Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Technicalities of Teaching Childbirth Education Part 5: Learner Assessment

I have assembled 10 key principles of teaching effective childbirth education classes, and am briefly addressing them in this blog.  Part 5 in the Series is "Learner Assessment". 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!  Please read Parts 1-4! 

You feel great after teaching a childbirth class or a series.  You have effectively covered all of the topics in the timeframe allotted.  But your evaluations are less than stellar.  Why?

It is generally accepted that students know at the onset of the class what they are expected to learn.  Childbirth education is different because the reasons why students take our classes are different than, say college or high school.  Theoretically, in those situations, they WANT to take the classes.  Plus in a one day childbirth intensive or even in a weekly series, most educators do not work to understand what the students know already so as to identify gaps.

An initial assessment can be in the form of a half sheet of paper, with some open-ended questions such as listed below:

1.    1.  How did you hear about my CBE classes and what prompted you to register?

2.    Is this your first baby?    Who is your care provider?

3.    What are two topics that you would really like for me to address during class?

4.    Please order these styles of learning in the order in which you prefer to learn:
______Discussing with friends
______Reading books
______Filling out forms or worksheets

     5.  What do you hope to accomplish by taking this class?

These five questions can tell you a lot about your students, and can be filled out either before class if you do a pre-class mailing or at the break in the first class.  While not a true diagnostic assessment, these questions can give you a profile from which to base your class materials and the emphasis you place on certain topics. 

During the childbirth education course, you may take note of the types of questions asked by certain students.  Are they higher level questions, indicating pre-class reading or are they basic level questions?  This type of formative assessment helps you to form instructional techniques and guide the student’s learning.  This is an ongoing type of assessment and may change if the student is exposed to new reading lists or websites containing evidence-based information.   Also, as we teach to the learning style of the learner, an increased knowledge base is formed.

The last type of assessment is the summative assessment and is used by the student at the end of the class or series to assess the level of understanding the student has received.  Usually made in the form of the Likert Scale, the final assessment or evaluation may contain a scale of strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree or disagree, agree and strongly agree as answers to definitive questions.  It is vital for the educator to realize that this type of evaluation is very subjective and is influenced by a vast number of elements.  Many educators read but then discard the very best evaluation and the very worst, leaving all of those in the middle as learning tools.

If you do not use an evaluation in your childbirth education class, you will not be aware of how to improve the styles of teaching you practice and if they meet the needs of the learners.  Reconsider.  We, as educators, should never stop learning!

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