Enumerator training is an extremely important part of the primary data collection, and should be planned in advance. It is a joint effort between the field coordinators, the survey firm, and other members of the impact evaluation team (or research team). The research team must prepare and approve an enumerator manual (or field manual). The enumerator manual acts as the basis for the training content, and helps organize the training.
- The research team should make sure all members of the field team are familiar with the survey protocols and survey design by the end of the enumerator training.
- Always train more enumerators than are required for the field data collection.
- Select the best enumerators at the end of the training, based on rigorous assessments.
- The field team should follow the scientific approach of enumerator training, and train enumerators to ensure confidentiality of respondents during the survey.
- Broadly, the training can be divided into the following components - objectives, planning, content, structure, and enumerator assessment.
The research team should use the enumerator training to provide the rest of the team members with a clear overview of the context, objectives, and relevance of the impact evaluation. A good, well-organized enumerator training deals with the following aspects:
- Survey protocols: The training should ensure that all members of the field team have a clear understanding of the survey protocols. The research team must pilot all protocols well in advance, as part of preparing for data collection.
- Survey instrument: The research team must ensure that the all enumerators understand all the questions in the survey instrument. The enumerators should also be able to use the tablets (in case of computer-assisted personal interviews (CAPI), or paper forms (in case of pen-and-paper personal interviews (PAPI).
- Key roles: The training should also ensure that all members of the research team, survey firm, and the field team understand their roles and duties. This allows everyone to take responsibility of their tasks, and remain committed throughout the process of data collection. For instance, the survey firm executes the tasks involved in data collection, while the field coordinators (FCs) supervise these tasks, and ensure quality of the work done by enumerators and the survey firm. Similarly, the research assistants (RAs) provide support in preparing the data quality assurance plan.
Before starting with enumerator training, it is important for everyone involved in the data collection to be aware of their roles and responsibilities. Planning is a continuous process that requires constant interaction between the survey firm and the field coordinators (FCs). This stage has the following components:
Logistics and recruitment
The survey firm is responsible for coordinating logistics and recruitment, which includes:
- Finalizing the training venue.
- Providing materials like printed questionnaires (or survey forms) and training agenda.
- Providing tablets, pens, and notebooks.
- Hiring potential enumerators and skilled supervisors to help with the training.
Train support staff
In the context of enumerator training, the following people are considered a part of the support staff - survey facilitators, survey firm managers, and potential supervisors. The field coordinators (FCs) are responsible for training support staff to make sure they are familiar with various aspects of the project, including the context of the study, the questionnaire content, and the potential survey protocols. The support staff can then work with the survey firm during the actual enumerator training.
An enumerator manual (or field manual) is extremely important because it is the primary resource used during the enumerator training. It also acts as an important resource for enumerators during the field survey. Field manuals contain all field protocols, provide crucial guidelines to the survey firm, and also provide content for the training Refer to Figure 1 below for a field manual template. A comprehensive field manual should list the following:
- Study objectives: The field manual should briefly explain the purpose of the study, and the possible outcomes that the research team hopes to achieve. This provides enumerators and field teams a good reference during the actual field interview, and helps them understand their roles more clearly.
- Roles and responsibilities: The field manual should also list the roles and responsibilities of each member in the field team. This allows field staff to take more responsibility for their work, and perform their tasks efficiently.
- Survey protocols: Survey protocols play an important role in ensuring high data quality in the field. The field manual should list all protocols, along with examples that explain the importance of following these protocols.
- Key terms: The field manual should clearly define all key terms that are used in the questionnaire, as well as throughout the field manual. Key terms include common acronyms like open data kit (ODK), and technical terms like sampling frames.
- Instructions: The field manual should also provide detailed instructions on how to operate and use tablets during the field interviews. This also helps to ensure consistency during the data collection, and improve data quality.
- Description of questions: The field manual should also explain the questions that are part of the questionnaire, along with common rules and methods for asking questions during the field interview.
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Finally, the field manual should include a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). These are questions that often come up during the training sessions, and help to resolve common doubts that may arise during fieldwork.
Finalize training time frame
The training time frame refers to the duration of the enumerator training, and depends on factors like:
- Length and complexity of the questionnaire. If the questionnaire is longer, and is more complex (that is, has several modules, and many repeat groups), then the training will also need to be longer to make sure enumerators are comfortable with the questionnaire.
- Capacity of potential enumerators. If the potential enumerators are more experienced, the duration of the training will be shorter, compared to a situation where the potential enumerators have less experience.
- Complexity of study design. Again, if the study itself is based on a complex theory of change, or is trying to answer questions that were not a part of any previous studies, the training too will have to be longer to explain the objectives and protocols.
Further, keep the following points in mind when deciding the time frame:
- Sufficient rest. Include sufficient time to rest after the sessions.
- Practice sessions. Include extra days for practice in the classrooms, as well as in the field.
- Extra day for enumerator selection. Include at least one day for the process of selecting enumerators for the actual survey.
- Field manual. Use the field manual as a guide for finalizing the time frame, since the manual contains all information about the study and its various aspects.
After the enumerator training is complete, the field coordinators (FCs), the survey firm, and the supervisors should coordinate to conduct the enumerator assessment. Always train more enumerators than are needed for the actual survey (or interview). This motivates enumerators to perform better. It also ensures that a group of qualified enumerators are available as backup in case a few enumerators are unable to conduct the interviews on a given day. The following are the main criteria for enumerator selection:
- Scores on regular quizzes and final test
- Field practice
- Interpersonal skills
- Previous experience
Quiz and test scores
Although quiz and test scores may seem like a highly academic criteria of enumerator assessment, they offer important feedback which field teams can use to improve the training sessions. It is important to reassure the enumerators that the frequent quizzes act more as measure of how much progress each enumerator has made during the enumerator training, and less as a measure of performance. Be creative while preparing the final test. The final test should assess the following:
- Understanding of materials. Use the regular quizzes and final test to assess how well an enumerator has understood the training materials such as field manuals, protocols, and standard guidelines for conducting interviews.
- Reading skills in different languages. The quizzes should also evaluate basic reading skills in the relevant languages. This also includes assessing familiarity of enumerators with the translated versions of the questionnaire in various languages. For example, if the questions are to be asked in English and Hindi, it is important to ensure that enumerators are able to read out the questions in both languages during the interview.
- Understanding of questions. The quizzes should also assess if enumerators are able to understand the meaning and relevance of certain questions. For example, in a COVID-19 pulse survey, it would be important for the research team to assess how households are preparing to deal with the economic and health-related consequences of COVID-19. In this case, for a question about how households assess the threat of COVID-19, enumerators must be able to understand the question themselves, before asking the respondents. Further, enumerators should be able to explain how respondents can answer the question using a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 meaning "No threat", and 5 meaning "Severe threat".
- Numeracy skills. The quiz must also assess basic numeracy skills (like counting, adding, etc.) of enumerators, including the ability to enter responses on a tablet.
NOTE: The research team and the field staff should also keep the following things in mind while designing the final test:
- Be well-organized. Create all quizzes and the final test before the start of enumerator training. Edit the quizzes based on observations during the training sessions.
- Conduct regular quizzes as well as a final test. Carry out one quiz per day to test understanding of topics covered on the previous day. Correct the quizzes quickly, ideally on the same day. Share feedback simultaneously, to allow enumerators to correct their mistakes and fill any gaps in their understanding. The final test should provide a comprehensive assessment of the training content. It is useful to adapt the final test based on earlier quizzes, focusing in on areas where enumerators scored poorly on the quizzes.
- Be transparent. Inform enumerators before the start of training that they will be required to take regular quizzes and a final test. Share the skills that they should focus on in order to fully utilize the training. This also allows enumerators to concentrate better during sessions.
- Encourage enumerators. Quizzes can often be stressful, so motivate enumerators throughout the training. Inform the enumerators that their scores in these quizzes are only one of the several criteria for evaluating them. Provide constructive feedback to enumerators after sharing results of each quiz.
Field practice is a very important part of enumerator training, as it allows enumerators and the rest of the field staff to test survey protocols, as well as the survey content. Field practice can take the following forms:
- Team exercises: These involve enumerators getting together to practice questionnaire modules in pairs or in groups.
- Mock interviews: Trainers can also conduct mock interviews with enumerators, and holding discussion sessions afterwards.
- Pilot interviews with administrative officials: In some cases, it is also useful to conduct practice interviews with government officials. Data from these interviews is not included in the final dataset. These are only meant to provide feedback which is especially useful when the field team is not familiar with the culture and social norms in the location of the study.
Keep the following things in mind regarding field practice:
- Plan regular sessions. Plan field practice sessions in such a manner that potential enumerators conducts at least one practice interview per person.
- Use facilitators to monitor. Split the enumerators into groups, and assign one experienced enumerators as a facilitator in each group. The facilitators can monitor and observe interviews to ensure that enumerators are following all protocols.
- Keep regular feedback sessions. The facilitators should take notes on each enumerator's performances during practice, and share their comments at the end of the day.
NOTE: The following is an observation checklist which facilitators can use to observe enumerators during field practice:
- Use of proper equipment: It is important to ensure that each enumerator is using the proper equipment during the practice interview. For example, a pen and a notebook in case of a pen-and-paper interview (PAPI), and tablets in case of a computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI).
- Selection of the correct respondent: It is important to ensure that the enumerator selectes the corrected respondent during practice. Interviewing incorrect respondents can cause serious problems for data quality, such as duplicates, missing values, and even outliers.
- Proper introduction: The enumerators should be able to correctly and concisely introduce the survey objectives to the respondent. They must also be able to read out the informed consent form in the language spoken by the respondent.
- Introductory sentences: The enumerators should be able to read the introductory sentences before questions (if any), as well as all questions correctly in the language spoken by the respondent.
- Clarifications and polite probing: Sometimes a respondent may have trouble understand a question, or their answer might not be satisfactory. In such situations, the enumerator should be able to clarify as and when required. They must also be able to probe the respondent in a polite manner, and at the right time.
- Familiarity with the survey and confidence: The facilitators must also check how familiar the enumerators are with the survey content. Also evaluate the level of confidence in practice sessions for each enumerator.
- Language proficiency: Check the level of comfort and fluency of enumerators in each of the languages used in the questionnaire.
- Interactions with the respondent: Evaluate enumerators on their interactions with the respondent, both verbally and non-verbally. The enumerators should be polite and respectful throughout.
- Patience and attention to detail: The enumerators should answer all follow-up questions from respondents patiently. Evaluate enumerators on their attention to detail and whether they stick to all protocols.
- Creating a conducive environment: Evaluate enumerators on whether they make the respondents feel comfortable during the interview. The enumerator should reassure the respondent that the impact evaluation study will protect their rights, including their right to privacy.
Another criteria to evaluate enumerator performance is their participation throughout the training sessions. Facilitators should observe each enumerator and take regular notes. They can score enumerators on a scale of 1 to 5, where "1 = Poor", "2 = Weak" "3 = Average", "4 = Strong", and "5 = Excellent". Some criteria to evaluate participation are:
- Punctuality: Facilitators should keep note of enumerators who are punctual for training sessions. This also encourages enumerators to take the sessions seriously.
- Active participation and initiative: This includes awarding a higher score to enumerators who take part in classroom discussions, and take initiative to improve in areas where they might be weaker.
- Attitude and integrity: The attitude of enumerators during the training is also a very important aspect. Facilitators should take note of, and award higher scores to enumerators who are eager to learn and correct mistakes, and respond positively to feedback after quizzes and training sessions.
- Team work: The field team often faces various challenging situations in the field. The training sessions are therefore a good time to think about creating a positive atmosphere in the team. Award higher scores to enumerators who work well in a team, and are willing to help their teammates with any issues they might face.
- Communication skills: Good communication skills are also an extremely quality important for enumerators. Enumerators should be able to convey their issues, clarify any doubts they face, and participate in review sessions to improve the overall quality of the survey.
It is important to convey the the importance of their role in the research to the enumerators. This will allow enumerators to take ownership of the project, which is essential for ensuring that enumerators remain committed throughout the duration of the data collection. This will be particularly important for projects lasting several weeks, or projects that involving a significant amount of travel, since these can result in enumerator fatigue. In this regard, it is important to follow certain best practices.
The most important quality of a good survey team is a commitment to the scientific method. A scientific method is the standard approach for surveys in order to produce concrete and valuable results that can be easily defended during peer-reviews. Clarify to enumerators that the scientific approach means that they are committed to identifying the actual situation on the ground, and not one that appears to exist because of errors in the way opinions are taken into account.
In development research, the only way that a comparison between different groups is possible is to use the same survey method for all respondents. This means that the following must be as similar as possible for each group:
- Process: Introduce the process in the same way to each group.
- Anonymity: Make people in each group feel equally comfortable that the process is anonymous.
- Confidentiality: Make people feel that their responses will be confidential.
- Duration: Give each group roughly the same amount of time to fill in the questionnaire.
- Discussions: Guide the discussion session in a similar manner for each group.
- Collection and filing: Collect and file all the questionnaires systematically.
If we deviate from this approach, for example by treating one group differently from all the others, we won’t be able to tell if the differences between that group and the others are because of actual differences, or simply because we failed to use the same survey method for the groups.
NOTE: Finally, there will still be times when a particular situation is different from the circumstances of what is considered an ideal interview. In such cases, it is possible that the FAQs compiled by the team might not also be of any help. To ensure that enumerators are prepared for such situations, include sessions to train enumerators on the various aspects of study methodology and approach.
Confidentiality and anonymity
One of the key selling points of the interview for many respondents will be a commitment to anonymizing all interviews and safeguarding respondents’ confidentiality. Tablets are a very useful tool in helping enumerators achieve this. However, enumerators must also ensure that all interactions with respondents meet the strictest criteria for confidentiality. This entails:
- Not disclosing any opinions, claims, and other features that can be associated with individuals.
- Using confidential information only for the purposes set out in the training, and not for any other purpose.
- Not copying or retaining any written information or record that could be associated with identifying features of individuals, or any other kind of identifying information.
- Returning all confidential information (including notes, memos, photographs) to the survey team at the conclusion of the surveys, or when demanded by the survey team.
- Not disclosing any confidential information to any employee, consultant or third party unless it has been approved by the survey team.
Interview practice and field testing
Before going out in the field, it is important that all enumerators practice interviewing at least twice. This helps them become familiar with the questionnaire, and also allows them to receive feedback on their interviewing skills. It is normal for the first few interviews conducted by each enumerator to be of a lesser quality, so it is important to discard these and not include them in the main dataset.
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This article is part of the topic Primary Data Collection