Review these teaching tips to evaluate what will make learning experiences more effective
1. Be enthusiastic and believe in what you are teaching.
* “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you’ll be fired with enthusiasm.”
US football coach (1913-1970)
2. Get to know your audience a bit before your start. Find out who will be in the audience and what their learning needs are.
* “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
John C. Maxwell
An evangelical Christian pastor
3. Help participants identify from all your content “what is in it for me?”
* 70% of evaluators’ satisfaction comes from presentation style not content.
* Participants remember 70% of material covered in the first 10 minutes of a 50 minute lecture and only 20% of material covered in the last ten minutes (Hartley and Davies, 1978)
4. People love stories. “Let me tell you a story” gets participants’ attention.
* Many physicians and other clinicians are not taught much about addiction treatment. I sometimes tell the story about an internist. He was making me feel welcome on the medical staff and we were having lunch together.
He said: “You just got out of training in psychiatry at Harvard, what are they teaching you these days about this thing that alcoholism is a disease?” I didn’t know what to say because I was so naïve about addiction that I didn’t even know it was a debate back then in the late 1970’s.
So I was struggling to know how to respond. But I had received good mental health training on how to turn people’s questions around, I said: “Well what do YOU think?” He pontificated and it bought me enough time to fake my way through lunch.
Now, if you were to ask me: “Is alcoholism a disease?” I would have a much more coherent answer without having to play games with the question.
5. Use examples freely and often to make content very understandable.
* When explaining about “signs” and “symptoms” as diagnostic “tools” that help the assessor determine the condition of the patient, the Online Medical Dictionary defines them as: “Objective evidence of disease perceptible to the examining physician (sign) and subjective evidence of disease perceived by the patient (symptom).”
* You probably would have to read that sentence a few times before it makes sense – if even then -about what is the difference between a “sign” and a “symptom”.
* However if you use examples, the definitions quickly come alive. “Signs” are those “things” that we can see like a stop sign, and “symptoms” are those “things” that the patient tells us. For example: Pain would be a symptom (you can’t see it, but the patient can tell you that he/she has pain). Flinching or “guarding” when touching a painful area would be a sign that the patient is experiencing pain.
6. Don’t use jargon words or acronyms without explaining them. If the audience is unfamiliar with jargon words and acronyms, use them sparingly even if you have already explained them.
* Of course if you want to show off, go right ahead and use words people don’t understand, like “eschew obfuscation”. Or you could just say: Don’t make something difficult to understand as it confuses people.
* Here are a couple of sentences that should make sense to a member in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but would mean little to someone unfamiliar with AA/NA:
“Pay attention to HALT and BUDDING in AA and NA. You could regress into unmanageability and “self-will run riot” alienated from your Higher Power. Working the Steps will help with surrender; and going on commitments, getting names and numbers and working the program will help achieve serenity.”
This means: Be careful to not get Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired (HALT) and be aware of other relapse triggers that can Build Up to a Drink or Drug (BUDD-ing). You could lose control of your substance use with many negative consequences including a loss of spirituality. Understanding and discussing the 12 Steps of AA/NA will help resume a path of recovery. Visiting other meetings and sharing your recovery, reaching out to others; and attending and actively involving yourself in AA/NA will lead to serenity.
Dr. Resnick had many other valuable tips, some of which I share in SKILLS; and others I will share in the future.
If you want more tips on training and learning methods, see the January 2005 edition of Tips and Topics
Hartley, J., & Davies, I. K. (1978). Notetaking: A critical review. Programmed Learning and Educational Technology, 15, 207-224.