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Facilitating Skill Acquisition

Match the learners’ level and needs

One of the challenges for the educator is to target the learning material and activities to match the level and needs of the learner.  ’Scaffolding’ is a term describing the process of progressively withdrawing or changing assistance as expertise is developed (Smith & Blake, 2005).  “The trick to scaffolding is knowing what stage the learner is at and adjusting your instruction, teaching or facilitation accordingly” (Smith & Blake, 2005).

The Skill of Teaching Skills

Lake and Hamdorf (2004) outline a four-step approach to teaching skills:

  1. Demonstration: Supervisor demonstrates the skill at normal speed, without commentary.
  2. Deconstruction: Supervisor demonstrates the skill while describing the steps required.
  3. Comprehension: Supervisor demonstrates the skill while the student describes steps required.
  4. Performance: Student demonstrates the skill and describes steps while being observed by the supervisor.

These steps do not all need to occur within the one session, rather may be spread over a number of treatment sessions as student confidence and skills develop.

Tips for teaching clinical skills

  • Remember the fundamentals: hygiene, infection control, patient communication, consent and introductions.
  • Demonstration.
  • Integrate theory and practice.
  • Teach selectively.  Resist the urge to teach everything at once.
  • Provide opportunities to practise skills.
  • Use collaborative problem solving.
  • Give feedback.
  • Provide appropriate learning resources.

(Health Education & Training Institute, 2011, p 53).


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