2. Thinking about development education methodologies and evaluating learning

Given the nature and scale of the issues central to development education, it is inevitable and desirable that attention is paid to how we approach issues and debates about human development, human rights, inequality and injustice etc. So much research and practice on the topic of how, where and when people learn (in general and specifically as regards development and justice issues) has been undertaken and debated over the past number of decades (see for example the work of the Ubuntu Network or the research review of literature on global and justice perspectives from the DICE Project).

A number of key lessons stand out from much of this research and which contribute to our understanding of effective methodologies in development education.

Throughout this unit on doing development education, we include a huge variety of activities and methodologies which address the different dimensions and components of teaching and learning in a wide variety of contexts. Many of these approaches are detailed in the section Doing development education…30 activities to get you going and 10 activities for younger age groups.

This section includes:

  • Some lessons from the research
  • 4 Approaches to doing development education
  • Some tips and suggestions for planning an activity
  • Thinking about evaluation (tips, suggestions)
  • Evaluation frameworks
  • A map to help design a programme of DE activity

This brief discussion of methodologies is designed to remind us of some of the overall questions and challenges that arise in addressing the issue of methodologies. It is not in any way intended to be a comprehensive review of this topic.

Some lessons from the research (there are many more we have not included here!):

  • The issues addressed by development education (and related areas) are by definition surrounded by controversy – we all simply do not agree the whys, how’s, what’s and whereto of issues such as world poverty, hunger, discrimination etc. Being aware of this reality; highlighting, exploring and debating it is part and parcel of the agenda. Exploring, debating and assessing alternative views, solutions and agendas is essential.
  • Learners already possess considerable knowledge of the topic or of related areas; accessing their thoughts and perceptions at the outset is a productive and rewarding starting point. It will help you plan more effective work.
  • Activities that simply present the ‘teacher’ (youth worker, adult educator) as the ‘expert’ and the learners as simple recipients of her/his ‘wisdom’ are unlikely to succeed.
  • In addressing issues of underdevelopment, injustice, human rights etc., it is crucially important to introduce a variety of views and perspectives that encourage and stimulate thinking and debate (including those from other regions, continents, faiths, political perspectives etc.). Simply presenting one (usually ‘dominant’ or ‘western’ view) is unlikely to get us very far.
  • Debate and disagreement are a fundamental component of the agenda and making space and time for them is basic to our work.
  • A frequent question arises very quickly – ‘what can I do?’; on issues of human development and human rights, there is a strong sense of ‘powerlessness’ despite widespread evidence around us of ‘powerfulness’. Be prepared to integrate a component on the ‘action agenda’ in your activity; encourage discussion on this item.
  • The area of ‘feelings and values’ is as important as that of ‘facts and figures’ – try to explicitly include these in your activities. Photos, videos, music, stories etc. are very useful in this regard.

Key Point: as in all effective and inclusive education, a common characteristic of DE workshops is the emphasis placed on process where the educator shares, learns and explores with the participants (rather than being the gatekeeper of all the answers and even the questions!).

  • For more on this and related topics, see Roland Tormey (ed., 2003) Teaching Social Justice: Intercultural and Development Education Perspectives on Education’s Context, Content and Methods, Limerick, Centre for Educational Disadvantage Research, Mary Immaculate College and Ireland Aid.
  • Guidance on managing controversial issues in the classroom can be found in chapter 6 of Roland Tormey (2006) Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School, published by the NCCA, pp.85-86).

Approaches to doing development education

In this unit, we have included an initial set of 4 straightforward methodologies that may be of use in planning and delivering your activity. They are designed to support you in thinking about what needs to be considered in such planning; they are not intended to be straitjackets but rather methodologies that can be adapted and modified to suit your own circumstances.

Method 1: a simple but very useful ‘3-step approach’ to doing DE

Method 2: an ‘Essential Learning for Everyone’ framework

Method 3: the Development Compass Rose: asking key questions

Method 4: public education and development issues

Some tips and suggestions for planning an activity

As part of our work with development educators in Ireland we have produced a set of guidelines for those planning to develop a DE resource. These can be readily adapted to assist you in planning a DE activity or suite of activities.

Models of learningEssential Learning Outcomes
  • Do you have an educational ‘model or framework’ e.g. enquiry, stimulus, research, reflection, synthesis, action
  • Is the educational model appropriate for the target group? Have you considered if these are appropriate for your target audience – be realistic
  • Are you supporting different kinds of learning for multiple intelligences such as active learning, participative and creative approaches?
  • Are activities integrated from one to the next? Do they build on previous group learning?
  •  Is the resource seeking to raise the social consciousness of the participants?
  • Are multiple perspectives presented? Personal, local, national, global?
  • Are new skills, ideas and underlying values and attitudes about issues engaged with and evaluated sufficiently?
  • Is sufficient time and space given for examination of issues and how participants ‘feel’ about the issues? (self-reflection)
  • Have participants critically engaged with the issues?
  • How can the resource help the teacher/facilitator to teach the content, skills, they have to cover?
ReferencingCurriculum Links
  • A resource is strengthened by proper referencing – sources of facts used in content/tables/infographics. Root ideas in up to date facts and knowledge, even if that knowledge is contested
  • Where do we get our facts –and where are we recommending people to go to get more facts? Check your sources!
  • Include references to websites – to your own and others
  • References include author, year, title, publisher and website URL (if online reference)
  • Are there curriculum, or specification contexts this resource can be linked to?
  • Should the resource link to such a curriculum/specification? What setting will the resource be used in? Are you going to solely work within the curriculum?
  • Have you factored in a literacy and numeracy dimension?

Table from p12 of Guidelines for Producing Development Education Resources by developmenteducation.ie, Dóchas and IDEA (2014)

Planning to use photos and images? 

If you are thinking of using images, photos or posters; whether to generate your own or to use those produced by others, check out the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages in the using photos section [hyperlink to new using photos section]. This will help you explore questions about the underling values, messages and ethics involved in generating images.

An activity: using the Dóchas code of conduct on images and messages and discussing its approach and content is a useful development education activity in its own right and raises many interesting (and contestable) questions.

Thinking about evaluation

Appropriate assessment and evaluation is an important element of doing our work; it seeks to capture, assess impact and improve approach – a critical ‘added value’ activity.

Evaluation and assessment is not an end itself; it needs to be continuous throughout our work; developing an appropriate evaluation culture means that workshop planners, educators and learners do better. Overall, evaluation helps us:

  • understand the impact of the activity in terms of a learning
  • measure the effectiveness of methods chosen
  • help measure changes in skills and ideas, attitudes and behaviours
  • get feedback and improve future activities
  • re-think practices and make necessary changes
  • ensures that participants in an activity feel a part of it, are valued and therefore more likely to be inspired to do more!

Tips on evaluation

Monitoring: maintain records and collect data on an activity and on any actions by groups and learners (results); also don’t forget to keep photos and other outputs.

Assess ongoing learning: build in self and group assessment activities throughout for example, a group reflection activity, a learning journal, quizzes etc.; these can be documented and shared for ingoing assessment.

Building in incentives: track and collect feedback and outputs by including incentives for participants – certificates, awards, the showcasing of projects, special presentations etc.

Review data: look at data and results on a periodic basis – what are your conclusions? Does it suggest that changes are appropriate?

Challenges of EvaluationTips for dealing with challenges
  • People’s resistance
  • Competition within a group
  • Lack of time or willingness
  • Expectations on an evaluation criticising work
  • Over-evaluation…everyone is doing it!
  • Keep in touch with individuals involved, particularly from pilot phases
  • Incentivise feeding back through competitions, certificates etc
  • Explain why evaluation is important – for improvement, learning, benefits everyone, ensures value for effort and money etc.


This section has been adapted from the Global Education Guidelines: a handbook for educators to understand and implement global education (2008) by North-South Centre of the Council of Europe.

Evaluation frameworks

Below, we have listed a selection of evaluation frameworks that have been produced to support educators:

Finally, a map to help design a programme of DE activity

Planning a DE or related session often typically follows a structure (such as that below); the ideas and questions included are simply offered to encourage and support such basic planning. Feel free to use different sections in different contexts and to add (or subtract) as appropriate for your own context. 

Introductory activity starting with key ideas and values Stimulus activity on a particular issueReflection and evaluationAn action dimension

· Introduce a key DE idea (i.e. human development, world hunger, human rights etc.)*, explore definitions and goals

· Establish a basic set of ideas and attitudes around the issue

· Make connections to the issue using accessible examples or case studies

· Draw on participants’ experience as well as your own

· Stimulate and discuss additional activities and debates

· Draw out attitudes & existing knowledge on the issue

· Highlight key ideas and principles to stimulate further enquiry

· Use case studies to further exploration and to begin to build empathy

· Explore a range of different (contradictory?) perspectives and viewpoints

· Employ active rather than passive learning

· Summarise learning during the process; identify and record key points, issues and questions

· Introduce and discuss potential solutions and alternatives

· Explore ‘feelings’ and emotions about the issues

· Identify and note shared ideas as well as contested ones

· Explore the implications of an issue at different levels – the personal, local, developing world and whole world

· What action(s) seem feasible and practical to participants

· Agree/disagree on why action is needed

· Assess the actions of others – individuals and organisations

· Encourage discussion on taking individual and collective responsibilities

· Use case studies to encourage further possible action(s)

Note: you may wish to apply a range of educational methodologies that build on aspects of a particular issue before moving onto the action dimension.

*For an introduction to key ideas and values see this short guide to human rights, human dignity and sustainable development.