Some facilitators reported difficulty recruiting the suggested number of 10 participants for the first round of the 5-weekend program. Other facilitators were overwhelmed by the demand, with prospective participants very upset about having to wait for the second round of the program or not being able to participate. Recruiting for the second 5-week program was easier, as the first round of participants provided word-of-mouth advertising. The dropout rate varied greatly, (). The most common reasons for dropping out were the time commitment or changes in family or practice situations.
The combination of providing secretarial support to facilitators, establishing the program in a university department, and making the facilitator responsible for all arrangements appeared to be effective. From the first 2 pilot sessions, we had determined that the dates of each of the weekend sessions of the 5-weekend program had to be established when the program was advertised or it became impossible to find suitable dates.
Feedback from facilitators was very positive in relation to the structure provided, the program organization, and facilitators’ workshop preparation for the program ( and ). There were some suggestions for improvement in the facilitator workshop as well as suggestions for changes to improve both the facilitator and participant manuals. The facilitators agreed that the 1-day seminars set the tone for the 5 weekend sessions and provided them with sufficient guidance to feel comfortable with the objectives and the most effective way to achieve them.
Survey results by facilitators and participants: Total responses measured on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing very high.
Feedback on the facilitator manual: Facilitator survey responses measured on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing very high; a total of 55 surveys were completed.
There was considerable overlap, as many of the facilitators from the first set of sessions agreed to facilitate the second round. Both groups provided extensive feedback on the style with which they ran their sessions. Examples included 1 group using 4 to 5 facilitators and providing extensive contact and support between each session. Another group reduced the length of sessions to 1.5 days. Another group picked people who had already partially completed a project and provided them with the individual support that they needed. Several groups had research assistants with strong statistical backgrounds to help participants develop their methods.
Discussion from the facilitators focused on 2 issues. The first issue was the expected end product of the program. The manual stated that the expectation was a grant application that was specifically written for a chosen granting agency. On the whole, facilitators believed that this was an unrealistic goal for most of their participants, although at least 5 participants from 2 different sections did achieve this goal and 3 received funding. The facilitators believed that presentation of a concept paper by participants on the methods and strategy they would use to answer their question would be a more reasonable outcome. There was also concern over the fact that in Canada grants do not provide support for investigators, making grant applications for community clinicians unrealistic until such support could be found.
The second concern facilitators expressed was the order and sequence of the topics. Although there was little disagreement about the content of the topics covered in the program, the group was divided between those who thought that the order worked very well and those who thought that the program should be “front end loaded.” Some facilitators argued that all the topics should receive superficial coverage in the first 2 weekend sessions and then be revisited during the last 3 weekend sessions, when individuals were designing their projects in more detail. Facilitators maintained that individuals with little knowledge of research methods, ethical issues, or grant application strategies needed initial exposure to these topics in order to frame their research questions more appropriately. Participants could then seek more detailed input in the final weekend sessions to develop the strategy to answer their questions.