What I learnt this week: The Education in the Observation of Education #WILTW

This is the 31st #WILTW

There is a great deal written and discussed about the ‘art’ of teaching. Numerous theories, articles, strategies and anecdotes are available but often teachers (of whatever discipline) will follow their own path and practice. This is not due to arrogance or cynicism (although this exists) but generally because teachers are lone practitioners. Whether it be by lecture or workshop the teacher educates alone nearly all of the time. Of course feedback is available from the learners themselves, but this is an infrequent exercise, steeped in issues of hierarchy and lack of objective mechanisms to determine poor practice. In Medical Education there is also a third arm, the patient, who witnesses the interplay between doctor and student but often has even less of an opportunity to have their observations taken into account.

To educate

There are events where peer observation of your teaching is available though. The Advanced Life Support Group run a number of courses for health care proffessionals to teach core skills in managing the most ill adults and children. The courses involve a number of faculty who teach via a variety of formats but often with 2-4 faculty members in a room simultaneously. This week colleagues and I were teaching on the Advanced Paediatric Life Support (APLS) course. This is an intensive 2 days in which candidates must demonstrate a uniform approach to the initial management of ill and injured children. Having your teaching observed is a very useful process. It makes you concentrate on a whole spectrum of issues which are easy to let slip in day-to-day un-observed activity. Timing is key, if you over-run, the course over-runs which will be clearly apparent to the other faculty members. If you don’t know core knowledge, the students will suffer, and again it will be obvious to other faculty this is the case.

I know this because I learn as much from these courses as I think the candidates do. You watch others demonstrating core material material (the ALSG have a prescribed format) but in subtlely different ways. There are great demonstrations of using examples, memorable cases, twists of context etc. to clear effect. You see how experienced faculty deal with candidates who are struggling or not engaging, and you learn the critical importance of well delivered feedback. Being able to witness good, and bad practice, stops complacency and helps you realise there are always things still to learn. On this course I mis-interpreted a candidates nervousness for over-confidence and appreciated I still have work to do on the pace of my delivery.

Taking pride in your teaching is important but there is only so much you can learn from theory and irregular feedback from participants. In an ever isolated world of clinical practice the observation of others’ delivering education, and your own, will be vital for patients and the profession.

What did you learn this week? #WILTW

One thought on “What I learnt this week: The Education in the Observation of Education #WILTW”

  1. Good points Damian.

    I agree that we often learn a great deal by watching others ‘perform’. Certainly the case with teaching but also in the resus room. There are all performances and so long as we cast a critical eye over what we see and hear we can indeed improve ourselves.



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