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Building relationships that support learning

Key components to consider when building a relationship to facilitate learning are:

  • Collaboration. Jointly determine how learning needs are to be achieved, with both the educator and student having responsibilities in the outcome.
  • Respect – in action. Showing commitment by being available, open to feedback and by following through with agreed-upon actions.
  • Being an effective role model. Your professional behaviour and attitude to learning will directly influence the students. 
  • Flexibility. Tailoring to needs of individual student, as is reasonable.
  • Setting expectations. Please refer to Chapter 1 or The Superguide (Health Education & Training Institute, 2011) for details on setting expectations, including the possible use of a supervision contract, covering issues of mechanisms of feedback, support requirements and confidentiality in the relationship.

(Health Education & Training Institute, 2012, p 22).


Communicating Effectively

Effective communication is essential to education, but takes practice and dedicated personal reflection. Strategies listed below will enhance communication.

Active listening is a skill that greatly enhances the efficacy of feedback, reflective practice and facilitation of clinical reasoning. It demands alertness on the part of the listener (Trevithick, 2000 as cited in Health Education & Training Institute, 2012), aiming to understand the intended message as well as the content. Tips to practise active listening include:

  • Allow student time to articulate thoughts.
  • Summarise or paraphrase to ensure understanding.
  • Seek clarification if necessary.
  • Ask questions or give feedback to facilitate learning.

Tips to giving effective explanations include: 

  • Emphasise the key points.
  • Do not talk too fast and use pauses.
  • Choose words or terms that are clear and precise.
  • Monitor for understanding of your explanation (e.g. ask for a summary – reword…).

(Health Education & Training Institute, 2012, p 25).

Tips to facilitating discussion:

  1. Ask questions that promote deep and continuous discussion (open, focus or probing questions).
  2. Maximise participation e.g. Use a common experience or area of interest as the basis of discussion. Use non-verbal encouragement such as leaning forward, head nods and looking expectant. Use active listening.
  3. Create a positive learning environment by acknowledging/rewarding responses e.g. say ‘thank you’ or ‘well said’. Build on what is said by using discussion points as a springboard for further discussion.
  4. Outline the aims of the discussion and use a key discussion question.

(Muller & Urby, 2005, as cited in Health Education & Training Institute, 2012, p 27).

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