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:
- Know how to teach
- Preparation of a dynamic course lesson plan
- Being Organized
- Evidence-based knowledge base
- Learner Assessment
- Critical Thinking
- Robust teaching techniques
- Motivational skills for engaging students
- Compassionate listening
- Problem solving
As a childbirth educator trainer for the past 12 years, I have observed a good number of new and budding childbirth educators as they “student teach”. To be observed and be given constructive criticism on teaching childbirth education is only one of the MANY benefits of becoming certified. And it can be one of the most valuable tools of the educational process!
Educating is not just passing along interesting information. If that was the case, students would not nap during boring presentations in high school or college…..or childbirth class. To be an effective educator, you must be part information disseminator and part actor. Actor? Yes, a performer. Do the unexpected in unexpected ways - either through demonstration, presentation or through video. Would you consider using the Bill Cosby monologue about birth as an opening of the first class? Would you use different props, such as funnels, for describing the various types of labors? Would you act our transition, including the emotional roller coaster and a bit of screaming or vocalization?
Various teaching techniques can include but are not limited to lecture, Power Point Presentations, handouts, work groups, buzz groups, graffiti sheets, visual aids such as charts or models, videos, homework/reading assignments, demonstration/return demonstrations, guest speakers, guided discussion, panel discussion, computer based learning, question/answer.
View the video below to see how this educator models teaching techniques to his students.
The use of acronyms such as COAT or TACO to remember the four elements to report once the mother's amniotic sac has ruptured also aids in information retention. Similarly, relating the cervical dilation to foods, such as 1 cm = a Cheerio and 3 cm = the circumference of a banana ~ all lead to memory hooks. A memory hook is taking something familiar and linking it to something out of character, which stimulates the brain to actively remember.
Teaching techniques, however, must be chosen based on the style of learner who is attending class. An initial assessment of learning styles can be helpful in deciding which technique will be used to cover which subject during a class. Needless to say, with all of this in mind, no two childbirth education classes will ever be taught exactly the same!
Robust and dynamic teaching techniques are vital to keep the learner's interest during each individual class session AND during the entire series. Many childbirth educators complain because their students/clients do not attend the full class series. While some students may give birth to their babies early, the most common reason for them to not complete the series is boredom. With a little bit of performing and active learning/teaching techniques, you can enhance parents' childbirth education experience and help them have the most satisfying birth!
The second edition of "Innovative Teaching Strategies Handbook for Birth Professionals" is due out in December of this year. You will find extensive information about learning and teaching techniques especially for those teaching about childbirth!