Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Technicalities of Teaching Childbirth Education Classes: Part 1

Somewhere in the deep recesses of the hospital, someone assumed that because a maternity nurse is a good maternity nurse, she’d also make a good childbirth educator.  As a maternity nurse who has been a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator for over 30 years as well as a childbirth educator trainer for CAPPA, ICEA and now Lamaze International, I can tell you unequivocally that assumption is untrue.  Not all childbirth educators are created equal.  I have known some great maternity nurses who have been less than good childbirth educators.  And I have known some lay persons who have studied and become tremendous certified childbirth educators.

I have assembled 10 key principles of teaching effective childbirth education classes, and am briefly addressing them in this blog.  In no particular order, they are:

  1. Know how to teach
  2. Preparation of a dynamic course lesson plan
  3. Being Organized
  4. Evidence-based knowledge base
  5. Learner Assessment
  6. Critical Thinking
  7. Robust teaching techniques
  8. Motivational skills for engaging students
  9. Compassionate listening 
  10. Problem solving

Over the course of the next 10 blogs entries, I will address each one of these key principles so that you can enhance your own childbirth education classes!

Know How To Teach
A good childbirth educator has a good curriculum (either self-created or created by someone else) and can effectively deliver the information.  A great childbirth educator blends pedagogy and andragogy to make the class/curriculum engaging, exciting and worth coming back each time!

What is pedagogy and andragogy?  Pedagogy is the science of instructional learning.  Much like the first day of third grade, the learner comes to the experience with little previous learning on a topic and the instructor becomes the most influential learning tool.  With Andragogy, the learner brings experience and prior knowledge and is self-directed by the instructor.  Learners would like to perform a certain task (birth their baby),  solve a problem (overcome fear of labor) ~ and better quality of life becomes a motivator.

When blending pedagogy and andragogy for childbirth education classes, the instructor intimately examines course curriculum for content, usefulness of objectives, appropriate timing of subject matter and teaching strategies.   For example, a discussion about cesarean sections cannot and should not be limited to just viewing a video.  Nor should cesarean sections be the first topic in a traditional childbirth education series.  Logical flow of topics becomes important to the learner as well as the instructor.

Becoming a certified childbirth educator is a key piece to becoming a great educator.  While there are a myriad of childbirth education training programs in existence, when “shopping” for certification, it is not always wise to go with the “easy route” or less expensive route.  Thoroughly examine the course objectives, outside learning expectations and other requirements.  Additionally, delve into the history of the organization and how much weight a certain certification has in your community.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are childbirth educators.

For adult learners, no one type of teaching strategy works all of the time.  A wise childbirth educator can assess her class and identify how each person learns.  By the next class meeting, she can alter the way in which certain topics are presented to effectively meet the learning needs.  For example, during one series, she may cover medical interventions by lecture, Power Point, or fictitious demonstration with certain tools such as amnihook or forceps.  In the next series, she may assign interventions to class members and then have them report their findings at a later date.

Additionally a wise educator realizes that when she is teaching she is part educator and part entertainer.  The use of humor, surprise, and application of previous accomplishments to the maternity situation enables learners to better grasp as well as remember fundamental elements.  The use of humor, surprise and application of previous accomplishment as applied to any situation is called creating memory hooks.

For more information:

Perspectives on Learning for Childbirth Educators

Teaching Normal Birth Interactively 

Childbirth Education: Practice, Research & Theory 2nd Edition by Nichols/Hummenick

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