The Fun Of Teaching Something New

Barbara Ireland

Barbara Ireland

Guest Writer

Like all Academy instructors, I came here as an experienced instructor having taught throughout my working life. While you can be a fantastic instructor, whenever you teach new material you will always have to “get your stride.” The best way to know material thoroughly is to teach it, and I never stop trying to find better ways to present it. Even when working with new instructors I can pick up on different examples and approaches to the material.      

After teaching for the IAED for 15 years, here are practices I’ve found helpful. I use the Socratic method of teaching and fostering critical thinking. Listening to me rattling off information is not conducive to learning the material because it all becomes a blur. Instead, I ask a question first and let them think of the answer. Even if the answer is incorrect, it is a huge learning experience to have thought about it—they won’t get it incorrect again.

One of my favorite things to ask is, “What’s the matter with someone who needs CPR?” Despite students having successfully completed CPR, I frequently get answers like “chest pain,” “fainting,” and “stroke.” It gives an opportunity early in the class to emphasize what cardiac arrest means and why early CPR is so important.

I pay attention to patterns of incorrect test answers. We don’t grade tests so I ask if students will show me their list of topics missed. If a large percentage of students tend to miss a certain question, I look for other ways to present the material until I see an improvement in that topic. Someone said her class was told, “There is one test question everyone misses so I am just going to give you the answer.” This isn’t helpful to anyone.

A good example of a missed test question has to do with the “Graphics and Symbols” topic. It didn’t make sense to me that this would be commonly missed as there is only one question where the student is given a symbol to identify. It turns out there are four questions involving Graphics and Symbols with the other three questions involving the flow following a symbol. Now I give more examples involving this, and I am seeing fewer students missing these questions.

I cringe when I hear an instructor say, “I say it once—it’s up to the student to remember it.” That is presenting material, not teaching it. This is especially an issue with teaching protocol structure. Without practical application, the students will struggle to remember each point and may not grasp how it translates into use. When I teach structure, I give examples for each point, but then I reinforce each point throughout the course. 

For example, throughout the protocols, I ask questions like, “How do you know this is a definition? What are those priority symptoms again? Is this a shunt from protocol? Why would we choose this protocol instead of another? How do our four objectives factor into this protocol selection?”

Have you ever been on a vacation with another person who was doing all the driving? You then need to take off by yourself and realize you don’t know where you’re going. It’s important to allow time for breakout sessions so the students can “get behind the wheel.” This significantly helps them to pull it all together and is well worth the time.   

I let the students know at the beginning of the class that we will start at the stroke of the hour and be in class until the stroke of the hour. Additionally, when we take a break, I give the time class will resume and I will start talking, leaving it up to the student to be back on time. It is challenging enough to get all the information in; we don’t want to lose time by students extending start and break times.

Teaching is challenging but so rewarding. It’s worth the effort to do the best job we can.