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Community Contribution

Different Ways to Address Learning Questions

Namitha Jacob

This resource outlines a variety of approaches to conducting learning activities to help answer learning questions.

Often, we rely on approaches that we have used in the past without pausing to consider whether those approaches are the best fit given our learning questions. This resource and the graphic is intended for use by USAID and implementing partner staff when developing or reviewing learning activities during monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) planning processes (i.e., USAID Performance Monitoring Plan, project, activity or sectoral learning agendas, or implementing partner Activity MEL plan development). You can use this graphic as a reference for the variety of learning activities that could be appropriate depending on your specific learning questions, context, and constraints.

Before selecting learning activities, ask yourself:

  1. How many learning activities are required to adequately answer your learning questions? Perhaps one learning activity isn’t sufficient and needs to be paired with others to adequately answer your learning questions. Consider timing here as well – Plan for the learning activities to be completed within a timeframe that enables decision-making.
  2. Will selected learning activities be considered valid by my target audience? Consider what types of evidence your target audience finds most compelling – it may be that they are most likely to incorporate learning if it comes from trusted sources or if a certain methodology is used (e.g., impact evaluation, ethnographic research, etc.). 
  3. Do you have the resources to carry out the selected learning activities to an adequate standards? Consider budget constraints and whether staff have the capacity to carry out the learning activities. 

There is no one size fits all approach to answering learning questions. The purpose of this graphic is to demonstrate the variety of learning activities that exist and could become part of your approach. 

For more on learning activities and MEL, see also the USAID Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting toolkit cluster on Learning Agendas and M&E for Learning, the USAID Monitoring Toolkit and the USAID Evaluation Toolkit.

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