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September 2017 – Training on the Principles of Adult Learning

Training on Adult Learning Principles and Learning Styles

We loved working with the community health worker and project replication teams from Project ECHO out of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine for a 3-hour training on adult learning principles and learning styles. The training was fun and full of interaction, participation, and discussion about ways to understand and engage participants. For this project, we created a customized guide called “Participant Focused Training Guide” which includes both quick and detailed ways to assure one considers their participants — who they are, their backgrounds and cultures, their learning style preferences, their existing knowledge and experiences — in the design of trainings and curricula.

At Soda Creek, integration of adult learning principles is the foundation of much of our work, including curriculum development and the development of learning tools and trainings. Sara Nelson, principal and co-owner, first learned about these principles as well as popular education while volunteering in the Dominican Republic in her teens and then while teaching English as a Second Language in the jails while in college. She has continued to utilize these methodologies throughout her career up to present.

Principles of Adult Learning Preparation

Principles of Adult Learning Preparation



Training guide and train-the-trainer


Our Role

Principles of Adult Learning Guide – We developed a customized guide for Project ECHO staff to use when developing training, curricula, and facilitation in order to incorporate the principles of adult learning and strategies for different types of learners.

Train-the-trainer on the principles of adult learning – We introduced Project ECHO staff to the guide (described above) and trained them on how to utilize it when writing curricula and working with different audiences.

Health Communication Consulting

Health Communication


Our Role

  • Educational material development integrating adult learning principles – Assess and re-design bilingual (English/Spanish) heart health handouts for NHLBI’s cardiovascular disease curricula in order to ensure they are best suited for adult and low-literacy learners.  This type of health communication work is one of our specialties.  Additionally, update the materials to reflect current nutrition and physical activity guidelines. These materials are not yet public.
  • Lead toolkit writer for “Start to Finish: Your Toolkit to Plan and Run a Heart Health Program” – This is an online heart health toolkit for organizations starting or currently running heart health programs with community health workers.
  • Curricula review, editing, design, and assessment – This is for a bilingual (English/Spanish) asthma manual that is not yet public. Work includes reviewing and assessing the curricula to ensure it integrates adult learning principles, providing recommendations of content to add and cut, writing activities and tips for trainers, ensuring that the English and Spanish versions match, translating content from Spanish to English, and designing the Spanish-language layout.
  • Field research – Develop surveys, discussion group guides, and interview guides for pilot training sessions. Observe pilot sessions and provide recommendations on ways to improve content and delivery. Conduct focus groups and interviews in Spanish. Summarize findings.
Altarum Institute logo
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute logo

“Soda Creek was a Godsend on this project! Her combination of content knowledge, technical design skills, and bilingual abilities is really unique and not something you will find. I worked with Sara over the course of several years and really appreciate how easy she is to work with as well as how quickly she is able to complete the work. Plus, her work was always high quality and well received by our client. I highly recommend Sara and Soda Creek and would welcome working with her again in the future!”

Sandra Silva

Senior Associate, Altarum Institute

“Sara has it all. She can work with absolutely anyone, any personality. She is highly dependable and very honest about timelines and what she feels the can do well and provide high-quality results on. She has an incredible blend of direct-service experience and amazing community rapport, combined with the ability to analyze, get a bird’s eye view and come up with a carefully tailored approach or result. I have known Sara since 1995 or 1996, when our paths crossed in the farmworker/community/rural health world, but I hired her to work on my 4-year federally-funded National Institutes of Health health education project through Altarum Institute from 2009 through the present (project was extended to September 2014). She is unlike any other contractor we have because of her wonderful blend of community/professional. She always brings a value-added perspective that no one else is likely to have thought of. She does wonders with feedback or suggestions, and truly drives on until she and the client feel that the product really fits the need. I highly recommend Sara without hesitation.”

Naomi Ortega Tein

Senior Analyst, Altarum Institute

What do we know about community health workers?

Sara Nelson, Principal Consultant) has worked with community health workers (CHWs) or promotoras since her early days in health outreach (17 years ago). CHWs promote community voice in health care. They are liaisons between patients and medical providers, they are motivators and advocates, they are teachers and trainers.

In 2002, Sara formed La Comunidad Habla (LCH) which she designed to be a spin on the traditional CHW role. For LCH, she recruited and trained Spanish-speaking women to train their fellow neighbors in finding and accessing online health resources. LCH has grown over the years and the group of CHWs she trained now have their own small-businesses as computer literacy trainers and health communication technical assistants.

Sara has also regularly collaborated with the New Mexico Community Health Worker Association. In June 2012 she gave a presentation on facilitation techniques at their annual training. We also worked together last year to update the Salud Manual, an online and print community resource directory.

What is the CHW Health Disparities Initiative?

The Community Health Worker Health Disparities Initiative was launched to reduce health disparities in heart disease and asthma in underserved and minority communities across the United States. As trusted members of their communities, community health workers play a critical role in reducing health disparities by teaching community members about healthy lifestyle choices and providing preventive care guidance. The manuals are used to prepare community health workers to train others (train-the-trainer) and they’re also used to teach Latino families about heart health and asthma. Soda Creek works with a great team of people who are committed to producing the highest quality health curricula. We’ve worked with them since 2009 providing technical assistance for these manuals and other health-related tools and curricula. We love this work![/

June & July 2016 – Curriculum Design

 Curriculum Design

In addition to co-writing and reviewing, we did the layout and design for Encuentro‘s curriculum, Tecno-y-Trabajo. We ensured the design would be user-friendly, well organized, and have a techie, yet friendly, feel. We designed one for instructors and one for students, in addition to designing activity sheets. Encuentro will begin using the curriculum — which teaches immigrant students computer and job skills at the same time — this fall.