How to gain teaching experience

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Teaching can be an extremely gratifying experience and has become one of the dominant aspects of being a good doctor. The 'How to gain teaching experience' guide is designed to give you the information and tools you need to create great teaching opportunities and get the most out of them. 

Why teach?

It’s important to understand why you want to teach and what you want to achieve. It may be to improve your teaching skills, gain evidence for your training competencies or because you have a genuine interest in teaching and enjoy it. Your reason will dictate what, who and how much you teach. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • why do I want to teach?
  • what do I want to gain out of it? (short- and long-term)
  • how much am I willing to commit?
  • what do I need to achieve this?

Once you have considered these questions and set your mind to teaching, you must equip yourself with the appropriate skills to conduct adult learning. Short- and long-term courses may provide a good stepping stone for you. Consider teach the teacher courses and a part-time or full-time postgraduate certificate/diploma/masters.

You then need to explore your portfolio and discover what knowledge or skills you are confident enough about to teach others. It is always a good idea to have a consultant / senior clinician overseeing your programme and checking its standard.

Plan your sessions

You will need to put together a plan for your teaching sessions. You should think about the topics and frequency as well as the target audience and method of delivery.

Ensure your teaching sessions are unique and there isn’t overlap with other organised teaching to increase your chances of success and to maximise attendance.

Once you have planned your teaching, you will need to book the following:

  • venue – this will be dependent on the size of the class and the tools required (eg projector, board with markers, procedure kits)
  • time slot – you may need to liaise with rota coordinators and other administrative staff and department leads
  • speakers – choose good speakers whose teaching style you already know / have experienced
  • equipment – consider health and safety.

Effective contact and feedback

You should have ways of contacting your audience to send reminders prior to the event, eg using a mailing list or a WhatsApp group. Don’t forget to organise feedback forms. These should contain good quality questions (there are courses that teach how to give and receive effective feedback) and should be printed and ready to hand out after the teaching session.

Other opportunities to teach include small group training sessions (by inviting a consultant to observe you, you can get a teaching ticket out of it) and joining other ongoing programmes.

The important part of teaching is to enjoy it and make the most of it. It may even surprise you and entice you into a career in medical education!

Veronica Melchionda, foundation doctor representative for the RCP's Student and Foundation Doctor Network