Frequently Asked Questions About Planning Educational Sessions

To focus your session, ask these questions:

  • What healthcare problems, issues, or changes will be discussed in this session?
  • How do these issues impact professionals working in laboratory medicine?
  • How will the session enable learners to address and overcome these issues?

Q: How do I write an acceptable learning objective?

A: Simply have the result in mind. Decide what participants must be able to do after the session that they could not do before. What are the solutions to the identified problems? How can participants implement these solutions when they get back to the workplace?

For example, suppose your audience says they don’t understand why labs turn out erroneous results. From talking with them beforehand, you’ve learned that they are unfamiliar with factors that cause variation in lab results before the sample even gets to the laboratory.

As a result, you decide to teach about factors that cause pre-analytic variation. Your material should cover factors such as diurnal variation, physiological stress due to posture, sample collection and storage, or other causes.

How will participants be able to apply what they learn in this session? What level of thinking must they operate on when they get back to their jobs? What will they be able to do after the presentation that they could not do before? This becomes your learning objective.

Some examples:

  • After a presentation on pre-analytic variation, clinical laboratorians will be able to set up procedures to control post-collection factors that adversely affect the stability of analytes.
  • After a presentation on how collection methods can affect erroneous results, the students can select collection methods that will minimize the possibility of introducing bias in laboratory results.

Learning objectives must contain:

  • verbs showing what students can do
  • verbs indicating the level of thought required to perform that action

Examples:

Level

Action

Recognition

List, state, identify

Understanding

Describe, diagram components, etc.

Explanation

Explain, define, interpret, discuss

Analysis

Compare, contrast, differentiate, analyze

Synthesis

Create, summarize

Evaluation

Choose, evaluate

Unacceptable learning objectives contain:

  • verbs that can’t be measured or demonstrated such as understand, know, learn, see, review
  • statements that demonstrate what the instructor rather than the students will do
  • any objectives that are measurable but that your presentation doesn't support.

Q: What are some examples of a needs assessment source that I should provide in my session proposal?

A: There are many different kinds of sources that you can include in your proposal to support that there is a need for this education to be presented in a session. Examples include literature citations, survey results, recognized databases, public health issues, evaluations of previous activities, new developments (e.g., a new test, clinical guidelines, new federal mandates, etc.), organizing committee minutes, focus group responses, expert opinion, etc.

Q: Inter-activity is big in adult education, but I’m not comfortable facilitating group discussions. Is a lecture format bad?

A: A lecture format is acceptable and appropriate for disseminating a large amount of information, but not for retaining it. If you want students to learn, remember, and apply what was covered, you need to give them opportunities to practice using the information. Research shows the only difference between those who change their behavior due to new learning and those who don't is confidence in performing the new behavior. Confidence comes from practice.

Incorporate techniques that let students manipulate material, thereby increasing their retention level. For example:

  • Provide handouts that contain a summary of the presentation content. As you speak, have students fill in notes from what you say.
  • Use a midpoint summary. Halfway through the presentation, ask students to stop and write three things they will be able to apply on the job.
  • Ask students to pair up with the person next to them. Have each one write three questions about the material covered. Then have them answer each other’s questions.

All of these techniques allow you to present a great deal of material and at the same time provide time and practice for the students.

Q: How do I select appropriate educational methods?

A: Selecting appropriate educational methods means looking for congruence between learning objectives and presentation format. The means should facilitate the outcome.

The following are a few examples of this principle:

  • If your objective is to have students learn how to construct a laboratory budget, then provide time for students to draft a budget using pre-designed criteria.
  • If your objective is to have students list factors responsible for pre-analytic variation in test results, have them write such a list as a mid- or end-point summary of your presentation.
  • If your objective is to have students analyze and interpret cardiac markers, present them with lab results in a case study format.
  • If your objective is to have students diagram the components of a lipid molecule, provide a blank illustration and have them label the components as you discuss the labeled slide that illustrates these concepts.

Realize each learner prefers a different style. Remember to incorporate techniques for those who learn by seeing (visual learners), by hearing (auditory learners), and by doing (kinesthetic learners).

Q: How do I assess if the participants have achieved the learning objective?

A: You could test, but in adult learning that is usually counterproductive. Try instead to build evaluation methods into the presentation itself. Consider your objectives and make sure your teaching methods are congruent with them (see previous Q&A). Other techniques include:

  • written exercise
  • simulation
  • discussion
  • sketch
  • draw
  • practice teach
  • list
  • recite
  • model
  • solve a problem
  • construct
  • illustrate

Learners who are advised of learning outcomes and told they will be required to demonstrate each outcome tend to become more actively involved in the learning process. Feedback provided during these active demonstrations is a primary source for building learner confidence, a critical factor in transferring learning beyond the training room.