An Exploration of Teaching Techniques


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As members of the healthcare profession, we are entrusted with a responsibility to continuously renew our ranks by educating the next generation of providers. Despite many adverse circumstances, we have a professional duty to teach young healthcare providers. Preceptors have been asked to share what they do every day in their clinical practice with Des Moines University students. As a preceptor, they are a role model who supervises, guides, and facilitates the learning of students. 

Target Audience

DMU preceptors and clinical instructors.


  1. List several different teaching techniques/styles for clinical rotations.
  2. Identify teaching techniques that may be utilized in difficult clinical scenarios.
  3. Develop a rotation of different teaching techniques/styles that may be used in clinical practice.

Professional Gaps

It may help to understand why "how" we teach is more important than "what" we teach if we explore a model on how adults learn in the clinical setting. In the same way that clinicians apply knowledge of basic sciences to solve clinical problems, understanding the basic principles of adult learning may be helpful to clinical teachers.

The following is a competency based model of learning that has been applied to many learning situations. It helps to outline the different stages adults move through as they gain mastery in a subject or a skill.

Over time, preceptors tend to forget the theoretical principles and steps behind each procedure - they just do it. At this point, they may find it difficult to explain to someone at the early stages of the learning cycle how to do the procedure. Learners who are consciously competent are often very good teachers because they are able to explain the steps involved in a procedure or in clinical reasoning to learners who are still struggling with the skill.

Characteristics of Excellent Teachers

  • Healthcare Provider – Great clinical teachers are role models as clinicians. They are knowledgeable and competent in their fields, demonstrate strong interpersonal communication skills, work effectively in a team and serve as role models. Such a teacher demonstrates a positive attitude to patients and to their own career.
  • Teacher – Excellent clinical teachers are those who are interested in teaching and learning. They spend time with learners, explain things and answer questions. They are well organized and prepared to have learners in their clinical setting. They facilitate the students' learning and focus on the students' clinical reasoning skills.
  • Supervisor – As a supervisor, an excellent clinical teacher provides direction and feedback and he or she delegates responsibility and involves learners in management. The learner feels like they are part of the health care team.
  • Person – Outstanding clinical teachers are accessible, enthusiastic, supportive and positive individuals. Learners look forward to working with these teachers because they value and respect learners as individuals and they create an enjoyable and positive work environment.

Effective clinical teachers provide opportunities for leaners to participate in patient care, teach specific content and skills, delegate specific tasks to the learner, are available to answer questions, observe the learner, provide timely, constructive feedback, provide a friendly supportive learning environment, influence and inspire.



Joshua J. Tessier, DO
Family Medicine, UnityPoint Health – Des Moines


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Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 0.50 CE Contact Hour(s)
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Available Credit

  • 0.50 CE Contact Hour(s)


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