I most often write blog posts directed at pregnant women, not birth professionals (though I hope the pros find my posts useful as well!). Via the excellent Passion for Birth blog this morning, I read this article that is very relevant to childbirth educators.
The article addresses how educators/presenters can attempt to cram three hours worth of information into 1 and half minutes and how that is NOT effective or helpful. They do so out of fear that this is their “only chance” to reach those learners (but the cramming style actually does not reach learners either).
Ugh. I found myself cringing a bit when reading because I think I have this tendency for sure. It was also relevant to me in my non-birthwork life. I am faculty at Columbia College and am teaching my first college class this session (final exam tonight!). All of the principles in the article are things I strive to keep in mind when teaching college students as well (and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. The actual class is 5 hours a night—though now six, because I missed one week and made it up sequentially over the following 5 weeks of class—which makes it tricky to keep people engaged, though also gives me plenty of time not to be cramming information into people’s heads).
Anyway, so the summary of points from the article (OMG. I’m taking a metaphorical three hours to get to my point…;-) were as follows:
Learners want relevance
Learners don’t care about history
Learners want minimal detail
Learners want connections
Learners want focus
Learners want applications
Learners want practice
I remember reading somewhere else at some point (I think during my ICEA certification process), that most learners do NOT want the amount of information and level of detail that you can provide. The first three on my list above are things I find myself falling into in birth education—I tend to give lots of details and some end up being irrelvant (I don’t want anyone to miss anything!) and I do have a tendency to give lots of history, background, and overexplanation.
So, good things to keep in mind! I want to be effective, not inefficient or irrelevant. I have been thinking a lot lately about my classes and how I’d like to improve them and change them and “deepen” them. Reading this article made me think even further about my approach and what I hope to accomplish. I have this sense lately that something just isn’t “working” and I want to go beyond—stretch my boundaries and dig in further.