what is being measured and how this should be captured, as well as various practical exercises which will allow the enumerators to test their understanding, and the trainers to tailor subsequent sessions to the areas in which there is a discrepancy or inconsistency in comprehension.
It will be important not to assume that enumerators will understand questions in the same way, as even relatively straightforward questions or items can be interpreted differently, particularly if working with people with different levels and types of experience. It is better to dedicate time to going through all questions, however briefly, in the training than to deal with inconsistencies after the data collection has begun. Preparing and Enumerator manual and additional materials to support the training, on which enumerators can take notes to review after the training, and which they can refer to throughout the fielding of the survey, will be crucial.
Spending some time on interviewing techniques is vital. While the content of this part of the training will depend on the nature of the questionnaire, general tips on how to conduct a good interview will also be helpful. Some general topics for discussion include:
- Eliciting good data: some respondents are likely to have confidentiality concerns, so it is of utmost importance that the enumerators make it clear throughout the interview, both by stating so openly and in the way they approach sensitive topics, that there is no risk for them in participating as all answers will be anonymized and kept confidential. Further, respondents should be made to understand that the aim of the interview is to learn from them, capture their personal thoughts, opinions and beliefs, and not the official or sanctioned versions.
- Time management: how long interviews last will vary depending on the questionnaire and the respondent. While it is normal for the duration to vary, time management will be essential if enumerators are to complete their target number of interviews each day. Not only does an overly long interview have the potential to cut short another interview, it also risks not being completed. Enumerators should have an idea of approximately how long they should spend on each section of the questionnaire, and should be especially careful with the more complex sections as these risk taking longer if the respondent is not clear on what he or she is being asked. A good understanding of the questions and concepts underlying each one will allow enumerators to run through the interview at a good pace.
- Respondent fatigue can impact data quality and affect the results of the survey. It can result from respondents becoming bored, tired, or uninterested with the interview and begin to respond at a substandard level. This can be caused by several things, including an overly long interview, poor interviewing skills, or unease with the questions being asked. Enumerators can prevent this from happening by ensuring the respondents are fully aware of the value of their participation, by keeping the interview within a reasonable time and by interacting with the respondent in an engaging and interested manner.
Tablets and electronic data collection platforms such as Survey CTO are relatively straightforward to use, but time should be set aside to go through their correct use, as well as all data uploading protocols. While electronic methods provide a safe and easy way to collect and upload data quickly and efficiently, incorrect use of the tablet can lead to irretrievable data losses so it’s crucial that all enumerators are clear on the protocols to follow, such as saving, reviewing and uploading data. It is advisable to have a set of step-by-step instructions on how to do this rather than relying on the assumption that all enumerators will be comfortable using electronic devices. Before starting with Survey CTO on the tablets, it is important to ensure all the participants know how to turn on the device, unlock the screen, modify the screen brightness, activate and disable an app, etc. A good use of the electronic device and its settings allow an optimal use of the Survey CTO software. In case paper forms are used in the survey (e.g. for self-administered questionnaires), protocols should also be clearly set out to ensure all forms are labelled correctly and organized appropriately.
It is strongly recommended to go through the entire paper questionnaire before moving to the electronic questionnaire on the device. Enumerators should have a good understanding of the structure of the questionnaire and the modules before using the tablets. Even if skip patterns are programmed on Survey CTO, enumerators should be able to identify inconsistencies on the electronic version of the survey.
Dime Analytics has developed a SurveyCTO user guide for data collectors. This manual can be used as training material and goes through all the important steps using SurveyCTO and the device for the data collection: life of the survey form, tablets preparation, and the process to send the forms.
Agenda for enumerator training
Use the Enumerator Manual as the guide for structuring the training agenda. A typical agenda includes:
- Introductions & Overview of Study (0.5 days)
- Review of Survey Protocols (0.5 - 2 days)
- Review of Questionnaire (paper version) (2.5-4 days)
- This is done module-by-module. Each question is read aloud and discussed. At the end of each module, a mock interview.
- Review of research standards and confidentiality (0.5 days)
- Introduction to tablets to be used for data collection (0.5 - 1 days)
- Review of Questionnaire (electronic version) (2-3 days)
- Mock interviews in-classroom and assessments (1-2 days)
- Field testing (1-2 days)
- Final team selection and logistics (1 day)
Duration of Training
Although the training time frame depends on many issues, allocate plenty of time for training! Survey firms often push for short training, but rushing the training will only cause problems and delays later on.
For a typical complex, multi-module household surveys, 10 days is a good estimate for minimum training time. Exact duration will depend on the complexity of the survey instrument, the level of education of the enumerators, and the number of people being trained.
While planning your training agenda, allow rest after sessions, include days for classroom and fieldwork, enumerator selection, etc. You will never need less time in training!
Modifying the Questionnaire & Enumerator Manual
Throughout training, mistakes may be found in questions, translations, programming, or the manual. Take notes each day on necessary changes, and updated materials daily if possible. Do not underestimate the value of feedback from enumerators- if they have concerns or issues of understanding, it is likely respondents will too. Print an updated Manual at the end of training, and provide it to all selected enumerators in a plastic (waterproof) folder.
- The training should be highly interactive.
- Include both classroom training and field testing.
- Classroom training should include both large and small group sessions.
- Take regular notes on participants' suggestions and comments to improve the survey instruments
- Pop quizzes at the beginning of each day are a good way to keep people's attention, and to catch any comprehension gaps in real time.
- Allow for anonymous questions
- Give enough breaks between sessions
- Ensure that every participant practices all survey components (introductions, consent, survey modules) in front of others and receives feedback. It will seem tedious to read through and practice every single question, but it is a key part of the training and very important
- Have session(s) with the project counterparts for an explanation of the project, technical terms, and translation support. Participants should have a good understanding of the project in addition to being qualified enumerators
- Enforce discipline: no mobile phone, no frequent movement in and out, participants should come on time...
- Deliver a participation certificate and recommend your enumerators after the training for other research projects
- Plan one retraining day to remind the team about survey procedures, staff organization, changes in the questionnaires, give per-diems and explain logistics (accommodation & transports, …)
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